Taylor Branch: Denies telling reporters that the Clintons signed a pact of ambition

Historians in the News

On May 24, Media Matters for America offered a brief overview of criticism of previous reporting by Jeff Gerth, the co-author of a soon-to-be-released book about Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY) titled Her Way: The Hopes and Ambitions of Hillary Rodham Clinton (Little, Brown).

On May 25, The Washington Post published the first news report based on the text of the book, which Gerth wrote with New York Times reporter Don Van Natta Jr. According to the Post, historian Taylor Branch, a key figure in the book's description of the Clintons' purported "secret pact of ambition," described the story as "preposterous."

From the May 25 Washington Post article:

According to Gerth and Van Natta, even before the Clintons were married they formulated a "secret pact of ambition" aimed at reinventing the Democratic Party and getting to the White House. The authors cite a former Bill Clinton girlfriend, Marla Crider, who said she saw a letter on his desk written by Hillary Clinton, outlining the couple's long-term ambitions, which they called their "twenty-year project."

Crider was first quoted about the letter in a book by a former National Enquirer reporter in 2000, at the time describing it as more about Bill Clinton's infidelities and the "little girls" he had. Gerth and Van Natta, however, report that they re-interviewed Crider and that she said the earlier book's account was "not totally accurate." In this telling, Crider described the note as being more about the couple's political plans, with little discussion of their personal relationship.

The authors report that the Clintons updated their plan after the 1992 election, determining that Hillary would run when Bill left office. They cite two people, Ann Crittenden and John Henry, who said Taylor Branch, the Pulitzer Prize-winning historian and close Clinton friend, told them that the Clintons "still planned two terms in the White House for Bill and, later, two for Hillary." Contacted last night, Branch said that "the story is preposterous" and that "I never heard either Clinton talk about a 'plan' for them both to become president."

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