Ed Klein’s Canoodle Kerfuffle

Photo: Jay L. Clendenin (Polaris)

The photographer who took the picture in Edward Klein’s new book, The Truth About Hillary, catching Bill Clinton in a moment of P.D.A. with someone other than his wife, says that the book’s use of the photo is a “huge misrepresentation of the event.”

In his first public comments about the salacious picture, photographer Jay L. Clendenin said in an interview with New York Magazine that the picture was one of “dozens” he took at a rally for presidential candidate John Kerry that Bill Clinton attended in Philadelphia on October 25, 2004. He said that Clinton wasn’t at all intimate with the woman. “I was there,” he said. “She kissed him on the cheek. Nothing more. Two seconds out of each other’s lives.”

Clendenin also said he had no idea the photo, which he took for Polaris Images, a picture agency in Manhattan, was appearing in Klein’s book until New York told him about it.

“You’re kidding,” Clendenin exclaimed when reached on his cell phone. “Oh, Jesus.”

Photo: Jay L. Clendenin (Polaris)

The photo appears on the same page of The Truth About Hillary as another candid shot of the former president in black tie half-embracing a woman at an event (or, as the caption puts it, “putting the move on a blonde in 2002.”). The caption under Clendenin’s picture says “Bill mouth-kissing a supporter. Hillary’s aides noticed that Bill seemed to grow even more reckless after his memoir, My Life, became a big bestseller. He was rolling in money—and hubris. Throwing caution to the wind, he started a torrid affair with a stunning divorcée in her early forties.”

The photo—which appears to be intended to back up the book’s claims of infidelity—was also key to the publisher’s promotional strategy. An advance copy of the image appeared on the Drudge Report, under the banner headline BOOK CLAIM: HILLARY HUMILIATED AS BILL HAS NEW AFFAIRS. The book, which was officially published on June 21, has since rocketed to No. 1 on Amazon.com’s nonfiction list.

The book doesn’t come out and say that the woman in the photo is the “stunning divorcée.” But the picture was clearly selected and positioned to bolster the book’s lurid allegations. And the book does not specify the circumstances or the date of the event in the photo. Sharing the fact that it took place at a campaign rally would obviously have undercut the book’s claims of extramarital intimacy.

What’s more, the photo is in fact one of several taken by Clendenin—which New York has obtained—showing a sequence in which a female supporter approaches Bill amid an adoring throng and leans in for what appears to be a kiss on the cheek. Klein’s book reprinted the closest shot of the kiss—the only one that could conceivably be construed as “mouth-kissing.”

Klein dismissed the photographer’s charges, arguing that the two pictures on the page reinforced the impression of an overall pattern. “The pictures speak for themselves,” he said. “They make the point I was trying to make in the book, which is that he hasn’t stopped being a philanderer.”

Photo: Jay L. Clendenin (Polaris)

Klein bristled when asked if juxtaposing the photo with a caption charging extramarital affairs was misleading in that it invited the reader to see the photo as proof of misbehavior. He said, “It invites the reader to see a pattern of behavior on his part. A man who masturbated in the Oval Office with a cigar shouldn’t be going around leering at women and kissing them on the mouth.”

A spokesman for the book’s publisher, Sentinel, a conservative imprint of the Penguin Group, also brushed off the photographer’s charges. “It’s not implying that the woman pictured in the photo is the one he’s having an affair with,” said the spokesman, Will Weisser.

Clendenin doesn’t see it that way. He accuses Klein of taking the photo “out of context” to make it “look like something other than what actually happened.”

“This is one of maybe a dozen people who kissed him on the cheek,” Clendenin said. “It’s like being misquoted … I believe that the insinuation of intimacy is a misrepresentation of the photo. It misrepresents my work.”

“I feel a little guilty,” Clendenin added. “Taken out of context like this, it would appear that I’m insinuating the same thing, with my name on the photo. In reality, this was a routine, split-second moment that happens dozens of times in a campaign.”

Ed Klein’s Canoodle Kerfuffle