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Clinton Backtracks on Bosnian Trip Danger

ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

And here's something that can beat even harder than managing surrogates - managing the candidate. Hillary Clinton's campaign is still facing questions about her descriptions of 1996 trip to Bosnia several months after the peace agreement that officially ended the civil war there.

She has repeatedly cited that trip to Tuzla as evidence that she did serious foreign policy work as First Lady. About a week ago, Senator Clinton described the landing at Tuzla Air Force Base.

Senator Hillary Clinton (Democrat, New York; Presidential Candidate): I remember landing under sniper fire. There was supposed to be some kind of a greeting ceremony at the airport, but instead we just ran with our heads down to get into the vehicles, to get to our base.

SIEGEL: Well, at a press conference after that speech, Senator Clinton was asked about statements by Sinbad, the comedian, who was on that same trip. Sinbad had told the Washington Post that the scariest part of the visit was wondering where he would eat next, and we should point out that Sinbad supports Barack Obama. At the news conference, Senator Clinton repeated her story.

Sen. CLINTON: There was no greeting ceremony. And we basically were told to run to our cars. Now that is what happened.

SIEGEL: Well, it didn't take long for a CBS News footage from 1996 to show up. And in it, Clinton and her daughter, Chelsea, stroll from their plane and greet an 8-year-old Bosnian girl.

(Soundbite of CBS News footage)

Ms. CHELSEA CLINTON (Hillary Clinton's Daughter): Thank you so much.

SIEGEL: She also thanked American troops on the tarmac.

Sen. CLINTON: You guys are doing a great job.

SIEGEL: This past weekend, the Washington Post's Michael Dobbs, who writes the Fact Checker column, gave Clinton four Pinocchios - that's the worst possible rating for her description of the trip. In his system, four Pinocchios labels the candidate's statements as whoppers. Many reporters who were traveling with Clinton in 1996 have said there was no sniper fire. And yesterday, Hillary Clinton told the Philadelphia Daily News: She misspoke.

Sen. CLINTON: If I said something that made it seem as though there was actual fire that is not what I was told.

SIEGEL: And as for that 8-yaer-old Bosnian girl on the tarmac, Clinton had this to say.

Sen. CLINTON: I can't rush by her. I've got to, at least, greet her. So I greeted her, I took a stop and I left. Now that's my memory of it.

SIEGEL: And Clinton called this misstatement, a minor blip. She said she says millions of words every day. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Prior to his retirement, Robert Siegel was the senior host of NPR's award-winning evening newsmagazine All Things Considered. With 40 years of experience working in radio news, Siegel hosted the country's most-listened-to, afternoon-drive-time news radio program and reported on stories and happenings all over the globe, and reported from a variety of locations across Europe, the Middle East, North Africa, and Asia. He signed off in his final broadcast of All Things Considered on January 5, 2018.