A false story spread across social media wrongly claims that NBC News reported that Hillary Clinton “covered up” a “pedophile ring” at the Department of State. The report is from 2013 and did not say that.
It’s been more than two years since Hillary Clinton lost the 2016 presidential election, and more than six since she exited her post as U.S. secretary of state. But viral falsehoods about the prominent Democrat continue to fester on social media.
Recent headlines circulating across platforms are now misrepresenting a years-old NBC News report to erroneously assert that the network’s news division found Clinton had protected a “pedophile ring” while at the Department of State.
“NBC NEWS: Hillary Clinton covered up pedophile ring,” a false headline on dc-populist.com reads. A June 19 YouTube posting of the NBC report used the same headline and has accrued more than 200,000 views.
The actual NBC News segment — which aired on the “Today Show” in 2013 — focused on questions, based on leaked memos, about internal investigations within the State Department during Clinton’s tenure as secretary of state. It noted that one of those investigations dealt with an allegation of pedophilia, but the report did not say that Clinton “covered up” a “pedophile ring.”
The June 2013 segment detailed an internal department inquiry into whether investigations of alleged improprieties by an ambassador and department personnel were properly handled. The news report cited allegations of “undue influence from top State officials.”
The report said there was an allegation the ambassador “routinely ditched his protective security detail in order to solicit sexual favors from both prostitutes and minor children,” and that the department’s investigation was improperly halted.
In October 2014, the State Department Office of Inspector General published the executive summary of its report on whether the department’s Bureau of Diplomatic Security mishandled that investigation and seven others.
In three of those cases, the inspector general found an “appearance of undue influence and favoritism,” which it said “is problematic because it risks undermining confidence in the integrity of the Department and its leaders.” That included the case of the ambassador — who had been publicly identified as Howard Gutman, the U.S. ambassador to Belgium.
The inspector general’s report notes that Gutman met with two senior State Department officials, denied the allegations and was permitted to return to work. While the report said further evidence could have been collected and recommended “clear and consistent protocols and procedures” for the handling of such inquiries, it noted that “based on the limited evidence collected by DS, the suspected misconduct by the Ambassador was not substantiated.”
In other words, the allegations against the ambassador were never backed up. And the internal watchdog’s review never faulted Clinton for mismanaging or intervening in the investigation.
Gutman later chronicled the impact of the claims made against him in a 2015 column in the Washington Post titled “The ambassador’s tale: Lessons I learned about success and scandal.”
In short, NBC News reported six years ago on leaked memos outlining claims that investigations were being improperly handled within the State Department. But the underlying claims made against an ambassador were never substantiated, and neither the news report nor the department watchdog said that Clinton had “covered up” a “pedophile ring.”
Editor’s note: FactCheck.org is one of several organizations working with Facebook to debunk misinformation shared on social media. Our previous stories can be found here.
Gutman, Howard. “The ambassador’s tale: Lessons I learned about success and scandal.” Washington Post. 16 Jul 2015.
Office of Inspector General, U.S. Department of State. “EXECUTIVE SUMMARY – Review of Selected Internal Investigations Conducted by the Bureau of Diplomatic Security (ESP-15-01).” 16 Oct 2014.
“Report: State Dept. may have covered up misconduct.” NBC News. 11 Jun 2013.