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Clinton on Fox program.
Fox News reporter Chris Wallace says he was “delighted” to have the opportunity to interview former President Bill Clinton, but felt like a “mountain was coming down in front of me” when Clinton reacted to a question about his tenure in the White House.
In a report on a Washington, D.C., gossip blog edited by Patrick W. Gavin, Wallace said the “Fox News Sunday” interview was the first Clinton had given Fox in the program’s 10 years on the air.
But when he started reacting to interview questions as if attacked personally, Wallace said it was startling.
“Former President Clinton is a very big man. As he leaned forward – wagging his finger in my face – and then poking the notes I was holding – I felt as if a mountain was coming down in front of me,” Wallace reportedly said.
Wallace said the ground rules were simple with the interview time to be divided evenly between the former president’s Clinton Global Initiative and anything else that came up.
“I began the interview with two questions about Mr. Clinton’s commitment to humanitarian causes. His answers were cogent and good-humored,” Wallace reported. “Then – I asked him about his Administration’s record in fighting terror – fully intending to come back to CGI later (as indeed I did).”
“I asked what I thought was a non-confrontational question about whether he could have done more to ‘connect the dots and really go after al-Qaida,'” the report quoted Wallace as saying. “I was utterly surprised by the tidal wave of details – emotion – and political attacks that followed.”
Transcripts show Clinton appeared to consider the questioning a political attack and that he had been set up.
“The president was clearly stung by any suggestion that he had not done everything he could to get bin Laden. He attacked right-wingers – accused me of a ‘conservative hit job’ – and even spun a theory I still don’t understand that somehow Fox was trying to cover up the fact that NewsCorp. Chief Rupert Murdoch was supporting his Global Initiative. I still have no idea what set him off.”
Wallace told the website Clinton “said I had a smirk. Actually – it was sheer wonder at what I was witnessing.”
The specific question was whether Clinton had done enough on his watch as commander in chief to hunt for Osama bin Laden.
Jabbing his finger repeatedly at Wallace, Clinton angrily demanded credit for what he did do – try.
“At least I tried. That’s the difference in me and some,” he said. “Including all the right-wingers who are attacking me now.
“They ridicule me for trying. They had eight months to try. They did not try. I tried. So I tried and failed,” he said.
The comments are just part of a longer interview that aired on “Fox News Sunday” with Chris Wallace.
Bin Laden, who has appeared on tape taking credit for the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in New York, Washington, D.C., and Pennsylvania that claimed more than 3,000 lives, had installed most of the network that launched the attack months, even years, prior to the attacks.
George W. Bush had been sworn in as president, succeeding Clinton, eight months earlier, at the beginning of 2001.
Some of the hijackers had lived in the United States, taking flying lessons, for extended periods, officials have said.
It was not the first time Clinton has unleashed his temper when asked a question. It was during a 1999 White House picnic when Clinton erupted at a question from WND Washington bureau chief Paul Sperry.
Reported Sperry at the time: “Clinton’s not just intellectually intimidating, he’s physically imposing. He’s tall (6-2) and big-boned.
“Luckily, I’m the same height and was able to stand toe-to-toe and eye-to-eye with him. I’ll never forget the maniacal look in his bloodshot eyes. There was a moment, fleeting, where I sensed he wanted to try to take a swipe at me. I was getting full frontal Clinton. His volcanic temper, hidden so well from the public by his handlers, erupted less than 12 inches from my eyes.”
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