By K. Grady
In 1999, John F. Kennedy Jr. died in a plane crash. President Bill Clinton, his wife Hillary Clinton, and their daughter Chelsea Clinton attended the memorial mass. At the time of the crash, Kennedy was not a candidate for any public office. However, a few days after this death, the New York Daily News ran a story citing two anonymous friends who said they thought Kennedy would have run for public office someday. According to the story, Kennedy was considering running for New York Senator Daniel Moynihan’s seat, and he could have been the frontrunner for the election. The article also suggested that Hillary Clinton was interested in the position. Hillary Clinton was elected to Moynihan’s vacated seat on Nov. 7, 2000.
This is one of the pieces of evidence that supposedly support the conspiracy theory that Bill and Hillary Clinton have assassinated close to sixty of their associates. Those “assassinated” cover a wide range of positions and have various connections to the family. They range from Commerce Secretary Ron Brown, who died in a plane crash after it was reported that he might be indicted for corruption, former White House intern Mary Mohoney who was shot execution style in the back of a Georgetown Starbucks following the first rumors of what would turn into the Monica Lewinsky scandal, Vince Foster who was Deputy White House Counsel during the first six months of President Bill Clinton’s administration, to Luther Parks, the head of security of the Clinton Presidential campaign who was said to have compiled evidence on the family’s illicit activities, along with various supposed mistresses, prominent Democratic fund-raisers, and several bodyguards, escorts, secret service agents, journalists, former friends, rivals, witnesses, and investigators. The basis of the conspiracy is that these people closely connected to the family died in unsolved murders, hard to explain coincidences, and accidents. However, the truth is that all of the incidents have explanations.
The origins of the story began with a 1994 film titled The Clinton Chronicles. The filmmakers accused Bill Clinton of various things, most notably being a drug addict, having affairs with and harassing numerous women, and using Arkansas State Police officers to cover up his crimes, misuse and laundering of funds, profiting from drug smuggling, and killing people to get away with these various crimes.
The most notable of the deaths connected to the family is Vince Foster. He was a childhood friend of Bill’s and a partner at the Rose Law Firm in Little Rock, Arkansas, where he was a colleague of Hillary. Both of the Clintons considered him one of the greatest lawyers they knew, and upon Bill’s election to the White House, were determined to have him on their team. It was known that Vince was reluctant to leave Little Rock for Washington, because he had little experience with politics or campaigns. This, coupled with having to leave his family behind in Arkansas, marked the beginning of his signs of depression. He threw himself into this work, working twelve- or thirteen-hour days, five or six days a week. On May 8, 1993, Foster gave the commencement address at his University of Arkansas Law School alma mater, and audience members noted the depressed tone of the speech. A doctor prescribed Vince an anti-depression medication, and he was found dead in Fort Marcy Park the next day. His death was ruled suicide due to clinical depression. Investigators discovered a shredded resignation letter in his briefcase.
The Clinton Chronicles film pushed the idea that Foster’s death was not a suicide. They claimed that the suicide note’s handwriting was not his, that Hillary’s hair was found at the crime scene, and that his body was staged to look like a suicide. Every single claim that has been made to support the idea that the Clintons murdered him has been disproved by experts time and time again. The conspiracy theories ignore the Clintons’ close friendship with Foster, and that the suspicions around it continue to inflict pain on the Clinton and Foster families. That is the effect of conspiracy theories about real people. They cause real pain. Each death that the Clintons are supposedly connected to play out similarly to Vince Foster’s death. The unproven suspicions and erase the humanity of the people involved.
All of the theories that surround the family and their supposed body count are unfounded, but continue to arise when high profile figures such as billionaire Jeffrey Epstein die. This is because prominent right-wing figures including Alex Jones, Newt Gingrich, and Sean Hannity push these conspiracies. They do so because it fuels their bases, especially during times when the Clintons’ reputations are most vulnerable, such as election cycles. They profit from the tarnishing of high-profile Democrats, because their ultimate goal is to garner support for the Republican Party. Once viewers believe that the Democratic Party is full of criminals, it is much easier to run a campaign promoting their candidates as the good guys.
Though the claims are baseless, their spread is relentless. False information travels quickly especially on platforms such as Twitter and Facebook. Once many people have seen it, even when it comes from untrustworthy sources or is marked as fake news, people still remember and believe the false information. This resurfaces every time new allegations are made. This usually occurs when the Clintons are in the news. In 2016 that was because of Hillary’s campaign for president, this past year was because of her new book, and her undeniable influence in the 2020 election. The purpose of these conspiracies has and will always be rooted in the goal of damaging the Clintons’ reputations. This can be especially harmful when considering the roots that this can have in blatant sexism when the attacks are targeted at Hillary specifically. Hillary, as a woman in politics, was forced to develop a public image of herself as particularly strong and even stern. This made the idea of her ordering hits seem more plausible. The idea of her murdering those close to her in a grab for power also plays into the stereotypes that women in positions of power are “ice queens” who backstab those who get in the way. It also results from the idea that she can only be successful because she somehow connived or engineered her rise—that she could not rise simply because of her own qualities.
The conspiracy also has a partisan aspect. Convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein was found dead in his cell in the high security Metropolitan Correctional Center in Manhattan on August 10, 2019, where he was being held awaiting additional charges of child sex trafficking. Authorities originally treated the death as a suicide by hanging. His death sparked a battle on the internet, where conspiracy theories emerged, particularly relating to Bill Clinton and President Donald Trump, who had connections to the deceased. Hours after the news broke, Trump retweeted claims that Epstein’s death was connected to the Clinton family, including using the hashtag #ClintonBodyCount. In October, a private doctor named Dr. Michael Baden, a frequent Fox and Friends guest, suggested that the circumstances and injuries that Epstein sustained suggest his death was caused by homicide, rather than suicide, again igniting rumors that the Clintons were connected.
Conspiracies stick around, especially when high profile people such as the President of the United States believe them, or at least appear to believe them. Donald Trump repeated this conspiracy theory during the 2016 election cycle when he brought up the Clintons’ deceased friend Vince Foster. Americans’ level of trust in the government has been on a steady decline, and when conspiracies such as these seem to give some insight into the inner workings of the government, people may be more likely to believe them to comfort themselves.
People also have a natural impulse to attribute meaning to death. When things happen that are random, unintentional, or unexpected, the need for narratives arise as a form of mourning. Sharing these false conspiracies online also has no immediate consequences. People can spread them without worrying that they might damage their reputation.
Hillary and Bill Clinton have been in politics for decades. This conspiracy theory could only work for them. They have been successful because they’ve developed and maintained a political network that encompasses thousands of people. When you know many people, it’s inevitable that some of them are going to die. Of course, this is just a coincidence, but conspiracy theorists believe that there’s no such thing as a coincidence. Powerful people like the Clintons have more ability to enforce their intentions than most, and therefore make them an ideal and rational target.
Ultimately, this conspiracy can be summed up in their dear friends Vince Foster’s final words. In Washington “ruining people is considered sport.” The ultimate goal of perpetuating the idea that the Clintons are actively targeting those close to them is to try to ruin them politically. It seems as though as long as the Clintons are influential and have political power, they will continue to be the target of blatant lies and misinformation in an attempt to curtail their authority.