Secretary of State Hillary Clinton testifies on the Benghazi attack before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. (Linda Davidson / The Washington Post)

In a phenomenal interview that aired yesterday, “Fresh Air” host Terry Gross asked former secretary of state Hillary Rodham Clinton how she felt about attacks coming from the country’s conservative media. As a jumping-off point, Gross asked about the dust-up in which Clinton was featured on the cover of People magazine, a shot in which her hands were resting on a piece of patio furniture, though only the top crossbar of the chair was visible in the photo.

The Drudge Report saw an opening:

Gross analyzed the situation, speaking of Matt Drudge: “Now, obviously it wasn’t a walker. But he didn’t lie, he didn’t say you were holding a walker. He just asked a question in the tweet. Is that a technique you’ve gotten used to?”

Clinton responded, “Yeah, Karl Rove tried that with my health and got totally shot down.”

Correct. Remember that one-day story back in mid-May? The New York Post reported that Rove, a groundbreaking Republican strategist, had raised questions at a private conference about Clinton’s health. Titled “Karl Rove: Hillary may have brain damage,” the story quoted Rove as having said this: “Thirty days in the hospital? And when she reappears, she’s wearing glasses that are only for people who have traumatic brain injury? We need to know what’s up with that.”

The scoop from the New York Post produced a great Internet-cable-Twitter moment, with everyone recycling the story, fact-checking it, commenting. A media critic’s green pasture, in other words.

For a moment there, the Hillary Clinton brain trick had the look of a brilliant political ploy by a man who had birthed his share of them. A strain of commentary suggested that Rove pulled off a coup by getting the media to talk about Clinton’s health. A month later, the tactic isn’t aging so well.

Clinton has completed a number of television interviews in which she has stated clearly that she’s suffering no lingering effects from the late-2012 hospitalization to which Rove was referring. More important, she has come off as 100 percent on top of the issues in those media sessions. Granted, her answers haven’t always been persuasive, and she has gaffed about her “dead broke” situation. But really, this is the same razor-sharp Hillary Clinton.

So Rove’s commandeering of one-and-a-half news cycles to discuss Clinton’s health two-and-a-half years before the 2016 election is not looking so brilliant right now.

And to slam home the point of just how sound she is, Clinton unloaded this attack on her critics in conservative media:

I am so used to these people; they’re like a bunch of gamers. They’re trying constantly to raise false canards, plant false information, and that’s what they do. They don’t want to have a real debate about what the tax policy should be. They don’t want to have a real debate about how we begin growing the economy again. … They don’t want to have a real debate about climate change and clean energy. They want people to get diverted and totally off subject, and that is their modus operandi.

But I have to say that if that’s the best they have to offer, let them do it. Because that’s not the debate that I think the American people want to have. There’s a difference between fair game and playing games. And it is unfortunately too common in today’s political environment that people want to play games that divert attention from the real issues that affect our country and its future.

Erik Wemple writes the Erik Wemple blog, where he reports and opines on media organizations of all sorts.