Hillary Clinton Can’t Stand Holden Caulfield

Today in (Fake) Media Scandals: You may have heard of a controversial article published in The Atlantic this summer in which columnist and former State Department director of policy planning Anne-Marie Slaughter lamented the fact that many modern women cannot possibly live up to the superhuman expectations they face as both mothers and professionals.

(We’re sure it was a great piece; please don’t tell our friends we haven’t read it yet.)

Fast forward to this week, when Marie Claire published an extensive “farewell” interview with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Interviewer Ayelet Waldman asked Clinton about Slaughter’s piece and the SoS seemed to agree with her thesis, noting that while “Some women are not comfortable working at the pace and intensity you have to work at in these jobs”, others can juggle multiple children and demanding careers without “break[ing] a sweat.” Different strokes…

The next paragraph moved into a discussion about “whiners”, a class of people for whom Clinton has little patience. She wasn’t afraid to make a forceful point: “I can’t stand the kind of paralysis that some people fall into…You live in a time when there are endless choices…Do Something!”

Sounds like Hillary might have been referring to the women in Slaughter’s article who find themselves paralyzed by the unreasonable demands of modern life, doesn’t it?

That’s what the scoop-hungry bloggers at Politico, Jezebel and The Huffington Post thought. We can see why—in emails to journalists, Marie Claire’s PR people hyped the story by implying that the quote referred directly to Slaughter’s article. But the subsequent headlines about Hillary knocking on women who whine about “having it all” weren’t quite accurate; the Secretary said so herself. Here’s the missing section of the interview: 

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.

A ha. Turns out that Hillary has no beef with overworked professional moms at all; she just never cared for J.D. Salinger’s most famous pouty protagonist. That’s a completely different story there, now isn’t it?

We assume that all our readers had to finish The Catcher in the Rye at some point during their long, tortuous journey through the American school system. And we have a feeling that, like us, they grew less sympathetic to Caulfield’s existential gripes and pimply navel-gazing as they grew older and wiser. Hillary’s comment wasn’t controversial at all–unless you’re a high-school English teacher with an undying reverence for J.D. Salinger.

Maybe the folks writing Marie Claire’s pitch emails should go for accuracy over sensationalism next time, huh?

@PatrickCoffee patrick.coffee@adweek.com Patrick Coffee is a senior editor for Adweek.