Stumble Raises New Questions About Clinton's Health
Questions about Hillary Clinton’s health threatened to put the Democratic nominee’s campaign on pause after she hastily departed a 9/11 commemoration in New York Sunday and was videotaped from at least two angles requiring physical assistance to get into her van with shaky legs.
A health condition initially described by Clinton’s campaign as a brief episode of overheating during the outdoor event – a situation downplayed by a stronger-looking candidate in the afternoon – was identified later as pneumonia when the campaign released a four-sentence statement from Clinton’s physician. The campaign did not disclose detailed medical records or test results, nor did it make the doctor available for questioning.
Along the way, Clinton’s communications team fielded criticism for withholding information and not keeping journalists in the press pool accompanying Clinton informed of her movements. The U.S. Secret Service was accused of not following protocol when the candidate became ill and was whisked away in a motorcade. And some Democrats griped that Clinton’s campaign team had overscheduled the nominee if they had understood last week that she had a serious respiratory infection.
On Sunday evening, Clinton’s internist released a brief statement through the campaign stating that her patient was diagnosed Friday with bacterial pneumonia, was prescribed an antibiotic, advised to “modify her schedule,” and experienced dehydration on Sunday.
Dr. Lisa R. Bardack examined the candidate during a house call Sunday in Chappaqua, N.Y., according to a campaign spokeswoman. “On Friday, during follow up evaluation of her prolonged cough, [Clinton] was diagnosed with pneumonia,” Bardack wrote. “She was put on antibiotics, and advised to rest and modify her schedule. … I have just examined her and she is now rehydrated and recovering nicely,” the doctor added.
Late Sunday night, several news sources reported that the candidate’s campaign trip Monday and Tuesday to California had been canceled to allow Clinton time to recover. It's unclear whether she will travel to Nevada on Wednesday, as planned.
On Friday, when Clinton apparently received the pneumonia diagnosis, which customarily requires a chest X-ray, the candidate maintained a full schedule and answered six questions posed by press traveling with her. But she did not publicly disclose an illness, symptoms of which she had blamed on allergies last week.
The Sunday events prompted fresh dissections of the 68-year-old’s history of blood clots, her previously disclosed daily medications including the blood thinner Coumadin, and her persistent cough.
In 2012 while serving as secretary of state, Clinton became dehydrated while suffering from an intestinal virus, fell and suffered a concussion while at home. As reported at the time, and again in a 2015 medical account, Bardack said Clinton recovered after being hospitalized with a clot in a vein between her brain and her skull, followed by symptoms such as double vision. Clinton received treatment in December 2012 and into 2013.
The Democratic nominee told FBI investigators this summer during an interview about her use of a private email account and her reliance on a personal server that her 2012-13 illness temporarily restricted the number of hours she could work at the State Department.
"Based on her doctor's advice, she could only work at State for a few hours a day and could not recall every briefing she received," the FBI wrote in notes publicly disclosed this month.
This weekend’s health news, accompanied by a barrage of speculation already circulating on social media, added ammunition to a line of attack by Donald Trump and GOP conservatives that Clinton is unwell and has not been forthcoming about her health issues. Trump has also told his supporters his opponent requires naps and does not have the stamina to be president.
Although Clinton recently dismissed speculation about her health as Trump’s “paranoid fever dream,” and playfully opened a jar of pickles on late-night TV as a measure of her strength, she now confronts revised calls to release her complete medical records. That was a step Sen. John McCain took at age 71 as the GOP nominee competed for the presidency in 2008 against 46-year-old Barack Obama.
Clinton, who campaigns as a fighter with the slogan “Stronger Together,” has revealed more medical information than has Trump, 70, who has released only a brief physician’s statement that said if elected, the businessman would be “the healthiest individual ever elected to the presidency.”
Trump on Sunday told reporters he knew nothing about Clinton’s early exit from the events at Ground Zero. He made no other comment about his opponent’s health and limited his tweets Sunday to the subject of 9/11.
Trump’s campaign did not respond to RealClearPolitics’ requests for comment.
A smiling Clinton told reporters Sunday afternoon that she felt ”great” as she left her daughter’s apartment before motorcading from Manhattan to Westchester County. She returned to Chappaqua and was examined at home by her doctor, her spokeswoman disclosed later.
The medical drama played out a day after Clinton was forced to issue a statement of regret after characterizing “half” of Trump’s supporters as “deplorables” during her remarks Friday to Democratic donors.
Also Friday, speaking in a hoarse and subdued tone during an interview taped with CNN (broadcast Sunday morning), Clinton recounted actions she took as a senator following the terror attacks in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania on Sept. 11, 2001.
With 58 days until Election Day and with national polls tightening, Clinton has been eager to advance her arguments that Trump is temperamentally unfit, untrustworthy, and too divisive to be commander-in-chief.
President Obama, who has repeatedly declared Trump unfit to be president, is scheduled to campaign solo for Clinton at a Philadelphia rally and roundtable discussion Tuesday, after which he is scheduled to headline a fundraising event for Democrats in New York.
RCP’s Carl M. Cannon and Rebecca Berg contributed to this report.