Bill Clinton came to his wife's defense Tuesday amid controversy surrounding her comments about their personal wealth, saying Hillary Rodham Clinton is "not out of touch" and is concerned about the well-being of middle-class Americans.
The former president acknowledged his wife's missteps in discussing her wealth in recent weeks but said she has spent her life fighting for working people. He said the media and her critics should focus not on the Clinton family's fortune but on the broader economic problems that are causing the "demise of the American dream."
"She's not out of touch," Clinton told David Gregory, anchor of NBC's "Meet the Press," during a discussion on stage at the Clinton Global Initiative America gathering in Denver. "She advocated and worked as a senator for things that were good for ordinary people. And before that, all her life."
Clinton said that he and his wife enjoy "a good life, and I'm grateful for it. " He noted that they regularly talk to neighbors in Chappaqua, N.Y., and go grocery shopping. "We know what's going on," he said.
Clinton added that he did not see his family's wealth as a political liability for his wife, should she run for president again in 2016.
"I don't think most Americans resent somebody else doing well," he said. "They resent it if they're not getting a fair deal. And I think they know that if you want to reduce inequality, you don't want to just tear off the top. ... They want the bottom to grow. They want the middle to grow."
In interviews this month promoting her new book, "Hard Choices," Hillary Clinton, a former secretary of state and U.S. senator, has struggled to explain her family's wealth.
Clinton's comment to ABC News that she and her husband had been "dead broke" upon leaving the White House was accurate. Indeed, they had millions of dollars in unpaid legal bills. But the remark opened her up to criticism that she was out of touch with the real struggles of everyday Americans.
In his conversation with Gregory, Bill Clinton expressed frustration that some journalists have not included what he considers proper context in questioning his wife about her wealth or reporting on her comments.
A few days ago, Clinton discussed her finances with the Guardian, telling the British newspaper that she differed from "the truly well off" because she and her husband "pay ordinary income tax." She also told the Guardian that the family's wealth came "through the dint of hard work."
The Clintons have made tens of millions of dollars writing books and delivering paid speeches. Late Monday, the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, disclosed that it is paying Hillary Clinton $225,000 to speak at a university fundraiser on Oct. 13, according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal.