Clinton campaign falters over health fears

An unusually subdued Donald Trump wished his Democratic rival a rapid recovery but also suggested that the former secretary of state’s health issues were of longer standing than admitted.
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton leaves her daughter’s apartment building in New York on September 11, 2016. Craig Ruttle / AP Photo
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton leaves her daughter’s apartment building in New York on September 11, 2016. Craig Ruttle / AP Photo

Washington // Hillary Clinton’s White House bid stumbled on Monday as a bout of pneumonia gave her rival Donald Trump a new opening to question her fitness for office while pledging to release details on his own health soon.

In his first public comments since the Democratic candidate was taken ill at a 9/11 ceremony in New York on Sunday, an unusually subdued Mr Trump wished her a rapid recovery but also suggested that the former secretary of state’s health issues were of longer standing than admitted.

“Something is going on but I just hope she gets well and gets back on the trail, and we’ll be seeing her at the debate,” the Republican candidate said in a phone interview with Fox News.

The unexpected turn of events barely eight weeks before the November 8 election has turned a conservative angle of attack into a serious line of questioning about the health of Mrs Clinton, 68, why it took two days to reveal the pneumonia diagnosis, and what would happen if she were forced to quit the race.

“Antibiotics can take care of pneumonia. What’s the cure for an unhealthy penchant for privacy that repeatedly creates unnecessary problems?” the former White House aide David Axelrod asked on Twitter.

“We could have done better yesterday, but it is a fact that public knows more about HRC than any nominee in history,” Mrs Clinton’s communications director Jennifer Palmieri fired back.

But the episode has fuelled fresh speculation and conspiracy theories on the internet, already awash with unsubstantiated rumors that Mrs Clinton may have a brain tumor, Parkinson’s or dementia. #HillarysBodyDouble was a trending topic on Twitter Monday.

The persistent claims about Mrs Clinton’s health stem from 2012, towards the end of her tenure as secretary of state. A stomach virus and dehydration prompted her to faint, causing what her doctor said was a concussion. Doctors said they found a blood clot on the brain. Mrs Clinton later received the all-clear.

The former first lady has dismissed rumours about her health and pointed to a letter from her doctor declaring her fit to serve as president.

But Mr Trump has repeatedly raised doubts about her stamina and physical strength, and on Monday questioned her campaign’s account of the current episode.

“Because they say pneumonia on Friday, but she was coughing very, very badly a week ago and even before that if you remember, and this was not the first time,” he said in an interview with CNBC.

Drawing a contrast, Mr Trump told Fox he had a physical last week and would release the details once test results were back.

“I think they are going to be good. I feel great but when the numbers come in, I’ll be releasing very, very specific numbers,” the 70-year-old real estate magnate said.

Mrs Clinton was forced to cancel a fundraising trip to California on Monday and Tuesday, and was recovering at her home in Chappaqua, New York.

She “continues to feel better, but intends to remain at home today, following her doctor’s recommendation to rest”, her spokesman said.

“In the evening, she will phone in briefly to the event in San Francisco, which is proceeding as scheduled in her absence.”

A source close to Mrs Clinton said several people at her campaign headquarters in Brooklyn had also fallen ill in recent weeks, including campaign manager Robbie Mook. But it was not known if that was the source of Mrs Clinton’s infection.

The incident on Sunday, in which Mrs Clinton appeared to lose her footing while being helped into her vehicle as she left the Ground Zero memorial, was caught on amateur video and posted on social media.

A statement from her campaign said she “felt overheated” so she left for her daughter Chelsea’s flat.

A few hours later, Mrs Clinton walked out of her daughter’s home, smiling and posing for pictures with a young girl before departing for her home in Chappaqua, just north-east of Manhattan.

“I’m feeling great, it’s a beautiful day in New York,” she said.

But the campaign later released a statement from her personal doctor, Lisa Bardack, revealing that Mrs Clinton had been diagnosed with pneumonia on Friday and was suffering from dehydration.

“She was put on antibiotics, and advised to rest and modify her schedule,” Dr Bardack said, adding that she was “now rehydrated and recovering nicely”.

Despite the pneumonia diagnosis, Mrs Clinton had a hectic schedule on Friday that included a two-hour working meeting on national security, a sit-down interview, and a fundraiser.

“‘Powering through’ illness is what women do,” tweeted former Michigan governor and Clinton surrogate Jennifer Granholm.

American University professor Jennifer Lawless said Clinton would be under pressure in coming days to show her “vitality and viability”.

“She has to be at tons of events and seem very energetic,” Ms Lawless said.

* Agence France-Presse

Published: September 13, 2016 04:00 AM

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