Claiming credit for Snyder aid plea gets Clinton a warning

How we make the call

Truth Squad assigns five ratings to the political statements we review, in descending levels of accuracy:

No factual inaccuracies in the statement and no important information is missing
Mostly accurate
While the statement is largely accurate, it omits or exaggerates facts, or needs some clarification
Half accurate
Truths are interspersed with mistruths, or the speaker left out significant facts that render his/her remarks misleading in important respects
Mostly inaccurate
The major point or points made are untrue or misleading, even while some aspects of the claim may be accurate
The statement is false, or based on false underlying facts


Who: Hillary Clinton
What: Taking credit for Snyder’s request for federal aid
The call: Warning

Near the end of Sunday’s televised debate among candidates for Democratic nominee for president, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton brought up the Flint water crisis. You can watch her comments here.

Here’s her complete statement on Flint:

“I spent a lot of time last week being outraged by what’s happening in Flint, Michigan, and I think every single American should be outraged.

“We’ve had a city in the United States of America, where the population, which is poor in many ways and majority African-American, has been drinking and bathing in lead-contaminated water. And the governor of that state acted as though he didn’t really care. He had requests for help that he basically stonewalled. I’ll tell you what, if the kids in a rich suburb of Detroit had been drinking contaminated water and being bathed in it, there would have been action.

“So I sent my top campaign aide down there to talk to the mayor of Flint to see what I can do to help, and I issued a statement about what we needed to do and then I went on a TV show and I said it was outrageous that the governor hadn’t acted. And within two hours, he had.”

Statements under review

“I sent my top campaign aide to Flint to talk to the mayor to see what I could do to help. I issued a statement about what we needed to do and then I went on a TV show and said it was outrageous that the governor hadn’t acted. And within two hours, he had.”

Clinton staffers visited Flint. The candidate appeared on The Rachel Maddow Show on MSNBC on Thursday Jan. 14. Maddow asked Clinton about Flint. You can see the interview here (Flint comes up at the 13:50 mark).

Clinton’s response included this:

“Right now,... the Republican governor, Gov. Snyder, is refusing to ask for the triggering of the federal help that he needs in order to take care of the people who are his constituents. And I am just outraged by this. … Lead is one of the most pernicious, horrible toxins that kids are exposed to, and that has such serious, long-lasting effects on their behavior and their learning. I would be doing everything I could, and I would be expecting everybody in a position of authority to be doing the same. ... I would look for any provision in the law that would permit me to override the lack of request from the governor if he refuses to still ask for what I think his people deserve to have.”

That exchange began at 9:13 p.m on Jan. 14, according to the time stamp at the bottom of the screen during the interview.

At 11:33 p.m., reporters in Michigan received a news release from the governor’s office announcing that Snyder was seeking a presidential emergency and major disaster declaration for Flint.

Snyder’s press secretary, Dave Murray, noted to Truth Squad that “the Governor made his first request to FEMA on Tuesday Jan. 12, with work toward the declarations – a very complex and detailed process – starting from the moment the Governor declared the state emergency.” (Snyder declared a state-level state of emergency for Flint and Genesee County on Jan. 5.) This was two days before Clinton’s appearance on Maddow’s show; Clinton acknowledged in the interview that FEMA was involved in Flint.

While Truth Squad was not provided any work documents with time stamps to prove Snyder’s office was working on a federal emergency request before Rachel Maddow came on the air, we’ll make a guess that it takes more than two hours to complete the paperwork.

“Secretary Clinton’s remarks on a political talk show were not a factor” in Snyder’s decision to seek federal help, Murray said.

The call: Warning

Taken phrase-by-phrase, Clinton’s remarks at the nationally televised debate were roughly accurate. Yes, as the governor’s office points out, Snyder did request federal help before Clinton’s TV appearance by reaching out for FEMA assistance, as Clinton herself acknowledged in her interview with Maddow. It’s clear though that what Clinton was criticizing was the governor’s failure to formally request federal emergency status, a request that would make more federal aid available; and a request that wasn’t made public until later that night.

