Media sharply criticized Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s campaign and his supporters for pushing the conspiracy theory that Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton is secretly sick and unfit to be president, while conservative media have embraced and promoted the myth.
Trump Surrogates Are Promoting Clinton Health Conspiracy Theories
Rudy Giuliani Pushed Clinton Health Conspiracy: “All You Got To Do Is Go Online.” Trump supporter and regular Fox News guest Rudy Giuliani claimed on Fox News Sunday that Clinton displays “several signs of illness,” adding, “Go online and put down ‘Hillary Clinton illness’ and take a look at the videos for yourself.” From the August 21 edition of Fox Broadcasting Co.’s Fox News Sunday:
RUDY GIULIANI: She doesn't need to campaign. She has The New York Times, she has the [New York] Daily News, she has ABC, she has CBS, she has NBC. She has an entire media empire that constantly demonizes Donald Trump and fails to point out that she hasn't had a press conference in 300 days, 200 days, 100 days, I don't know how long. Fails to point out several signs of illness by her. All you got to do is go online. All you have to do --
SHANNON BREAM (HOST): Which her campaign and a number of people defending her saying there's nothing factual to the claims about her health, and that that's speculation at best.
GIULIANI: Go online and put down “Hillary Clinton illness” and take a look at the videos for yourself. [Fox Broadcasting Co., Fox News Sunday, 8/21/16]
Amy Kremer Compared Hillary Clinton's Health To That Of NFL Players Who Have Had Multiple Concussions. On CNN, Women Vote Trump co-chair Amy Kremer said Clinton “has had an incident where she fell and had a major concussion, and then she had a blood clot in her head, a very serious blood clot. I mean, that's something to be concerned about.” After host Poppy Harlow noted that Clinton’s concussion “was years ago,” Kremer compared Clinton’s health to that of football players in the National Football League, saying, “What you said is that was a long time ago, and I'm saying, yes, and NFL players have also had concussions long [ago].” From the August 21 edition of CNN Newsroom:
AMY KREMER: I am sorry, but [Hillary Clinton] has had an incident where she fell and had a major concussion, and then she had a blood clot in her head, a very serious blood clot. I mean, that's something to be concerned about.
POPPY HARLOW (HOST): That was years ago and she's been cleared by her doctor.
KREMER: Poppy -- and you know what, no, let me say this. The NFL has had major lawsuits from players having concussion years ago. It is a serious issue and the people want it answered. Why not just release the medical records?
HARLOW: Are you -- hold on. Hold on. Are you comparing Hillary Clinton's health and --
KREMER: No. You said that was a long time ago.
HARLOW: And the state of her brain to an NFL player who has a serious concussion after multiple hits?
KREMER: What I said -- no, no.
HARLOW:Then what was the comparison?
KREMER: What you said is that was a long time ago, and I'm saying, yes, and NFL players have also had concussions long --
HARLOW: So you are making the comparison?
KREMER: My point is it doesn't matter how long ago, Poppy, just release the medical records. I think all Americans have a right to know about our commander in chief, and I don't have a problem with them releasing Donald Trump's medical records. I think we have a right to know.
HARLOW: Hey, Amy on that point about right to know and transparency, so should Donald Trump then release his tax returns?
KREMER: Donald Trump is going to release his tax returns, from my understanding.
HOLLY SHULMAN: Oh, really? Because he said so many years ago, and he still hasn't.
HARLOW: Not -- it doesn't sound like before the election.
KREMER: Well, this is what I'll say is that Donald Trump's tax returns have no impact on how he's going to run the country. Their health, both his and Hillary Clinton's health have an impact on how each of them will run the country. [CNN, CNN Newsroom, 8/21/16]
Trump Spokesperson Katrina Pierson Alleged That Clinton Has Dysphasia. Trump spokesperson Katrina Pierson alleged on August 18 that Clinton suffers from dysphasia, a language disorder. On MSNBC Live, Pierson said, “What's new are the other reports of the observations of Hillary Clinton's behavior and mannerisms, specifically with what you just showed in those previous clips, as well as her dysphasia, the fact that she's fallen, she has had a concussion." From The Washington Post:
The Trump campaign's concerted effort to pump up questions about Hillary Clinton's health using innuendo and unfounded speculation now includes an official diagnosis: dysphasia.
A spokeswoman alleged Thursday that Clinton suffers from the language disorder, with which she has never been diagnosed. Katrina Pierson, whose command of the facts has been seriously called into question in recent weeks, appeared on MSNBC to answer questions about why the Trump campaign is going down this road, even as Clinton's doctors say she's healthy and that the conspiracy theories are bogus.
Pierson argued: “What's new are the other reports of the observations of Hillary Clinton's behavior and mannerisms, specifically with what you just showed in those previous clips, as well as her dysphasia, the fact that she's fallen, she has had a concussion.”
“It's something that needs to be addressed,” Pierson continued. “She's taken a lot of time off the campaign trail.” [The Washington Post, 8/18/16]
Right-Wing Media Embrace Clinton Health Conspiracy Theory
Fox’s Sean Hannity Has Devoted Large Portions Of Hannity To Claiming Clinton Has “A Serious Undisclosed Medical Condition. Fox host Sean Hannity has relentlessly promoted the Clinton health conspiracy theory, devoting at least four segments of his show in a week to hyping the claim that Clinton has serious health problems. Hannity claimed that a picture showing Clinton slipping on icy steps could show her suffering “a mini-stroke”; that “weird pauses” in her speech could indicate “traumatic brain injury”; that there have been“a number of incidents and reports that she fell”; and that Clinton shaking her head in mock surprise was actually “a violent, violent repetitive jerking motion.” [Fox News, Hannity, 8/8/16; Media Matters, 8/12/16]
Breitbart News Used Pictures Showing Clinton Slipping On Icy Stairs To Suggest “Her Well-Documented Brain Injuries Make It Harder For Her To Transport Herself Through Daily Life Activities.” Breitbart News published an article claiming that two pictures showed “Hillary Clinton needed to be physically helped up a moderate flight of stairs by her team of staffers and handlers.” The article continued that Clinton “struggl[ed] to make it up the stairs, either as a result of her fragile body or perhaps because her well-documented brain injuries make it harder for her to transport herself through daily life activities.” From the August 7 article:
Reuters and Getty photographs captured Hillary Clinton, 68, struggling to make it up the stairs, either as a result of her fragile body or perhaps because her well-documented brain injuries make it harder for her to transport herself through daily life activities. [Breitbart News, 8/7/16]
Fox’s Steve Doocy Claimed Clinton’s Glasses Were “A Sign Of Brain Damage And Other Things” Fox & Friends host Steve Doocy, citing television personality Dr. Drew Pinsky, claimed that Clinton’s glasses were a “sign of brain damage and other things.” From the August 18 edition of Fox News’ Fox & Friends:
AINSLEY EARHARDT (CO-HOST): You were right, he is a board-certified medicine specialist and TV personality, Dr. Drew.
BRIAN KILMEADE (CO-HOST): Dr. Drew, yeah.
STEVE DOOCY (CO-HOST): And what he said on the radio yesterday, which has been taken down, apparently --
EARHARDT: Of course.
DOOCY: By the radio station, is that the fact that when we saw Hillary Clinton wearing those prism glasses, a sign of brain damage --
DOOCY: And other things, and he's worried about the care she's getting so far.
KILMEADE: And if you want to -- or remember, when she was wearing those glasses, remember when she made those famous line to Senator Ron Johnson, “What difference at this point does it make,” that's when she had those glasses on.
EARHARDT: Oh, right. [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 8/18/16]
Mainstream Media Shut Down Claims Of Clinton’s Poor Health
AP Reporter Debunks Conspiracy Theory That Video Shows Clinton Suffering From Seizures: “I Was There.” Associated Press reporter Lisa Lerer debunked right-wing conspiracy theories that a video showing Clinton laughing at press questions shows her suffering from a seizure. Lerer explained that Clinton, after reporters were “shout[ing] some questions,” was “Perhaps eager to avoid answering or maybe just taken aback by our volume” and “responded with an exaggerated motion, shaking her head vigorously for a few seconds.” From the August 12 AP article:
I've never been part of a conspiracy theory. Now, video of my surprised facial expression has become Exhibit A in the latest unfounded speculation about Hillary Clinton.
It starts with Clinton's visit to a muffin shop in Washington on June 10, five days before the District of Columbia's Democratic primary. The then-presumptive Democratic nominee popped in for a photo op with Mayor Muriel Bowser and other officials supporting her campaign.
As an Associated Press reporter who's spent more than a year covering her candidacy, I was there for her appearance. After she ordered herself a “cold chai,” my colleagues and I shouted some questions, mostly about Clinton's recent meeting with Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren.
Perhaps eager to avoid answering or maybe just taken aback by our volume, Clinton responded with an exaggerated motion, shaking her head vigorously for a few seconds. Video of the moment shows me holding out my recorder in front of her, laughing and stepping back in surprise. After the exchange, she took a few more photos, exited the shop and greeted supporters waiting outside. [Associated Press, 8/12/16]
CNN’s Brian Stelter: “Reckless Speculation” For Sean Hannity To Spread “Conspiracy Theories About Hillary Clinton's Health.” CNN senior media correspondent Brian Stelter blasted Fox’s Sean Hannity for spreading “conspiracy theories about Hillary Clinton’s health.” Stelter played clips of Hannity’s show and concluded, “Let me be clear. That was reckless speculation by Sean Hannity. All of it.” Stelter added, “This whole ‘Clinton is secretly sick’ thing has been promoted by conservative news sites for years” and that, while “she did have a health scare in 2012,” “her doctors say she is now physically fit to be president. There is no doubt about that.” From the August 14 edition of CNN’s Reliable Sources:
BRIAN STELTER (HOST): Let me be clear. That was reckless speculation by Sean Hannity. All of it. This whole “Clinton is secretly sick” thing has been promoted by conservative news sites for years. There's a grain of truth to the idea about her health because she did have a health scare in 2012. It was well-reported at the time. But her doctors say she is now physically fit to be president. There is no doubt about that. But Hannity is not interested in the truth about Clinton's health. If he was, he could have interviewed people who were actually there during the episodes that he's exploiting. Let's take the one at the very end. Hannity said Clinton was violently uncontrollably jerking her head. He said the reporter got scared. Sean, why not go ask the reporter? Go ask the reporter. The AP's Lisa Lerer wrote about this. She says Fox never contacted her and said she was never scared. Here's what she says really happened that day. Reporters were asking Clinton about a meeting with Elizabeth Warren. Lots of questions, lots of questions to ask. So Lerer writes, “Perhaps eager to avoid answering or maybe just taken aback by our volume, Clinton responded with an exaggerated motion, shaking her head vigorously for a few seconds.” Look, conspiracy theories are so much more interesting than the truth. But the last time I checked, Fox still has the word “News” in its name. [CNN, Reliable Sources, 8/14/16]
MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow: “Fake Hillary Clinton Medical Records Circulating In The Right-Wing Blogosphere” And “An Absolutely Nutballs Video Produced By Alex Jones’ … Conspiracy Theory Website” Purport To Show Clinton In Poor Health. MSNBC host Rachel Maddow explained that there is a “conspiracy theory that Hillary Clinton is in the midst of a secret grave health crisis.” Maddow highlighted claims in the “right-wing blogosphere” like “fake Hillary Clinton medical records,” “a fake MRI … supposedly showing damage to Hillary Clinton's brain,” and “an absolutely nutballs video produced by Alex Jones' InfoWars” that “uses slowed down video of Hillary Clinton joking around with reporters to claim that she's having a seizure.” From the August 17 edition of MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show:
RACHEL MADDOW (HOST): There are fake Hillary Clinton medical records circulating in the right-wing blogosphere. They have her real life doctor's name printed at the top, though not her correct title as a doctor. And this fake letter purports to show that Secretary Clinton has severe neurological impairments. There's even a fake MRI circulating in the right-wing Twittersphere, supposedly showing damage to Hillary Clinton's brain. See can't you tell that's Hillary Clinton's brain? Looks like her, it's wearing a pant suit. Look! Both the fake records and the fake brain scan were tweeted out by a Twitter account that has since been deleted, but they've been shared over and over and over and over again on the right-wing web and talked about on right-wing talk radio. There's also an absolutely nutballs video produced by Alex Jones' InfoWars conspiracy theory website that uses slowed down video of Hillary Clinton joking around with reporters to claim that she's having a seizure. What was actually going on in that moment is that she was joking around about the fact that reporters were all asking her a bunch of questions at the same time, and she was going hey hey hey hold on a minute. But they slowed it down and made it seem like she's collapsing. I should tell you that this is from InfoWars and for good measure, the video from InfoWars also says that in addition to these seizures that they accuse her of having, they say that she also has autism and that she has syphilis. They can tell. [MSNBC, The Rachel Maddow Show, 8/17/16]
Wash. Post’s Ruth Marcus: Trump Campaign’s “Attack On Clinton’s Health, With Its Undertones Of Ageism And Sexism, Has No Basis In Reality, And No Place In A Presidential Campaign.” Washington Post columnist Ruth Marcus blasted Trump for “combin[ing] gender, age, and health in a smarmy package of unsupported insinuation,” as well as “a cabal of conservative websites and commentators who have peddled out-of-context photos and video snippets to paint Clinton as a weakened, stumbling victim of brain damage.” Marcus wrote that the attacks have “no basis in reality” and “no place in a presidential campaign.” From the August 19 column:
Increasingly, though, the rap on Clinton combines gender, age and health in a smarmy package of unsupported insinuation. “She’s a mess, a total mess,” Trump told radio host Hugh Hewitt. “She’ll do an event, she’ll make a short speech off a teleprompter, and then she goes home and goes to sleep.”
