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Trump Wrongly Attributes 'Newsweek' Benghazi Quote To Clinton Aide


Let's hear the backstory of a campaign speech. It's a story of where candidates get information. Donald Trump made a bold claim on Monday and held up a piece of paper.


DONALD TRUMP: Here's an interesting one - Sidney Blumenthal.

INSKEEP: Trump said he had news. A hacked emails showed what Sidney Blumenthal, a Hillary Clinton adviser, really thought.


TRUMP: So Blumenthal writes a quote - this just come out a little while ago. I have to tell you this.

INSKEEP: According to the quote, even Blumenthal admitted Clinton was responsible for an attack in Benghazi, Libya.


TRUMP: Clinton was in charge of the State Department, and it failed to protect the United States personnel.

INSKEEP: But when Donald Trump read that quote, the journalist Kurt Eichenwald was surprised. He says those are not the words of Clinton campaign aide Sidney Blumenthal. They are, in fact, the words of Kurt Eichenwald, taken out of context from an article he wrote for Newsweek.

What was it that you actually wrote and where?

KURT EICHENWALD: Back when Hillary Clinton was testifying before the Benghazi committee, I wrote a 10,000-word piece. And I did have these two sentences saying that she did bear responsibility as secretary of state for, you know, errors that had been made and that, you know, that criticism was legitimate if the Republicans wanted to use that as talking points. But then the rest of the piece was pointing out how all the other things they had been using as talking points were not legitimate.

INSKEEP: So when did you see those two sentences again - the ones that said that Hillary Clinton did bear responsibility as secretary of state?

EICHENWALD: Monday afternoon. And there was a Russian government media site, Sputnik, that was citing an email from a Clinton confidant by the name of Sidney Blumenthal. And it was saying that Sidney Blumenthal had said these words. And the words that he was being quoted as saying were actually mine from my article.

INSKEEP: And said that Sidney Blumenthal, Hillary Clinton's adviser, had said them. How'd they get the email?

EICHENWALD: Well, somebody had hacked into the Hillary Clinton campaign and their emails from the campaign chairman, John Podesta. Sidney Blumenthal had emailed my article to John Podesta. That ended up going to Wikileaks, which released the emails over the last few days.

INSKEEP: OK, so it was part of this release that did make news in recent days. You discovered your work in there attributed to Sidney Blumenthal in what seems clearly to have been a very distorted way. What happened to those words then after this Russian site published them?

EICHENWALD: So the fact that they took this email and whittled it down and found sentences that they could present as being damning was not a surprise, and it was not an accident. You know, the email said 22 times that it was from Newsweek. You know, I thought it was a very sloppy attempt at engaging in a fraud. And then, the next time I heard the words, they were coming out of Donald Trump's mouth. And I was stunned because Donald Trump was reading Russian propaganda - a complete falsehood - to his supporters.


TRUMP: The attack was almost certainly preventable, Benghazi. Clinton was in charge of the State Department, and it failed to protect the United States personnel at an American consulate in Libya. He meant Benghazi. If the GOP wants to raise that as a talking point against her, it is legitimate. In other words, she's now admitting that they could have done something about Benghazi. This just came out a little while ago.

INSKEEP: So those are your words from your article?

EICHENWALD: (Laughter). Yeah, those are my words, and Trump attributes them to Sidney Blumenthal.

INSKEEP: Is it possible that Trump or whoever handed that information to Trump got it from somewhere other than Russian propaganda? Had this mistake, let us call it, appeared in other media, for example?

EICHENWALD: No. The only story that existed was in Sputnik. So how it ended up with Donald Trump, I don't know.

INSKEEP: What did the campaign say when you asked them about this?

EICHENWALD: I have written a lot of pretty aggressive stories about the Trump campaign, so they don't call me back anymore.

INSKEEP: What is the significance of this in your mind?

EICHENWALD: Well, if you have someone who's running for president of the United States who is standing up and reciting Russian propaganda as fact, you have a very, very deep problem.

INSKEEP: Journalist Kurt Eichenwald, thanks very much.

EICHENWALD: Thanks for having me.

INSKEEP: We did reach out to the Trump campaign about this, but haven't heard back. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.