Where Clinton strains credulity is her implication that her remarks on the Maddow show had some influence on Snyder’s decision announced some two hours later. If Michigan’s Republican governor was indeed taking advice from Hillary Clinton, that in itself would be one of the most surprising turns in this crisis.

Her chronology is basically accurate so Truth Squad cannot call foul. However, the correlation she wanted voters to make is almost laughable. We give Clinton a warning.

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Thu, 01/21/2016 - 10:05am
I wish people in the media would spend as much time on helping to find a solution to Flint's water problem as they do in trying to find blame. There must be ways to help the people besides bringing in little plastic bottles of water. Can a temporary large scale filtration system be used? Nestle's has a large water plant in the state and great expertise on water filtration. Has anybody talked to them on a short term solution. Why doesn't the media spend time trying to help the people of Flint and less time on trying to find blame. Let's worry about the blame later.
Thu, 01/21/2016 - 2:20pm
Agreed. Enough politics! Start helping the children of Flint!
Mon, 01/25/2016 - 9:53am
Ted, The problem is in the pipes themselves. It will take years to re-form the protective coating that was eaten away when the Flint Water Authority failed to include an anti corrosive additive to the water. This is why many are saying that the entire Flint water system may need to be ripped out and replaced. The cheaper solution would be to install small undersink reverse osmosis (RO) systems in each household. (I have one in my own house because I have well water.) The difficulty with this is one of compliance: diligent use of that single drinking water tap and timely replacement of the various filters four times a year. Children especially are likely to forget, and they are the most susceptible to cognitive damage from lead in their bloodstreams. I am afraid that there is no simple, certain solution to this problem.
Thu, 01/21/2016 - 10:14am
I agree that Hillary Clinton's comments couldn't have had the effect she claimed, but there is no doubt that national attention got them off their butts and made them finally realize that maybe the poisoning of Flint's water need some major attention. Up to then, they were offering band-aids for a crisis of unbelievable proportions. Their measly efforts were meant to divert attention to what has to be called a tragic dereliction of duties. heir initial attempts at a cover-up, of placing the blame on others, only served to delay the aid those poor folks in Flint desperately needed. I frankly don't care that a politician who tried to bring attention to Flint gives the impression she had something to do with finally getting federal aid. The point is, there wouldn't have been any federal aid without the dogged attention by MSNBC's Rachel Maddow, Chris Savage at Eclectablog, and so many others who wouldn't and won't let go of the real issue: that Rick Snyder's administration caused great harm to the people of Flint.
David Zeman
Thu, 01/21/2016 - 11:14am
Ramona, There is also a lot of credit, perhaps even more credit, that should go to some terrific reporters within the state, foremost Curt Guyette, the investigative reporter for ACLU Michigan, as well as journalists like Nancy Kaffer at the Detroit Free Press and, as the article mentions, the reporters at Michigan Radio.
Thu, 01/21/2016 - 1:02pm
David, I agree and I appreciate your bringing them up. I apologize for overlooking them. I was talking mainly about national attention. When Snyder first appointed the EM to Benton Harbor (who then took governing functions away from the municipal leaders, turning the screws by assigning them secretarial duties instead) Eclectablog brought it to Rachel Maddow's attention and she never let up. The Free Press spent Snyder's first four years reporting on every egregious action coming from the legislature and his administration. Then they endorsed him for another term! I can't forgive them for that, and can't help but think about it every time I see an editorial spouting outrage over what he's done now in Flint. Who couldn't see something terrible coming? Apparently, they couldn't. Or wouldn't.
Roneen Henn
Thu, 04/14/2016 - 6:58pm
You are correct Ramona Grigg and the fact is Hillary not only sent people she took time to campaign for money to help Flint by sending out e-mail requests. She suspended her own donation time to help fund for the sake of the people in Flint. She got a donation to help train and pass water out by the young in Flint. I know I received emails on the subject in all my email accounts. She has always done what needs to be done and she stirred up a hornets nest for Snyder on Rachael Maddow many times to create a hot seat to force Snyder to do something to help.
