Hillary Clinton clarifies wealth comments, says she ‘fully appreciates’ middle class struggles

What Hillary Clinton line made one of The Post's reporters say, "Oh, snap?" Diplomatic correspondent Anne Gearan and The Fix's Chris Cillizza add their context and commentary to Clinton's interview with ABC News's Diane Sawyer. (Julie Percha/The Washington Post)

 

After Hillary Rodham Clinton caused a political flap for saying she and her husband left the White House “dead broke” and “struggled” to pay mortgages on their two multi-million dollar houses, the potential 2016 presidential candidate said on Tuesday that her family has been “blessed” and that she appreciates the struggles of working class Americans.

Republicans have seized on Clinton’s comments about her wealth, which aired on ABC Monday at the start of her national book tour and media blitz, as a gaffe that shows the former secretary of state leads a rarefied life and is out of touch. In a live interview Tuesday on ABC’s “Good Morning America,” Clinton tried to correct the mistake.

“Let me just clarify that I fully appreciate how hard life is for so many Americans today,” Clinton told “Good Morning America” host Robin Roberts. “It’s an issue that I’ve worked on and cared about my entire adult life. Bill and I were obviously blessed, we worked hard for everything we got in our lives and we have continued to work hard.”

Clinton explained that she and Bill Clinton had several million dollars in legal debt when they left the White House in 2001.

“For me, it’s just a reality. What we faced when he got out of the White House meant that we had to just keep working really hard,” Clinton said in the Roberts interview to promote her memoir, “Hard Choices.”

She added, “I want to use the talents and resources I have to make sure other people get the same chances.”

Clinton also noted that she and her husband had jobs while they were in law school and struggled to pay off student debt.

“We have a life experience that is clearly different in very dramatic ways from many Americans,” she said. “But we also have gone through some of the same challenges as many people have.”

The Clintons have earned more than $100 million over the past 14 years and been living with a taxpayer-funded Secret Service security detail. Since stepping down as secretary of state early last year, Hillary Clinton has been charging roughly $200,000 or more per speech, and in late 2000 she signed an $8 million advance for her first memoir, “Living History.” Clinton’s advance for her latest book, “Hard Choices,” has not been reported.

Bill Clinton also earns millions delivering paid speeches and is reported to have received $15 million for his memoir, “My Life.”

In the interview that aired Monday, Hillary Clinton told ABC’s Diane Sawyer, “We came out of the White House not only dead broke but in debt. We had no money when we got there, and we struggled to piece together the resources for mortgages for houses, for Chelsea’s education. You know, it was not easy.”

When Sawyer followed up by noting that Clinton’s typical speaking fee of about $200,000 was about five times the country’s median income, Clinton defended her paid speechmaking.

“I thought making speeches for money was a much better thing than getting connected with any one group or company, as so many people who leave public life do.”

 

 

Philip Rucker is a national political correspondent for The Washington Post, where he has reported since 2005.
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