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Clinton's recall of Bosnia faulted

Aides say she may have misspoken

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Globe Staff And Associated Press / March 25, 2008

After a video surfaced and questions were raised about her account, Hillary Clinton's campaign acknowledged yesterday that she may have misspoken when she described a harrowing visit to Bosnia while she was first lady.

"I remember landing under sniper fire," she said during a speech last week as she sought to burnish her commander-in-chief credentials. "There was supposed to be some kind of a greeting ceremony at the airport, but instead we just ran with our heads down to get into the vehicles to get to our base."

But a CBS report on the March 1996 visit - distributed by Barack Obama's campaign - shows Clinton greeting soldiers at the base near Tuzla without wearing a helmet and with her daughter, Chelsea, in tow, also sans helmet. The CBS correspondent, however, says it was one of the more dangerous places in Bosnia - too hazardous for the president to tour.

The Clinton camp emphasized that latter point, while conceding she might have embellished the details.

However, the Obama campaign suggested the anecdote was a deliberate attempt to mislead voters. "The Tuzla story, now thoroughly debunked, joins a growing list of instances in which Senator Clinton has exaggerated her role in foreign and domestic policymaking," it said in a statement.

Clinton often cites the good-will trip she took with her daughter and several celebrities as a part of her foreign policy experience, without mentioning running for cover. After her speech last Monday, she repeated the account of running from the plane to the cars when she was asked about it by reporters. She also said she was moved into the cockpit of the C-17 cargo plane as they were flying into Tuzla Air Base.

"Everyone else was told to sit on their bulletproof vests," Clinton told reporters. "And we came in, in an evasive maneuver. . . . There was no greeting ceremony, and we basically were told to run to our cars. Now, that is what happened."

But according to an Associated Press story at the time, Clinton faced no extraordinary risks on that trip.

And one of her companions on it, the comedian Sinbad, told The Washington Post he has no recollection either of the threat or reality of gunfire.

When asked yesterday about the New York senator's recent remarks on the trip, Clinton spokesman Howard Wolfson pointed to Clinton's previous written account in her book, "Living History," in which she described a shortened welcoming ceremony.

Clinton wrote: "Due to reports of snipers in the hills around the airstrip, we were forced to cut short an event on the tarmac with local children, though we did have time to meet them and their teachers and to learn how hard they had worked during the war to continue classes in any safe spot they could find."

"That is what she wrote in her book," Wolfson said. "That is what she has said many, many times and on one occasion she misspoke. This is something that the Obama campaign wants to push 'cause they have nothing positive to say about their candidate."

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