Clinton story on wife's name questioned

June 23, 2004 at 5:42 PM

WASHINGTON, June 23 (UPI) -- Bill Clinton's claim that his wife was named in honor of Sir Edmund Hillary has raised eyebrows in New Zealand, the famed mountaineer's homeland, TVNZ reported.

On page 870 of his newly published autobiography, "My Life," Clinton says the biggest thrill he experienced during a 1999 trip to the International Antarctic Center in Christchurch, New Zealand, "was the presence of Sir Edmund Hillary, who was ... the first man to reach the top of Mount Everest and, most important, was the man Chelsea's mother had been named for," something TVNZ says may be "less than truthful."

Sir Edmund Hillary achieved lasting fame on May 29, 1953, when he became -- along with Tensing Norgay -- the first man to reach the summit of Mount Everest, the world's tallest peak. Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., was born Hillary Diane Rodham on October 26, 1947 -- at a time when Hillary, according to his autobiography, was earning a modest income from beekeeping.

The six-year gap casts some doubt on the former president's contention that "Chelsea's mother" was named after the famed explorer though Mrs. Clinton has said on at least one occasion that her mother had read an article about the beekeeper sometime in 1947 and had liked the name.

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