On this week's edition of the syndicated public affairs show The McLaughlin Group, panelist Eleanor Clift argued Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton's wealth could be good for her.
"This is nice work if you can get it and it’s the way our society works right now," Clift said.
Acknowledging Hillary Clinton "would probably be the richest president ever," Clift likened the former Secretary of State to former President Franklin D. Roosevelt, saying he did great things for the "little people."
"But is this a liability?" Clift rhetorically asked. "I look back at FDR, I mean, he was very wealthy. He did a lot of great things for the little people."
"She’s got some work to do to fulfill her commitment to overcome this economic inequality that we see, but I think she’s well-motivated to do it," Clift said.
"I think her speaking fees will not hamper her in that at all," Clift concluded.
REPORTER: On your income disclosure recently, that just came out on Friday, you are in the tip top echelons of earners in this country. How do you expect everyday Americans to relate to you?
HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, obviously, Bill and I have been blessed and we’re very grateful for the opportunities that we had.
MCLAUGHLIN (voice-over): The meek may be blessed, but the big money is in speechmaking.
MCLAUGHLIN: Since January 2014, Bill and Hillary Clinton had been paid more than $25 million for their speeches, according to campaign financial disclosure forms. Last year, the former secretary of state and current Democratic candidate for president made up to $625,000 in a single day of talk, and earned more than $3.2 million in speaking fees from Silicon Valley. At an eBay Summit on Women in the Workplace, Mrs. Clinton received $315,000 for a 20-minute talk. That’s per minute, $15,750.
These speaking opportunities put Bill and Hillary Clinton in the top 99.1 percent of U.S. households by income, a theme which Hillary has made a feature of her presidential campaign, quote, "Inequality of the kind we are experiencing is bad for individuals, bad for society, bad for democracy. If you look around the world, this is becoming a bigger issue everywhere," unquote.
Since leaving the White House in 2001, the Clintons have earned over $125 million in speaking fees. This total does not include fees for more than 100 speeches made by the Clintons and paid directly to the Bill, Hillary, and Chelsea Clinton Foundation, due to be disclosed in the near future.
JOHN MCLAUGHLIN, HOST: Question: Is the Clinton household income a blessing, or is it bad for individuals, bad for society and bad for democracy? At what point, if ever, does a speaking honorarium become dishonorable?
ELEANOR CLIFT, THE DAILY BEAST: Well, I want to say -- this is nice work if you can get it and it’s the way our society works right now. If you’re a hot celebrity, you can pick up some pretty lucrative speaking fees. If she’s elected, she would probably be the richest president ever.
But is this a liability? I look back at FDR, I mean, he was very wealthy. He did a lot of great things for the little people.
I think she’s genuinely motivated to close some of these gaps that have gotten out of hand in our society, and she’s -- it’s kind of an odd way to make money, just, you know, giving lectures. But she didn’t get it through carried interest at a hedge fund.
So, I think -- you know, she’s got some work to do to fulfill her commitment to overcome this economic inequality that we see, but I think she’s well-motivated to do it, and I think her speaking fees will not hamper her in that at all.
MCLAUGHLIN: The Clintons were no match to the Roosevelts.
CLIFT: Well, that was inherited wealth. The Clintons --
BUCHANAN: He inherited his wealth, John.
CLIFT: Yes, it’s a big difference.
MCLAUGHLIN: I’m talking about in collective wealth.
CLIFT: I don’t know.
MCLAUGHLIN: No match for the Roosevelts.