Kathy Shelton’s False Memory of Coercive Interviewing

October 18, 2016

The Washington PostFact Checker” turned up a remarkable story last week that has received little to no attention: Kathy Shelton’s description of Hillary Clinton forcing her to endure a psychiatric examination in 1975 is false. Shelton was the victim in a child rape case in which Hillary Clinton was appointed to represent the defendant. Shelton, who has become a virulent Clinton critic, recently claimed (on her gofundme page) that she was “sent for a psychiatric examination” in her case by Clinton. She told The Daily Mail that “one of her worst memories of the case” was being examined by appointed experts. She told them:

‘It got so bad that I told my mom I wasn’t going back, and whatever happened, happened,’ said Shelton. ‘It’s sad that a 12-year-old had to go through what I had to go through, because for days I cried and cried and cried over it.’

But the Washington Post turned up definitive proof that the psychiatric exam never took place. The motion requesting the exam was filed on July 28, 1975. The motion was denied the next day. The Post included a photocopy of the docket sheet.

(Note: While the Daily Mail included a copy of the affidavit that was filed along with the motion for a psychiatric exam they made no mention of the fact that the motion was denied the next day, as reflected on the docket sheet. Of course, acknowledging that fact would undercut key aspects of their “exclusive” interview.) 

The larger lesson is that descriptions provided by adults who claim to have been coercively interviewed as children should always be checked against the documentation from the time. Kathy Shelton just demonstrated how easy it is to create such a story and convince others, who are already primed to believe it. It is time to bring the same kind of scrutiny that the Washington Post brought to Kathy Shelton to “Kyle Zirpolo’s” claims “as told to” Debbie Nathan and to “Jennifer’s” claims contained in Richard Beck’s book. Both of those stories might well be as fictional as Kathy Shelton’s. There are plenty of reasons to think so.