Did Hillary Clinton say she sacrificed chickens to Moloch in a 2009 email? No, that's not true: The line in question was not written by her. The content of the exchange shows that the phrase was used as a figurative expression of cautious optimism.
The claim appeared in a video published on Instagram on May 8, 2023 under the title:
Hillary Clinton admits in emails she offer sacrifices to Moloch
The post contained a question:
⚠️😳CHICKEN + SACRiFICE = ❓
This is what it looked like at the time of writing:
(Source: Instagram screenshot taken on Thu May 11 14:04:12 2023 UTC)
The video opened with shots of actor Isaac Kappy accusing his friend of being a pedophile because he suggested talking about chickens. The footage reused in the claim was recorded not long before Kappy died by suicide in May 2019.
A female narrator says "chicken" was used as a "code word" for "a child" in Hillary Clinton's emails published on Wikileaks. The video contains an image of an email exchange.
The exchange in question (archived here) took place in August 2009 when Clinton was secretary of State. However, she did not write the line falsely attributed to her.
The email with a sentence about "sacrificing a chicken" was written by and first sent by the State Department's Lewis Amselem. Then, it was forwarded by Craig Kelly to Cheryl Mills with an additional note describing the context of the conversation:
Attached is from Lew Amselem, our rep to OAS. He gives a readout of his conversation today with Arias Accord negotiator Jon Biehl.
Mills, in turn, sent the chain of emails to Clinton with a single comment: "Fyi."
The PDF file with this exchange did not contain Clinton's reply.
The shared Amselem email referenced the Organization of American States, which was involved in negotiations over the situation in Honduras just two months after Honduran President Manuel Zelaya, a center-right politician turned leftist, was forcibly removed from power and flown to Costa Rica. The United States and other countries initially condemned it.
One of the things the dispatch discussed was a possible meeting between representatives of the U.S. and the OAS with Roberto Micheletti, the interim head of state after Zelaya's ouster.
The email also contains praise from Oscar Arias, then the president of Costa Rica, who had won the 1987 Nobel Peace Prize during his first term for coming up with the Central American peace plan known as the Arias Accord and already mediated talks between Zelaya and Micheletti in July 2009:
Arias said the US has played the game exactly right, with the appropriate mix of carrots, sticks, toughness, unified message, even-handedness and, above all, good timing. Arias said the Europeans have been calling him over the past two days, and have fallen into line with the US; the Swedes, as head of the EU, and have told him that they will take their cue from the US and will support US actions. Arias, Biehi said, was extremely complimentary of the 'great political instincts shown by Secretary Clinton.'
After that, Amselem wrote: "With fingers crossed, the old rabbit's foot out of the box in the attic, I will be sacrificing a chicken in the backyard to Moloch . . ."
In the given context, it becomes evident that the line was not meant to be taken literally and rather expresses a cautious hope that the objectives would be achieved and the San José Accord, proposing Zelaya's return to power among many things, would be signed.
In October 2009, the media reported that the deal allowing to reinstall the ousted president was reached. However, what took place afterward was a controversial election organized by the pro-coup forces.
When the emails were released in 2015, the media cited November 2009 exchanges, criticizing Clinton's State Department for legitimizing the new government by recognizing the election as fair and transparent.
Other Lead Stories fact checks about Hillary Clinton can be found here.