Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton has faced questions and criticisms concerning her health for years. These have continued through her presidential campaign, but until recently, they were disparaged as far-right conspiracy theories and rarely discussed in the mainstream media.
These theories resurfaced with vigor after Clinton suffered from a coughing fit at a rally on Labor Day, and then appeared to faint after attending a 9/11 memorial service on the fifteenth anniversary. The two recent incidents, particularly the latter, have effected widespread confusion and commentary in the following days.
Much of the coverage surrounding the incidents has been fairly predictable as left-wing outlets defended Clinton and right-wing ones attacked her.
Left-leaning MSNBC’s Alex Witt went on air after Clinton’s fainting episode and said that the candidate appeared “a little bit unstable…a little bit wobbly.” Witt attributed the incident to the heat, saying it was “horrible” and had a “pea-soup feel.” She also discussed an appearance Clinton made two hours after the incident, remarking that the candidate appeared “robust.”
When Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid was asked by Capitol Hill reporters about Clinton’s health, he replied that “You folks have magnified the problem.” He also said that “it’s curable, no one denies that” and “she probably needed the rest anyway.” Reid used the scandal to comment on the health of Clinton’s opponent, Donald Trump, saying “He complains about her health? What does he do? He’s 70 years old. He’s not slim and trim. He brags about eating fast food every day. Look at his health a little bit.”
Not surprisingly, right-wing outlets disagreed.
David French, a staff writer at the conservative National Review, wrote an article titled “Hillary’s Health – Let’s Talk about the Facts.” In the article, French broke down the issues with the candidate’s health since 2012, concluding that “taken together, these facts say nothing good about Hillary, her campaign, or the prospects for transparency in a potential Hillary Clinton White House” and “you can be sure that if she lies and minimizes her health challenges as a candidate, she’ll do so as president.”
Breitbart, an online right-wing outlet whose former executive chairman Stephen Bannon recently became chief executive of the Trump campaign, has been covering Hillary Clinton’s health for months. Currently, a search for “Hillary Clinton” and the phrase “health issues” on their website returns 6,520 results. By comparison, the same search on the Washington Post and the New York Times websites returns 246 results and 126 results, respectively.
But not everyone on the right has been eager to jump on the train of criticism and speculation. Guy Benson, political editor for the right-leaning Townhall, chided over-speculative conservatives, writing that “Unless you’re a medical doctor who treated her, or have direct knowledge of the situation, you don’t know anything specific about Clinton’s health. Diagnosing her from a short clip is irresponsible.” Even so, he admitted that the video of Clinton’s apparent faint was “undeniably shocking and unsettling to watch.”
The left wing media wasn’t entirely unanimous in their defense of Clinton, either. BuzzFeed, a left-leaning millennial-focused online outlet, published an article titled “Pneumonia Episode Highlights The Protective ‘Cocoon’ Around Clinton” on September 13. The author, Ruby Cramer, wrote that Clinton’s “reflex towards privacy has created problems for her campaign.” The article focused on this private nature, quoting an unnamed Clinton adviser as saying the candidate is “insulated” and surrounded by a protective “cocoon.”
David Axelrod, the chief strategist for Barack Obama’s 2008 and 2012 campaigns and former Senior Advisor to the President, summed up the discussion in a September 12 tweet: “Antibiotics can take care of pneumonia. What’s the cure for an unhealthy penchant for privacy that repeatedly creates unnecessary problems?”
One can only hope Clinton finds out.