Surely everyone has heard by now the legend of Hillary Clinton’s untrustworthiness. Unauthenticated and mystical, it remains epic nonetheless – and the more people hear about it, the more they believe.

The folklore continued Tuesday night when 6 million viewers of the Democratic debate heard this question:

“Secretary Clinton, a Washington Post poll just yesterday found that only 37 percent of Americans consider you honest and trustworthy. Now, when you’ve been asked about this in the past, you have said that this is the result of many, many years of Republican attacks upon you. But Americans have also had 25 – more than that – years to get to know you for themselves.

“Is there anything in your own actions and the decisions that you yourself have made that would foster this kind of mistrust?”

This type of leading question wouldn’t typically be allowed if the task at hand were to find the truth, but television and punditry are big business. The modus operandi is shock and awe to gain market share.

Clinton’s response was, “Well … obviously it’s painful for me to hear that. And I do take responsibility. When you’re in public life, even if you believe that it’s not an opinion that you think is fair or founded, you do have to take responsibility. And I do.


“And I also have, you know, very much committed to the best of my ability my energies and efforts to helping people. That’s something that I care deeply about. And I will continue to do that, to demonstrate by my past actions and my present levels of commitment and plans that people can count on me.

“That is certainly what happened to me in New York, where people got to know me. They saw me in action. And they did.”

They sure did. The people of New York re-elected Clinton with 67 percent of the vote in 2006.

Bernie Sanders wasn’t asked about his honesty or trustworthiness on Tuesday night. Instead, after that question to Clinton, he was asked, “Senator Sanders, you have demanded that Secretary Clinton release the transcripts of her paid Wall Street speeches. Why is this important? Do you have reason to believe that she says one thing in private and another in public?”

Did somebody say Wall Street? The good senator, of course, perked up immediately and happily hit the softball question out of the park, with all the now-familiar notes of righteous indignation.

No other candidate for president has been asked in debates about his perceived honesty and trustworthiness. Maybe it’s because other candidates are presumed to be honest and trustworthy, or maybe there’s a presumption voters don’t care about this trait in others.


Don’t play the woman card, right? We are sick and tired of hearing about double standards. People are not going to vote for Clinton just because she is a woman. If she loses, it’s because nobody trusts her – just look at the polls.

If you actually look at the Washington Post poll referenced on Tuesday night, it’s worth noting that only 27 percent of people found Republican front-runner Donald Trump honest and trustworthy.

And Sanders? Well, he wasn’t included in the poll questions about honesty and trustworthiness. Seriously. The honesty and trustworthiness questions were only asked about Clinton, Trump, Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio.

Apparently we are to assume that Sanders is honest and trustworthy, or that he is unlikely to be the nominee – based, you know, on the polls.

Pollsters are either convinced by their own flawed polling that Clinton is the presumptive nominee, so they don’t even bother polling Sanders’ degree of trustworthiness, or they don’t believe Sanders’ degree of trustworthiness is relevant.

But only polling Clinton on whether she is “honest and trustworthy” and then using the answer against her in a debate against Sanders reinforces the myth that she is less trustworthy than him, and it surely helps him win one “stunning” victory after another.


Look what happened in Michigan. Clinton, the most reputable of pollsters told us, had a greater than 99 percent chance of winning. Those are good odds. So when Clinton lost by 1.5 percentage points, it was described as a “stunning victory” for Bernie Sanders.

When Sanders lost in Iowa by 0.3 percent, it was described as a “stunning result.” A “moral victory,” given the polls leading up to the race showed Clinton having almost a 70 percent chance of winning.

Not a single Republican candidate or Sanders has been asked about his honesty or trustworthiness in debates. Their support is measured by votes, endorsements and fundraising – things that can be measured.

President Obama famously said Clinton was likable enough, and then trusted her to be secretary of state, where she enjoyed a favorability rating of up to 66 percent of American people nationwide – Republicans, Democrats and everyone in between. The president now trusts her to accept the baton as leader of the free world.

Thirty-nine of Clinton’s former colleagues in the U.S. Senate trust her enough to support her candidacy over their colleague Sanders, who’s been in Washington longer than Clinton and has not garnered the endorsement of a single other senator.

A more interesting question, I believe, is why the people who know and work with Clinton trust her immensely, while random people polled apparently do not.


Trump is the Republican front-runner and understandably “loves the poorly educated” who will ignore his stats on honesty and trustworthiness. But is it too much to ask of educated people passing around the hot potato of Clinton’s alleged dishonesty to point to an actual instance of it? Are Americans now so dissociated with the truth that it no longer matters?

Let me put it another way: Who do you trust more, the pollsters and pundits who predicted Clinton was going to crush the Michigan primary, or the same pollsters and pundits who assert repeatedly that Americans don’t trust her?

Cynthia Dill is a civil rights lawyer and former state senator. She can be contacted at:

[email protected]

Twitter: dillesquire

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