Sixth in a massive series on the media’s treatment of Hillary Rodham Clinton, and, in this case, her daughter Chelsea Clinton.
Word around town these days is that Clintonland is pretty much off-limits to the media. Documentarian Charles Ferguson earlier this week wrote a piece in Huffington Post declaring that he was bagging his CNN film on Hillary Rodham Clinton because “nobody, and I mean nobody, was interested in helping me make this film.” Last week, Alec MacGillis of The New Republic confirmed that Clintonland was indeed “locked down,” but, unlike Ferguson, such obstacles didn’t keep him from delivering an insightful piece of journalism about this quite prominent American family.
The freeze-out, however, doesn’t apply to Glamour magazine’s Genevieve Roth, who has completed a long-form profile of 33-year-old Chelsea Clinton, vice chairwoman of the Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton Foundation. Five excerpts from the story explain why the door was wide open to Glamour and Roth, who joined Chelsea Clinton on a trip to Africa.
She looks happy—but what Chelsea should be is exhausted. Kigali was day six of a whirlwind tour through sub-Saharan Africa. We’ve been in four countries, visiting more than 20 different foundation facilities. By the end of this day, Chelsea and her father will have helped fit children with hearing aids, met young medical trainees who are learning lifesaving technologies, and rubbed elbows with dignitaries at a state dinner. Chelsea will also squeeze in some gym time, leave her husband a rambling good-night voice mail, respond to every email she’s received in the past 24 hours, and catch up with a friend over a late-night glass of wine. It’s a day that would bring most of us to our knees, but for Chelsea it’s Monday as usual, and she’s savoring every minute.
Over the course of our time together, she spoke with similar excitement about malaria-preventing bed nets, the regulated price of AIDS medication, and—her personal favorite—diarrhea as a public health hazard. “I think it’s unconscionable that so many people die of a disease that, in our country, could be treated with Pepto-Bismol,” she says. And you have to hand it to her: When Chelsea tells you about it, diarrhea indeed sounds fascinating—and important.
Shortly after our return from Africa, The New York Times ran a story criticizing the foundation for mismanagement of funds and cronyism. When I ask her what it’s like to wake up to criticism like that, she takes issue with some of the charges but is thoughtful and measured. “When people say crazy stuff about me or my family, I don’t take it seriously. Someone didn’t like what I wore? I don’t care about that. But there’s also criticism that I take seriously—if the foundation wasn’t represented in the way that it should be? That you have to learn from.”
Chelsea Clinton is quoted as saying, “The first thing on the list was simple: We want, God willing, to start a family. So we decided we were going to make 2014 the Year of the Baby. And please, call my mother and tell her that. She asks us about it every single day.”
5) Amazing person.
On the Tanzania leg of our trip, we tour a national park with an elephant expert. The illegal ivory trade is a passion point for Chelsea and her mother, and Chelsea wants to know everything: What deterrents are working best? Do they have community support? Which elephants are most rambunctious? This is the Chelsea that colleagues are impressed by. If President Clinton is like a circus coming to town—big, bright, and attention-getting—then Chelsea is more like the ballet: nuanced, studied, and graceful.
Previously in this series: