Autopsy: The Clinton Body Count
The surprising origins of the claim that the Clintons kill any who get in their way.
by Brian Dunning
June 28, 2016
If you're a conspiracy theorist, and you believe the government secretly drugs the population by spraying chemicals from airliners, or plans to do away with us all in FEMA camps, or that all the world's governments and corporations have secretly handed over their sovereignty to a shadow cabal of Zionist Illuminati, then today's story is for you. An urban legend, found mainly on the conspiracy theory websites these days, states that former US President Bill Clinton had a large number of people killed throughout his career in order to protect his interests. Now that his wife Hillary Clinton is also soaring among the world's lofty and powerful elite, many tellings of the conspiracy theory also attribute some of the unfortunate victims to her as well. Today we're going to see how likely it is that there might be some truth to a tale so wildly implausible that some say it must be true.
Unsurprisingly, the tale had its start in a dedicated conspiracy theory mill, the home office of Linda Thompson, a 40-year-old anti-government activist. 1993 was a busy year for her. She quit her job and went full-time into conspiracy mongering. In that year she produced Waco: The Big Lie, the seminal video that launched the claims that the government murdered the Branch Davidians. In the course of researching that project, she compiled a list of 24 people whom she believed, based on her own intuition, that Bill Clinton must have had killed during his rise to power. She lobbied various congressmen to investigate her beliefs, and was finally successful at persuading William Dannemeyer to take up her cause. Dannemeyer had just retired from the House of Representatives, but was, like Thompson, a full-throttle conspiracy theorist, Biblical literalist, and antisemite. On his website TakeBackOurRights.org, he has written something of a manifesto that includes the word jew 88 times, and says:
No American should underestimate the ferocity of the commitment of the Zionist Jews to control the entire political system of the world through the One World Government now being created, and in so doing administer "Justice" as they define it.
Dannemeyer sent Thompson's list to as many congresspeople as he could, and urged them to take action, and administer justice as he defined it. Fortunately his ramblings were not taken seriously. Thompson, meanwhile, expanded her list to 34 and self-published it as a pamphlet titled The Clinton Body Count: Coincidence or the Kiss of Death? Boosted by promotion from conspiracy-hungry alternative media outlets, the Clinton Body Count thus entered pop culture.
Incidentally, Thompson's pamphlet is widely available online as a PDF, but I don't recommend reading it. It is not very coherent. It's full of implausible assertions, it never gives any sources or references for its wild statements, and it finally devolves into random anti-government rants and statutory citations. My guess is she had psychological issues. Nevertheless, her writings are the strength upon which the Clinton Body Count conspiracy theory is based.
But what of her specific claims? Who are the people on The Body Count list? These days the list is longer, having been expanded by Internet denizens, and it can be found on conspiracy websites such as ForbiddenKnowledge.com, GovtSlaves.info, and TruthOrFiction.com. The most famous name on the list is Vince Foster.
Foster had been a partner at Hillary Clinton's firm in Arkansas, and when Bill Clinton became President, he joined them as Deputy White House Counsel. But he was ill-prepared for life under the magnifying glass of the public eye. He underwent treatment for clinical depression and lost weight, and then the perfect storm of Clinton controversies hit him: Whitewater, Travelgate, Madison Guaranty. The newspapers attacked him relentlessly, and he shot himself dead in a park in Virginia. In his briefcase was a handwritten draft letter of resignation, torn to pieces, in which he asserted his and the Clintons' innocence in the scandals and bemoaned his inability to handle the stresses of his new life. Five separate investigations over five years all came to the same conclusion, that Vince Foster had killed himself.
Yet Linda Thompson decided to add some dramatic elements. She bizarrely claimed that the White House (whoever that means) ordered his death to be investigated only by "park rangers", and not by the FBI (it was in fact investigated by the FBI in addition to the US Park Police who had jurisdiction). She claimed his briefcase and personal items were "gone through" by the White House (whoever that means) instead of by law enforcement. She oddly claimed that Foster's resignation letter only appeared in his briefcase three days after his death, and that a palm print was found on it that was "never investigated". She said the gun was not his and was placed in his hand after his death, but it was in fact his gun, and forensics showed it was in his hand at his death. Thompson just made things up to suit her preferred version of events.
Here is how the incisive pen of Snopes.com's Barbara Mikkelson described Thompson's rhetoric:
This laundry list of deaths always refers to someone taking his life as "ruled a suicide," thus implying another conclusion of equal likelihood was capriciously dismissed by someone who had the power to do so. From here on, read "ruled a suicide" as "an investigation was carried out, arriving at this as the only reasonable conclusion."
There's no need to go into the rest of the Body Count list; their cases are all similar to this in that there's neither evidence nor logical motive to suspect the Clintons of being involved. None of the deaths were suspicious in any way; they are mostly car accidents and plane crashes. It's insufficient to say any given death was "consistent with" the Clintons ordering them killed. There's a big difference between consistent with and evidence of. Evidence would be the goon squad triggermen showing us the check from Bill Clinton's bank account. So far, nobody has even suggested the existence of evidence for any of these supposed crimes.
