The Clinton camp is brushing off newly released recordings from the mid-1980s that reveal Hillary Clinton laughing while discussing her successful legal defense of an accused child rapist who she believed was guilty.
The recordings, first published by the Washington Free Beacon on Sunday evening, are part of over five hours of taped interviews Arkansas reporter Roy Reed conducted with Bill and Hillary Clinton between 1983 and 1987.
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On the tape, the then-first lady of Arkansas candidly discusses the most significant criminal case of her legal career: her defense of a 41-year-old man accused of raping a 12-year-old girl in 1975.
Clinton suggests on the tape that she believed her client was guilty. She can also be heard laughing at several points when discussing the prosecution’s accidental destruction of crucial DNA evidence and her use of this mistake to secure a very favorable plea bargain for her client.
While Clinton spokesperson Philippe Reines has yet to comment, the former secretary of state’s supporters dismissed the recordings as a "distraction" from her record.
"This is another desperate and shameful attempt by the right to distract from Hillary Clinton’s strong record," Correct the Record spokesperson Adrienne Watson told Talking Points Memo. "Hillary Clinton went on to fight for groundbreaking justice for rape victims."
Correct the Record is a pro-Hillary Clinton organization that pushes back on unflattering news reports about the former first lady.
However, the recordings drew criticism from segments of the legal and media worlds.
Defense attorney Gerald Shargel called the tapes ethically troubling in an interview with the Daily Beast.
"It is in bad taste," said Shargel. "A lawyer has an obligation to do no harm to a client and that obligation continues after the disposition of the case. To destroy the guy in the court of public opinion may run afoul of [legal ethics]. Finally, laughing about a client who got away with it? The better discretion suggests you say nothing."
GQ political correspondent Lisa DePaulo called the recording "beyond disturbing," the Daily Beast reported, and former Washington Post reporter Ruben Castaneda said it appeared Clinton was "laughing about how clever she was as a defense attorney."
Clinton was able to secure a plea bargain for her client, 41-year-old Thomas Alfred Taylor, which reduced his charges from rape in the first degree to fondling a child. He served less than one year in prison, despite initially facing 30-years to life for the rape charges.
According to court documents, Clinton said the 12-year-old victim appeared to have had a history of seeking out older men and romanticizing relationships.
Clinton said in the tapes that her client’s ability to pass a lie detector test while denying the rape "forever destroyed my faith in polygraphs." She also laughed when discussing how the prosecution lost custody of DNA evidence that was central to the case against her client.
Washington Post reporter Melinda Henneberger wrote that Clinton’s "glee is audible about the prosecution’s big mistake in the case, when it accidentally discarded key evidence. Some are writing off the remarks, as one fellow journalist put it on social media, as ‘typical gonzo defense lawyer talk.’"
"It is not, however, typical talk for a lifelong defender of women and children," Henneberger added.