Since the Clinton’s rise to political fame in the 1990s, various rumors surrounding their connections to mysterious deaths have been circulated. These claims assert that both Bill and Hillary Clinton have orchestrated the deaths of several acquaintances who supposedly had “dirt” on the family (Emery). The belief is mostly held by those of the opposing conservative party in efforts to further tarnish the family’s reputation. The conspiracy theory was brought up during Hillary Clinton’s 2008 and 2016 presidential campaigns. The original body count list is attributed Linda Thompson, a lawyer and conspiracy theorist of the American Justice Federation, an organization which has made its name by fabricating antigovernment stories (Weiss). Since its initial debut, the theory has been promoted through chain emails, novels, and documentaries.
The Clinton body count list draws ties to several suspicious deaths of the family’s allies and government officials. One of the most notable was the death of Vince Foster, former White House Counsel and colleague of Hillary at a Little Rock law firm. Foster’s death by a gunshot wound to the head was determined a suicide. Another death of longtime friend and business partner of the Clinton’s, James McDougal, raised eyebrows. McDougal suffered from a heart attack while in solitary confinement. When Ron Brown, Commerce Secretary, died in a random plane crash, theorists alleged that x-rays of Brown’s skull reveal bullet fragments. More tales follow similar formats, of those close to the Clintons dying in strange accidents. The timing of these accidents along with the vast and often veiled resources afforded to those in the executive branch makes it possible the Clintons were behind these events.
On the other hand, many argue that these systematic deaths are not systematic at all. For instance, the strange accidental manners of the death are not strange at all, since most deaths are accidental. In the case of Foster, his depression had been noted previously and therefore the suicide is not quite thatmysterious. There is also an argument made that a family as prominent as the Clintons have wide social circles, and therefore it increases the odds they will have some ties to the deceased person. Maybe the best argument against these claims is the question raised that if the Clinton’s could orchestrate a mass cover-up of these murders, why couldn’t they do the same of the Monica Lewinsky scandal that nearly ended Bill’s presidency?
A cognitive factor that may contribute to this belief is confirmation bias. This bias allows ambiguous evidence to be seen as supporting one’s prior beliefs. Those holding conservative values tend to distrust members on the opposing liberal side. These individuals will be more likely to perceive information that the Clintons are involved in a violent crime ring as true. Additionally, those who believe it are not only misinterpreting these events due to previous biases against the Clinton administration and Democratic party, but they are also misinformed by a distortion of the event facts. Several details of the suspicious deaths that have been circulated have failed to be corroborated.
The Clinton body count rumor mill began turning in the 1990s with the aid of those who opposed the administration and overall government. The power of opposition was also a determining factor in the theory’s revival during Hillary’s presidential campaign. With our country’s rising levels of party polarization, the public no longer attacks the policy practices of politicians, but also their character. The morality of Hillary Clinton was an important topic during her campaign. Focus on the use of her private email server and her decisions in Benghazi dominated her media coverage (Murphy). Under these social influences, accompanying rumors of a crime conspiracy could flourish.
It is no secret that our government keeps certain information hidden from its citizens. However, the notion that the Clinton administration engaged in the systematic murders of their political enemies is unlikely. The increasing party polarization of politics and internalized ill-will aimed at both Bill and Hillary Clinton is likely the culprit responsible for the conception and procreation of this conspiracy theory. Confirmation bias is a psychological tool that has also been used to place the vague pieces of information into an inaccurate puzzle. Thus, believers arrive at the conclusion that the Clintons must be behind the deaths of their acquaintances. But like the birther rumor that followed President Obama and suggestions that President Bush arranged 9/11, the Clinton body count list may just be another display of mistrust in powerful public figures.
Emery, D. (2018, July 19). Is There Any Truth to the ‘Clinton Body Count’ Rumors? Retrieved April 01, 2019, from https://www.thoughtco.com/the-clinton-body-count-4056792
FACT CHECK: Clinton Body Bags. (n.d.). Retrieved April 01, 2019, from https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/clinton-body-bags/
Murphy, T., Drum, K., Suebsaeng, A., Lanard, N., & Berman, A. (2017, June 24). The definitive guide to every Hillary Clinton conspiracy theory…so far. Retrieved April 01, 2019, from https://www.motherjones.com/politics/2014/06/hillary-clinton-conspiracy-theories/
Weiss, P. (1997, February 23). Clinton Crazy. Retrieved April 01, 2019, from https://www.nytimes.com/1997/02/23/magazine/clinton-crazy.html