WASHINGTON – Members of First Lady Hillary Clinton’s staff considered using the Clinton’s 20th wedding anniversary to boost the couple’s public image ahead of the 1996 presidential election.
Among the ideas floated in a 1995 memo were for the couple to throw “a big party” that could be featured in a photo spread in People magazine or for them to sit down with Barbara Walters.
“If we did an interview around the anniversary time peg, it would not appear to be political,” wrote Lisa Caputo, the first lady’s press secretary.
The August 1995 memo written to Hillary’s chief of staff Maggie Williams was among the thousands of pages of documents released Friday by the Clinton Presidential Library. The documents were among about 33,000 pages of Clinton White House records withheld from the public under legal provisions that expired early last year.
The Caputo memo offered up her ideas on how to promote Hillary Clinton ahead of the 1996 re-election campaign. Aside from the anniversary, Caputo also suggested a media strategy for the upcoming release of her book “It Takes a Village” and a Beijing conference.
“If Hillary is comfortable throwing a big party, we could give a wonderful photo spread to People magazine,” Caputo wrote. “It would be like creating a photo album for People magazine that could turn into a nice mail piece later on.”
The Clinton’s did not hold such a party on their wedding anniversary on Oct. 11, nor did they sit down for an interview with Barbara Walters at that time. Hillary did sit down with Walters in early January to promote her book – but the interview focused primarily on a scandal within the White House travel office.
The Caputo memo also offers a glimpse into how the first lady’s staff viewed the media as well as their boss.
Among Caputo’s observations was that the first lady had an “aversion” for the national Washington media and preferred instead interviews with regional newspaper and television reporters.
“I think it is now time to think about returning to this strategy to reacquaint people across the country through their local and hometown papers and television stations with Hillary Clinton. Hillary is comfortable with the local reporters and enjoys speaking with them,” she wrote. “Good local press will develop into a ripple effect which will begin to influence the coverage of the national newspapers.”
Another way to influence the media, she said, was to hold monthly meetings with editors of women’s magazines that could alternate between New York and D.C.
“Hopefully, this outreach will produce stories in the women’s magazines about the President’s accomplishments and record and turn the editors into Clinton surrogates,” she wrote.
Caputo also suggested that “Hillaryland staff” could reach out to D.C. reporters in social settings.
“The more of us who are out there informally and socially with the press the better it is for Hillary,” she wrote. “We can tell wonderful Hillary anecdotes that humanize her and show the press the good person that she is.”
Caputo said the Hillaryland staff could develop a “buddy system” assigning staff members to various reporters for the next year – an approach that, she said, they had taken with administration officials during the health care reform debate.