When Trump uses the teleprompter, it is a supposed token of maturity and professionalism; when Clinton does, she is failing — indeed, possibly brain-damaged. “She took a short-circuit in the brain,” Trump said in New Hampshire this month, seizing on Clinton’s explanation of how she flubbed an answer on her emails. “Honestly, I don’t think she’s all there.”
On the topic of Clinton’s health, [Katrina] Pierson is backstopped by a cabal of conservative websites and commentators who have peddled out-of-context photos and video snippets to paint Clinton as a weakened, stumbling victim of brain damage.
Fox News’s Sean Hannity has been in the repulsive lead, citing video of Clinton’s shaking her head in pretend surprise at being accosted by reporters to suggest neurological injury. “It almost seems seizure-esque to me . . . violent, out-of-control movements on her part,” Hannity said.
Presidential candidates’ fitness for office, including their medical fitness, matters enormously, especially when Trump would be the oldest president ever elected, Clinton second only to Ronald Reagan. Both could reasonably be called on to disclose more health information; the Trumpian claim by the candidate’s physician, that he would be the “healthiest individual ever elected to the presidency,” is particularly risible.
But the Trump & Co. attack on Clinton’s health, with its undertones of ageism and sexism, has no basis in reality, and no place in a presidential campaign. It would be tempting to say this is beneath even Trump, except that it isn’t. [The Washington Post, 8/19/16]
Commentator Krystal Ball: “It’s Absolutely Irresponsible For Outlets To Be Pushing” Clinton Health Conspiracies. On Fox News’ MediaBuzz, political commentator Krystal Ball said, “I think it’s absolutely irresponsible for outlets to be pushing” Clinton health rumors “when there's absolutely no proof that there's any issue here.” Ball noted that Clinton has “actually released more documentation on her medical status than Donald Trump has” and that “The pictures are taken out of context, as you pointed out. There's also another video that's going around that's also been taken out of context.” Ball concluded that “it’s disgusting that outlets would mislead their viewers in implying that there's anything really going on here.” From the August 21 edition of Fox News’ MediaBuzz:
HOWARD KURTZ (HOST): I missed the crucial high heels aspect of it. So glad you pointed that out. Krystal, perhaps there are lingering suspicions about Hillary Clinton after that fainting incident where she suffered a concussion back in 2012. What should the press do here on these health-related questions?
KRYSTAL BALL: I think it's absolutely irresponsible for outlets to be pushing this when there's absolutely no proof that there's any issue here. She's actually released more documentation on her medical status than Donald Trump has. The pictures are taken out of context, as you pointed out. There's also another video that's going around that's also been taken out of context. There's just no there there. And you know, Howard, I'm no Hillary Clinton lover, I will support her in this election. I think there are legitimate issues to be pushing her on, including the Clinton Foundation stuff, but this just doesn't make any sense. There's nothing to it, and I think it's disgusting that outlets would mislead their viewers in implying that there's anything really going on here. [Fox News, MediaBuzz, 8/21/16]
CNN’s Michael Smerconish: “I Am Profoundly Disappointed” In Giuliani For Pushing Conspiracy Theories About Clinton’s Health. CNN’s Michael Smerconish said on CNN’s New Day that he was “profoundly disappointed” by Giuliani’s suggestion that evidence of Clinton’s failing health could be found online, pointing out that “it's unhealthy for us as a society and electorate to all play armchair physician and go on and make some diagnoses.” From the August 22 edition of CNN’s New Day:
MICHAEL SMERCONISH: I have tremendous respect for Mayor Giuliani's leadership on September 11 and in the immediate aftermath for New York City. I've had the pleasure of being in his company, talking about some of the ways in which he approached that job. I am profoundly disappointed to hear him say what he just said about going online. And John, here's what popped into my head. It was the day that my daughter came home from high school and raised with me loose change. Don't know whether those words mean anything to you, but it's this internet bunk about how 9/11 was an inside job. Does Rudy, of all people, want us going online and searching the internet and drawing conclusions? Man, I hope not.
SMERCONISH: That's not necessarily a good thing though and I'm not going to embrace it. I think it's unhealthy for us as a society and electorate to all play armchair physician and go on and make some diagnoses. You made reference earlier in the program to the AP reporter who said, “Wait a minute, with regard to one of these snippets, I was there, that's just not the way that it went on.” Alisyn, somebody could take the video that you and I are creating right now, put it online later, and I'm sure make me out to be a madman. I just don't want people drawing conclusions from that sort of thing. [CNN, New Day, 8/22/16]