Thu, 01/21/2016 - 11:07am
Interesting that the Free Press reported this morning on page 4 that Gov. Snyder is having to appeal the Fed's decision NOT to make Flint a Federal Disaster Area. It is only to be a Federal Emergency Area which means a lot of help will not be available from the Feds. And after yesterday's report that there were a lot of Clinton's emails that were above Top Secret found on her server, where is the call that she should be in jail. Anyone in a position of authority should already know what is classified without having to be told. At the Secretary of State level, all should be classified.
Roneen Henn
Thu, 04/14/2016 - 7:04pm
Please these were classified later as information came available that would change the status. Information is not always available and after three or four years could contain something that had not been in a previous year or in their own group of people would not signify. Such as a name of a man becoming a covert operative and they need to make this secret. Colin Powell has said the same the President said the same. You really must think about how things work, such as you send an email to your best friend saying Charlie must be coming unglued he is losing so much hair and the next year you find out charlie has been having cancer treatments during that time. want them to share the email about your thoughts? Really stop listening to Rush Limbo.
Thu, 01/21/2016 - 12:14pm
To bad she wasn't outraged when the federal government (EPA) was told by one of it's own that there was a major problem in Feb 2014 - but then she seems to be good at not responding in a timely fashion to emergency situation and waits until the damage has been done and then starts blaming everyone else. The fact that EPA chose to ignore the dangers and institute immediate safeguards is inexcuseable
El Johnson
Sun, 01/24/2016 - 1:50am
#Tam inexcusable, and definitely actionable... # Laura Carter Callow - thank you for the contextual knowledge. #Dale My sentiments exactly! #Rich Spot ON on both counts. A frightening fact is MI is the only state in the nation surrounded by fresh water: an asset that deserves great care and mindfulness at every level of governance. The fact that it took a few wormy, 'CYA-minded' bureaucrats to allow the water source of a major city to become impotable in the first place is horribly incompetent,, but to leave it that way for almost two years is devastating, to the point of criminally negligent. A broken work ethic at the first level of regulation and oversight (MI EPA regional) is mightly scary enough. The unraveling up entire chain of supervision in pubic safety, resulting in poisoning an entire city, however, reflects an erosion of standards, evidence of the absence of checks and balances. If this continues to be tolerated by today's populace, we deserve what we get.
Roneen Henn
Thu, 04/14/2016 - 7:06pm
What office did Hillary hold in 2014? LOL LOL LOL
dave thomas
Thu, 01/21/2016 - 6:45pm
Folks, This a sickening story in more ways than one. Thank you, "Erin Brokovitch" for following this tragedy. I hope you get millions for these poor, sick residents of Flint, Michigan. Gov. Snyder needs to resign. Apologies don't cure cancer.
Fri, 01/22/2016 - 10:59am
It seems to me the politicians like Hillary are more interested in making political points than solving a human crisis in Flint. Hypocrisy of politics. Fix the damn problem instead of trying to embellish you own public image for votes.
Laura Carter Callow
Sat, 01/23/2016 - 5:55pm
This tragedy would not have occurred had the Michigan legislature accepted the vote of the people to do away with the Emergency Manager law. Instead , after voting EM law down, it was reenacted and made petition proof by adding an appropriation to the bill. Enacting a bill that the people said they do not want and then silencing them is proving to bad for people's health. If we don't find a way to override the loop hole that lets the legislature silence the people, we are in for more tragedies and even social unrest.
Mon, 01/25/2016 - 10:08am
How very sad , we all know Snyder wasn't doing anything to help these people until the media got the story out . God bless the doc, the media , all those that helped make this story national. Now let's get fresh running water to these people just as quickly as they shut it off.