Hillary Clinton's campaign team are furious that an unsubstantiated rumour of a lesbian affair with her exotic aide de camp Huma Abedin, which has been doing the rounds of 'underground' blogs and websites in recent weeks, appears to have gone mainstream after reports in foreign papers addressed the subject of dirty tricks on the US presidential campaign trail.
The problem started with a report in the London Times on Thursday. 'Hillary Clinton has been accused of having an affair with Huma Abedin,' read the caption under a photograph of the two trouser-suited women (above left) striding across the tarmac to catch a plane. The next day, the Russian newspaper Pravda wrote a similar round-up which concluded: "Hillary and her aide, Huma Abedin, do live together at home and on the road, but the only way to nail Clinton would be to catch them together in a lesbian action."
The rumour of a lesbian love affair appears to have been been started in August 2007 by the New York freesheet, the Village Voice. Although neither the Times nor Pravda made any attempt to claim the story was true, some Americans have taken the reports in two of the world's most famous newspapers to heart. Not least Hillary's own team. "This does not even qualify as tabloid trash... it's ridiculous and reckless," a Clinton aide said at the weekend.
Subscribe to The Week
Escape your echo chamber. Get the facts behind the news, plus analysis from multiple perspectives.
Abedin, who is the daughter of Indian and Pakistani parents and comes from Kalamazoo Michigan, has been an aide to Clinton for some years. The photograph in the Times was taken in 2000. She was recently photographed (above right) in Vogue's 'Age' issue, as an example of a glamorous woman in her 30s with good looks, insider influence and a fabulous address book. She chose two red dresses - by Vera Wang and Oscar de la Renta - for her Vogue photoshoot.
Although the Times, owned by Rupert Murdoch, appears to have caused her some heartache, Hillary Clinton was diplomatic when asked an awkward question in Iowa at the weekend about Murdoch's growing influence in America. The arch-conservative media baron Rupert Murdoch, who already owns Fox News, the New York Post (and its gossip section Page Six, which notoriously went after Clinton's husband Bill during his presidency) and will soon own the Wall Street Journal.
Did Clinton think, the questioner wanted to know, Americans would "lose out democracy" if one person controlled their media? Clinton answered: "There have been a lot of media consolidations in the last several years, and it is quite troubling. It's bad for consumers because you limit choice, it¹s bad for citizens because it limits the diversity we have." But she also made it clear that she wasn't singling out "any company in particular" for condemnation. "I just want to see more competition, especially in the same markets."
What she didn't tell the questioner was that, the Times article notwithstanding, she and Murdoch have developed a close if curious relationship since she became junior senator for New York in 2001. Murdoch even held a fundraiser last year for Clinton's senate campaign and recently bankrolled former nemesis Bill Clinton's global warming initiative.
Continue reading for free
We hope you're enjoying The Week's refreshingly open-minded journalism.
Subscribed to The Week? Register your account with the same email as your subscription.