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Bill Clinton sorry for 'scumbag' remarks, spokesman says

  • Story Highlights
  • Bill Clinton called author of Vanity Fair article a "scumbag" and "real slimy guy"
  • Clinton campaign spokesman says former president now wishes he hadn't said it
  • Article quotes anonymous Bill Clinton aides discussing his anger, reports of women
  • Author Todd Purdum says he hasn't accused Clinton of doing anything wrong
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(CNN) -- Hillary Clinton's campaign has apologized for "inappropriate" language used by her husband in response to what it called an "outrageously unfair" article about the former president.

Bill and Hillary Clinton campaign in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, on Monday.

The article, by Vanity Fair magazine's national editor Todd Purdum, suggested that Bill Clinton's personality had changed since his 2004 heart bypass surgery and said that there were reports of Clinton "seeing a lot of women on the road."

Purdum quoted four anonymous former Clinton aides saying that another of his former assistants had conducted "what one of these aides called an intervention" about the reports of philandering.

A writer for the Huffington Post, Mayhill Fowler, asked Clinton on Monday what he thought "about that hatchet job somebody did on you in Vanity Fair," according to a recording of the exchange posted on the Huffington Post's Web site. Video Listen to Clinton call the reporter a "scumbag" »

"[He's] sleazy," Clinton responded. "He's a really dishonest reporter."

Clinton said he had not read the article but that he was told that "there's five or six just blatant lies in there. But he's a real slimy guy." Video Watch Larry King panel debate Bill Clinton's response »

Calling Purdum a "scumbag," Clinton said "he's one of the guys that propagated all those lies about Whitewater for Kenneth Starr. He's just a dishonest guy -- can't help it."

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Purdum "didn't use a single name, he didn't cite a single source in all those things he said," said the former president, who added that the article was "part of the national media's attempt to nail Hillary for [Barack] Obama."

He said readers should be wary of news accounts that rely on unnamed sources.

"Anytime you read a story that slimes a public figure with anonymous quotes, it ought to make the bells go off in your head," he said.

Late Monday, Jay Carson, a spokesman for Hillary Clinton's campaign, said that "President Clinton was understandably upset about an outrageously unfair article, but the language today was inappropriate and he wishes he had not used it."

Purdum, a former New York Times reporter who covered the Clinton White House and is now married to former Clinton press secretary Dee Dee Myers, defended his article on CNN's "The Situation Room" Monday.

He told CNN's Wolf Blitzer he was "very careful to say there is no clear-cut evidence that President Clinton has done anything improper." Video Watch CNN's Wolf Blitzer interview Purdum »

"I reject the notion that I'm making an insinuation," Purdum said. "But I'm very comfortable quoting the people I quote because I know who they are, and I know that they are very senior people who have known President Clinton for a very long time and work for him at very high levels."

In his article, Purdum quotes a Johns Hopkins cardiologist -- who was not involved in Clinton's health care -- who says that the former president's bypass surgery could have affected his mood, perhaps even causing depression.

And on CNN, Purdum quoted "some people who work for him" saying that Clinton "seems to be angry all the time."

Purdum added he himself believes there's evidence the former president is acting in a different manner.

"I think there's a good deal of evidence that he is quite a bit angrier than he used to be," he said. "He's clearly very angry at the media, and he's very angry at the way he sees Sen. Clinton's campaign has been treated."

"I don't suggest that anyone can say -- except perhaps his own doctors over time -- with certainty that [the surgery] has affected President Clinton," he said. "But again, this article involves reporting with a whole bunch of people who have worked for Bill Clinton over many years. And this is one of the things they raised with me. I didn't go raising this."

Clinton's office issued a rebuttal of Purdum's article that decried his use of "one doctor who has never examined President Clinton."

"This theory is false and is flatly rejected by President Clinton's doctors who say he is in excellent shape and point to his vigorous schedule as evidence of his exceptional recovery," the rebuttal said. Video Watch analyst James Carville's take on the article »

The lengthy article hits newsstands later this week, though Vanity Fair has already posted a copy on its Web site. The posting prompted a blistering response from Carson, who called the piece "journalism of personal destruction at its worst."


"A tawdry, anonymous quote-filled attack piece, published in this month's Vanity Fair magazine regarding former President Bill Clinton repeats many past attacks on him, ignores much prior positive coverage, includes numerous errors, and ultimately breaks no new ground," he said.

Purdum last year wrote an article about efforts by Sen. John McCain, now the presumptive Republican nominee for president, to draw in the party's more conservative voters.

CNN's Alex Mooney contributed to this report.

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