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Hillary Clinton did not actually accuse Anne-Marie Slaughter of ‘whining’

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton did not actually say or imply that Anne-Marie Slaughter was "whining" when she wrote in her Atlantic magazine cover story "Women still can’t have it all." Several well-circulated reports Thursday said that Clinton was disparaging Slaughter, who served as her director of policy planning for over two years, in an ...

KAREN BLEIER/AFP/Getty Images
KAREN BLEIER/AFP/Getty Images

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton did not actually say or imply that Anne-Marie Slaughter was "whining" when she wrote in her Atlantic magazine cover story "Women still can't have it all."

Several well-circulated reports Thursday said that Clinton was disparaging Slaughter, who served as her director of policy planning for over two years, in an interview published Thursday by Marie Claire.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton did not actually say or imply that Anne-Marie Slaughter was "whining" when she wrote in her Atlantic magazine cover story "Women still can’t have it all."

Several well-circulated reports Thursday said that Clinton was disparaging Slaughter, who served as her director of policy planning for over two years, in an interview published Thursday by Marie Claire.

"I can’t stand whining," Clinton said. "I can’t stand the kind of paralysis that some people fall into because they’re not happy with the choices they’ve made. You live in a time when there are endless choices. … Money certainly helps, and having that kind of financial privilege goes a long way, but you don’t even have to have money for it. But you have to work on yourself. … Do something!"

Slaughter, on Twitter, responded that Clinton was not referring to her in that quote.

"Hillary Clinton, for whom I have the greatest admiration and loyalty, was not talking about me when she mentioned whining. #anything4astory," she tweeted.

Slaughter was correct. The interviewer Ayalet Waldman was asking Clinton about her opinion of Holden Caulfield in J.D. Salinger‘s Catcher in the Rye when Clinton began talking about whining. The State Department released that select portion of the interview transcript to reporters Thursday evening. Here’s the exchange: 

AYELET WALDMAN:  My daughter was reading Catcher in the Rye, and I said, "Oh, don’t you love that book?"  And she said, "What is his problem?  He’s unhappy?  He should go volunteer."

SECRETARY CLINTON:  Good for her.  I like your daughter without even meeting her.  I mean, I think there’s so much to that, because I mean, God, I can’t stand whining.  I can’t stand the kind of paralysis that some people fall into because they are not happy with choices they made.  You live in a time when there are endless choices, and you don’t have to have money for them.  Money certainly helps.  I mean, having that kind of financial privilege goes a long way, but you don’t even have to have money for it.  But you have to – even, like, work on yourself, learn to play a sport, do something.   

AYELET WALDMAN:  I’m going to tell Sophie that you agree with her.

Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Strategic Communications Philippe Reines issued a statement accompanying the transcript accusing Marie Claire of intentionally attributing the "whining" quotes to Slaughter out of context.

"With all due respect to J.D. Salinger, it’s clear as day from the transcript that the only person being called a whiner is his fictional character Holden Caulfield. It’s outlandish and misleading for Marie Clare to imply anything else from sympathizing with reporter’s daughter Sophie," Reines said.

Lea Goldman, a spokesperson for Hearst, which owns Marie Claire, sent a statement to reporters Thursday evening stating that the "whining" quotes were not in fact a reference to Slaughter.

"We want to make it clear that Secretary Clinton’s specific comments about ‘whining’ were not in reference to Anne-Marie Slaughter but, as noted in the story, part of a larger conversation about women in the workplace and striking a work-life balance. We value Secretary Clinton’s thoughts and opinions, and look forward to hearing even more from her on the matter," she said.

Goldman’s statement didn’t mention that earlier in the day a press release had been sent to reporters advertising the Marie Claire Clinton interview article, inside which the first bullet point clearly portrayed the "whining" comments as being about Slaughter.

Clinton was not exactly laudatory about Slaughter in the part of the interview that was directly about Slaughter and her Atlantic cover story, however.

"When I asked Clinton about Slaughter’s claim that ‘juggling high-level governmental work with the needs of two teenage boys was not possible,’ Clinton’s disapproval was palpable," Waldman wrote. "She reminded me that she has spent her career advocating on behalf of women, that she is committed to the idea that ‘it’s important for our workplaces … to be more flexible and creative in enabling women to continue to do high-stress jobs while caring for not only children, but [also] aging parents.’ But, she said, Slaughter’s problems were her own. ‘Some women are not comfortable working at the pace and intensity you have to work at in these jobs … Other women don’t break a sweat. They have four or five, six kids. They’re highly organized, they have very supportive networks.’"

In response, Slaughter tweeted, "[T]hat is certainly not true of me! Pace and intensity are no problem; it’s about flexibility."

Josh Rogin covers national security and foreign policy and writes the daily Web column The Cable. His column appears bi-weekly in the print edition of The Washington Post. He can be reached for comments or tips at josh.rogin@foreignpolicy.com.

Previously, Josh covered defense and foreign policy as a staff writer for Congressional Quarterly, writing extensively on Iraq, Afghanistan, Guantánamo Bay, U.S.-Asia relations, defense budgeting and appropriations, and the defense lobbying and contracting industries. Prior to that, he covered military modernization, cyber warfare, space, and missile defense for Federal Computer Week Magazine. He has also served as Pentagon Staff Reporter for the Asahi Shimbun, Japan's leading daily newspaper, in its Washington, D.C., bureau, where he reported on U.S.-Japan relations, Chinese military modernization, the North Korean nuclear crisis, and more.

A graduate of George Washington University's Elliott School of International Affairs, Josh lived in Yokohama, Japan, and studied at Tokyo's Sophia University. He speaks conversational Japanese and has reported from the region. He has also worked at the House International Relations Committee, the Embassy of Japan, and the Brookings Institution.

Josh's reporting has been featured on CNN, MSNBC, C-Span, CBS, ABC, NPR, WTOP, and several other outlets. He was a 2008-2009 National Press Foundation's Paul Miller Washington Reporting Fellow, 2009 military reporting fellow with the Knight Center for Specialized Journalism and the 2011 recipient of the InterAction Award for Excellence in International Reporting. He hails from Philadelphia and lives in Washington, D.C. Twitter: @joshrogin

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