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Hook and Ballot

1/17/2008


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DATELINE 01.17.08 At least she's qualified to attend summits | e-mail us

alt="Hillary Clinton - Democratic Candidate, New York/Arkansas"
src="http://assets.espn.go.com/winnercomm/outdoors/general/hookandballot/button_clinton.jpg">Last week ESPNOutdoors.com columnists James Swan and Don Barone did an admirable job on short notice eulogizing Sir Edmund Hillary, one of the true raging badasses of the 20th century. The inestimable Kiwi walked up the side of Mount Everest before The North Face and compressed oxygen allowed any suicidal rich kid with a passport and a two-month beard to dream of schlepping an Elph to the world's ceiling.

No wonder another Hillary would want to tan in the glow of that legacy. The mountaineer's death reminded curmudgeon nonpareil Christopher Hitchens about an old flap over another Hillary, one of the Clinton variety, and claiming she was named for him. Here's what Hitch had to say on Slate:


On a first-lady goodwill tour of Asia in April 1995 — the kind of banal trip that she now claims as part of her foreign-policy "experience" — Mrs. Clinton had been in Nepal and been briefly introduced to the late Sir Edmund Hillary, conqueror of Mount Everest. Ever ready to milk the moment, she announced that her mother had actually named her for this famous and intrepid explorer. The claim "worked" well enough to be repeated at other stops and even showed up in Bill Clinton's memoirs almost a decade later, as one more instance of the gutsy tradition that undergirds the junior senator from New York.

Sen. Clinton was born in 1947, and Sir Edmund Hillary and his partner Tenzing Norgay did not ascend Mount Everest until 1953, so the story was self-evidently untrue and eventually yielded to fact-checking. Indeed, a spokeswoman for Sen. Clinton named Jennifer Hanley phrased it like this in a statement in October 2006, conceding that the tale was untrue but nonetheless charming: "It was a sweet family story her mother shared to inspire greatness in her daughter, to great results I might add."

You can read the rest of Hitchens' column here (and the Snopes.com debunking of the Rodham family legend here. How you see the story will depend, in part, on how you see the Clintons, but whether it's a harmless error or a calculated fib, it's another example of a politician aligning herself with the accomplishments and good name of an outdoorsman.

— Sam Eifling