Hillary Clinton’s new book about the 2016 presidential race titled What Happened went on sale Tuesday.
In the long lead-up to its release, Clinton and her publisher Simon & Schuster promised that the book would be a candid account of the former secretary of state’s dramatic election loss to Donald Trump and an honest reflection on what the experience has meant to her.
Some book critics say Clinton’s latest title delivers the kind of authenticity that she’s lacked in the past. The New York Times‘ Jennifer Senior calls the book a “feminist manifesto,” “a score-settling jubilee,” and “worth reading.” Others, meanwhile, fault Clinton for using the 464-page text to blame players like Bernie Sanders, James Comey, and Vladimir Putin for the election defeat, rather than taking responsibility herself.
And then there are the decidedly less analytical reviews that are already populating the book’s Amazon listing.
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Given the current political climate and the venomous nature of the 2016 race, it’s probably no surprise that critics of Clinton have used one-star reviews to further communicate their dislike of the former first lady, or in some cases, peddle conspiracy theories about Clinton and husband Bill.
Some of the one-star reviews were posted prior to Sept. 12, the book’s release date.
Of the 42 reviews of What Happened on Amazon.com as of early Tuesday morning, none were marked as a “verified purchase”—the site’s designation for feedback from customers who actually bought a product.
Clinton is far from the first author to receive this kind of treatment. Megyn Kelly’s book Settle For More received a string of one-star reviews after a pro-Trump thread on Reddit orchestrated an effort to discredit the title and its author, the former Fox News anchor who’d publicly criticized Trump. One single-star review simply wrote “MAGA,” short for Trump’s Make America Great Again slogan, over and over. Products related to Trump have received their own review attacks. In November, a Trump-inspired “Make America Great Again” Christmas ornament in the shape of his trademark red hat was inundated with negative, anti-Trump feedback. “It tried to put my nativity figures into an internment camp. Would not buy again,” read a one-star review for the item.
The problem is a unique one for Amazon, where customer reviews are open to all and are intended to inform purchasing decisions. When asked about the reviews for Clinton’s new book, an Amazon spokesperson said that feedback must be related to the product.
“In the case of a memoir, the subject of the book is the author and their views,” the spokesperson said. “It’s not our role to decide what a customer would view as helpful or unhelpful in making their decision. We do however have mechanisms in place to ensure that the voices of many do not drown out the voices of a few and we remove customer reviews that violate our community guidelines.”
(In the case of Kelly’s book, Amazon appeared to delete some of the politically-motivated one-star reviews, which ignited another wave of reviews complaining that the removal of posts infringed on users’ freedom.)
Despite the flurry of one-star ratings, Clinton’s latest title ranks high on Amazon’s most-sold list. For the week of Sept. 3, it was No. 6 among non-fiction titles.
This story has been updated to clarify the nature of reviews posted before the book’s release date.