So why does the Clinton Body Count sound so plausible? Because it is, in fact, possible to connect a surprising number of untimely deaths to the Clintons; far more than you could to many other important people. But this has nothing to do with the Clintons; it has to do with mathematics. If you're a real estate agent, you have a few dozen co-workers and perhaps a couple hundred professional colleagues whom you know. That's about the extent of your empire. Bill Clinton was a political campaigner for George McGovern, a law professor, a candidate for the House of Representatives, the Attorney General of Arkansas, twice the Governor of Arkansas, and was a two-term President of the United States. Hillary Clinton was an attorney, part of the impeachment staff against Richard Nixon, also taught law at the university level, and was then Bill Clinton's First Lady in all of his elected positions before starting out on a political career of her own that's been every bit as storied. The sheer number of professional colleagues the Clintons would have accumulated in all of their many careers, most of which were incalculably larger in scale than our local realtor example, would crash a calculator. Over the course of your career, you might know a colleague or two who suffer some untimely death in an accident. Over the course of the Clintons' careers, that number is easily going to be in the hundreds if not more, particularly when you include people who never even met them but simply worked under them at some level at some time. That's not a conspiracy, that's math.
This becomes even more clear when you take a second look at the list and realize this is not a list of Clinton associates per se; it's simply a list of people who worked in government and died. If Bozo the Clown had been President during those years, we'd be calling it the Bozo Body Count.
One clue that the Clintons didn't really benefit from any of these deaths is that there are real people from whom they could have benefitted by rubbing them out, but didn't. Barbara Mikkelson went on to note that over the course of Bill Clinton's career, two people actually did come very close to ruining him. Both were unknown to the public at the time, Clinton knew that both of them had information that could have brought him down long before any investigations ever started, both were relatively obscure, and both could have been easily killed by thugs with rigged accidents or fake suicides. And yet both escaped unharmed. If Bill Clinton truly did have murder squads on the payroll, surely these two would have been at the very top of the list. Yet neither was touched. Who were they? You might have guessed: intern Monica Lewinsky and Linda Tripp, who compiled all the evidence of the affair hoping to write a book. The conspiracy claim requires us to believe that the Clintons' goon squad, while having masterfully committed and hidden scores of murders over decades without the slightest slipup, somehow failed at even attempting the only two that might have actually mattered. It's not very consistent with the claim that Clintons kill people when it will benefit them.
But even when some party (aka a Clinton) does have something to gain by the death of another person, it is non-sequitur logic to make some connection. Every tragedy benefits someone. The ambulance company benefits when someone has a heart attack; that's no reason to open up an investigation every time it happens. A news reporter benefits when there's a terrorist attack. Even in the case of a true crime, like a jewel heist, parties other than the robbers benefit: insurance companies, for example, wouldn't be able to have their profitable industries if things like jewel heists never happened.
We have to be able to accept that sometimes bad things happen. We have to be able to accept that certain parties might benefit financially from those bad things, without requiring it to be proof that the beneficiaries were responsible for the tragedy. Thus, specific to our case, if we stretch credibility to the point where we believe the Clintons actually realized some appreciable benefit from one or more of these deaths, we have to accept that we still have no logical reason to suspect the Clintons for having been even remotely responsible.
It would be a fallacious ad-hominem attack against the Clinton Body Count to dismiss it due to its dubious parentage, Linda Thompson and William Dannemeyer. Instead, we dismiss it for its total lack of evidence and its fundamental implausibility.
By Brian Dunning
Cite this article:
Dunning, B. "Autopsy: The Clinton Body Count." Skeptoid Podcast. Skeptoid Media,
28 Jun 2016. Web.
23 Feb 2018. <http://skeptoid.com/episodes/4525>
References & Further Reading
Aaronovitch, D. Voodoo Histories: the Role of the Conspiracy Theory in Shaping Modern History. New York: Riverhead, 2010.
Barkun, M. A Culture of Conspiracy: Apocalyptic Visions in Contemporary America. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2003. 73-74.
Mikkelson, B. "FALSE: Clinton Body Bags." Urban Legends Reference Pages. Snopes.com, 12 Apr. 2015. Web. 20 Jun. 2016. <http://www.snopes.com/politics/clintons/bodycount.asp>
Starr, K. et. al. Report on the Death of Vincent W. Foster, Jr. Washington, DC: United States Court of Appeals, 1997.
Thompson, L. The Clinton Body Count: Coincidence or the Kiss of Death? Indianapolis: AEN News, 1993.
Wood, M., Douglas, K., Sutton, R. "Dead and Alive: Beliefs in Contradictory Conspiracy Theories." Social Psychological and Personality Science. 1 Nov. 2012, Volume 3, Number 6: 767-773.
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