Hillary Drops Health Care Tale — After Press Challenges

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Hillary Rodham Clinton’s presidential campaign said Saturday it will strike from her standard speech a third-hand story she heard while campaigning in southern Ohio.

An aide said Clinton would stop using the story of a Meigs County woman and her stillborn child. The woman died after the stillbirth. The New York Times on Saturday first reported questions about the anecdote’s authenticity.

“Candidates are told stories by people all the time, and it’s common for candidates to retell those stories,” campaign spokesman Mo Elleithee said. “It’s not always possible to fully vet them, but we try. For example, medical records are confidential. In this case, we tried but weren’t able to fully vet the story.”

Meigs County sheriff’s Deputy Bryan Holman met with Clinton when she visited southeast Ohio ahead of the state’s March 4 primary. He told her he had heard the story of Trina Bachtel, who died in August. Clinton took the story and made it part of her stump speech.

On the trail, Clinton says the pregnant Ohio woman was twice turned away from a hospital because she didn’t have insurance and couldn’t pay a $100 fee. She later was rushed to a hospital in an ambulance, delivered a stillborn baby and was taken by helicopter to Columbus. Clinton says two weeks later, the woman died.

Clinton says the story is evidence the health care system must be reformed. She never mentions a hospital’s name.

But the chief executive officer at O’Bleness Memorial Hospital in Athens told the Times he wants Clinton to drop the tale from her stump speech. Rick Castrop says Bachtel was never refused treatment and had insurance when she delivered the stillborn child at O’Bleness.

“We implore the Clinton campaign to immediately desist from repeating this story,” Castrop told the newspaper.

Holman said no one identified the hospital during a brief chat with Clinton.

“She had initially gone to a hospital, who had asked for $100 upfront,” Holman told The Associated Press on Saturday. “There was no hospital that was ever mentioned. I don’t know which hospital it was.”

He said Bachtel’s family is frustrated with the scrutiny the story has received.

“We’re basically done talking about it,” he said. “It’s like reliving the entire thing.”

Bachtel’s family declined to comment. Repeated messages seeking comment were left Saturday for Castrop and O’Blenness spokeswoman Linda Weiss.

Elleithee said Clinton was retelling the story as she heard it from a deputy sheriff.

“She had no reason to doubt his word,” Elleithee said. “If the hospital claims it didn’t happen that way, we certainly respect that and she won’t repeat the story.”

In recent weeks, Clinton also had to recant on claims she came under hostile fire in Bosnia 12 years ago. The New York senator described a harrowing scene in Tuzla, Bosnia, in which she and her daughter, Chelsea, had to run for cover as soon as they landed for a visit in 1996.

But video footage of the day showed a peaceful reception in which a young girl greeted the first lady on the tarmac. She apologized and said she made a mistake.

Clinton and rival Barack Obama continue in their tight primary contests. Reid Cherlin, an Obama spokesman, declined to comment Saturday on Clinton’s hospital story.

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