The “Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy” was a term popularized by Hillary Clinton in an interview with Today Show host Matt Lauer:
This was not a one-time slip. The term had been used on internal Democrat Party communications since at least 1995. It was used as a way to gather all of the accusations of wrongful behavior against the Clintons with the intent of discrediting them.
The idea was that the many charges against the Clintons were part of a grand plan to discredit them. While a single allegation might not hold much weight, the constant drumbeat of scandal after scandal was intended to wear away the President’s support. By framing the investigations into the behavior of the Clintons in that fashion, it undermined, for their followers and other believers of the VRWC, the veracity of all allegations. They were, after all, simply more examples of the webwork of agents and groups attempting to disparage the President.
Unlike most American conspiracies, which tend to promote distrust in the government, the VRWC was designed to encourage trust in the leadership of the government while tarnishing the credibility of all other government agents, particularly including those who had worked closely with the President.
It is often presented as a failed political tool – a point of humiliation for Hillary. In fact, it was the opposite. While the detractors of Bill & Hillary absolutely mocked her for the term and did so incessantly, their supporters rallied around the idea. It provided an excuse when one was needed, something that they wanted to believe. The continued devotion of their base was key to keeping Senate support through the impeachment hearings; without the contingent of Democrats who believed in the VRWC – not a majority of them, but a vocal minority – Clinton would likely have been removed from office.
Hillary and her supporters continued to use the term for that specific benefit from 1998 through her 2016 campaign. False allegations of having a murder list or killing Vince Foster were used to diminish the verified instances of wrongdoing, like the Monica Lewinsky affair, the Marc Rich pardon, Whitewater and the Travel Office scandal (amidst many others) and many viable but unproven potential instances of wrongdoing.
Needing a central figure, they eventually settled upon Republican donor Richard Mellon Scaife. As a funding source for many investigations into Clinton behavior, he was blamed as being a ringleader of the conspiracy. In truth, he was merely funding investigations – partisan investigations, absolutely; but the notion of encouraging and funding legal investigations of public figures is not conspiratorial, even when it is done in a partisan fashion. That is one of the roles of journalists in a free society. So long as the information is garnered ethically and presented honestly, the political leaning of a journalist does not matter. Worse yet, there was no attempt by Scaife to hide his involvement, as one would expect from a conspiracy. He was simply willing to fund journalists he trusted, in the way that George Soros helped to fund journalists for NPR.
The Vast Right Wing Conspiracy was a hoax, but a very useful one. Its development and utilization has since been directly mirrored by the current administration with its “Deep State” theory.