The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Hillary Clinton says she’s unlike the ‘truly well off’

Hillary Rodham Clinton defended scrutiny on her and her husband’s personal wealth by contrasting herself in an interview published Sunday with other multimillionaires who are “truly well off.”

The comment immediately drew scorn from Republicans, who have highlighted a series of stumbles the former secretary of state and potential 2016 Democratic presidential candidate has made on her book tour this month when talking about her personal fortune and six-figure speaking fees.

In an interview with Britain's Guardian newspaper, Clinton was asked whether she could be a credible champion for fighting income inequality in the United States despite her wealth.

“But they don’t see me as part of the problem,” she told the paper, “because we pay ordinary income tax, unlike a lot of people who are truly well off, not to name names; and we’ve done it through dint of hard work.” The Guardian wrote that Clinton let off “another burst of laughter” in answering the question, suggesting that she found the question “painful.”

Clinton and her husband, former president Bill Clinton, have earned well over $100 million giving paid speeches and writing books since leaving the White House in 2001.

Clinton’s quote could be interpreted in multiple ways. Rather than suggesting that she is not “truly well off,” she may be counting herself among the “truly well off” but saying that she, unlike other multimillionaires, pays “ordinary income tax.” A Clinton spokesman did not respond to a request for clarification of her remarks.

Still, mentioning that she pays taxes as a defense of her wealth is striking considering that Bloomberg News reported last week that the Clintons use “financial planning strategies befitting the top 1 percent of U.S. households in wealth” to shield some of their wealth from standard estate taxes.

Hillary Clinton’s speaking fee is $200,000 or more – and although the advance for her latest book, “Hard Choices,” has not been released, she received an $8 million advance for her first memoir, “Living History.”

Republican operatives pounced on Clinton’s comments to the Guardian, saying it is the latest example of her being out of touch with the struggles of working Americans.

“If Hillary is going to run for President she might be advised to take a lengthy sabbatical from her $200k per pop speaking tour and private shopping sprees at Bergdorfs to try and reconnect with what’s happening back here on Earth,” Tim Miller, executive director of America Rising, a Republican super PAC leading the attack against Clinton, wrote in an e-mail to reporters.

Ana Navarro, a Republican strategist and adviser to past presidential campaigns, tweeted: “Hillary’s so out of touch, she doesnt know shes out of touch. That she doesnt think she’s ‘really well off’ is crazy.”

And Ryan Williams, a former spokesman to 2012 Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, tweeted: “Despite widespread mockery, the tone deaf Hillary Clinton poverty tour soldiers on.”

Clinton’s allies defended her remarks to the Guardian by comparing her financial situation with that of Mitt Romney, the 2012 Republican presidential nominee, who kept millions of dollars in accounts in the Cayman Islands and other foreign locales.

“Secretary Clinton’s point is about paying your fair share in taxes, unlike leading Republicans who try to evade tax responsibilities using offshore loopholes,” said Adrienne Elrod, communications director for Correct the Record, a pro-Clinton super PAC.

At the start of her book tour this month, Clinton sparked a conversation about her wealth by saying in an interview with ABC News that she and her husband were “dead broke” when they left the White House under a mountain of legal debt and “struggled” to buy two homes and pay for their daughter’s college education.