Anchors Give Legitimacy To Clinton Health Conspiracies Their Own Outlets Have Debunked
Research ››› ››› ALEX KAPLAN
News anchors for CBS and CNN gave credence to conspiracy theories about Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s health and suggested she is responsible for disproving such conspiracy theories about that have been promoted by Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s campaign, his surrogates, and conservative media. However, reporters from those same outlets have previously noted the conspiracies are “unfounded,” are a “lie” supported by “junk science,” and that “there is no doubt” Clinton “is now physically fit to be president.”
Trump's Campaign, Surrogates, And Right-Wing Media Baselessly Claim Clinton Is Covering Up Poor Health
Right-Wing Media Have Pushed Clinton Health Conspiracy Theories For Years. Right-wing media and outlets have spent years promoting various conspiracy theories that Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton is in poor mental and physical health. Fox News’ Karl Rove “helped plant the seeds in 2014” by “suggesting Clinton had suffered brain damage in 2014,” leading to extensive conspiracy-mongering throughout the conservative media. In recent weeks those attacks have gained strength. Fox’s Sean Hannity devoted at least four segments of his show in a week to hype the claim that Clinton has serious health problems, speculating that Clinton had “a mini-stroke” and a “traumatic brain injury.” Fox host Steve Doocy claimed Clinton’s glasses were a sign of “sign of brain damage and other things.” Breitbart News in an article claimed Clinton’s “well-documented brain injuries make it harder for her to transport herself through daily life activities.” [Media Matters, 8/22/16; CNN.com, 8/23/16]
Trump Campaign And Surrogates Push Health Conspiracy Theories. Several Trump surrogates have claimed Clinton is suffering from ailments such as brain damage and dysphasia. Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani said Clinton displays “several signs of illness” and if you “Go online and put down ‘Hillary Clinton illness,’” you can “take a look at the videos for yourself.” Women Vote Trump co-chair Amy Kremer claimed Clinton “had a blood clot in her head” and compared Clinton to NFL players suffering from multiple concussions. Trump’s campaign spokesperson Katrina Pierson also diagnosed Clinton with “dysphasia.” [Media Matters, 8/22/16]
Trump: Clinton “Lacks The Mental And Physical Stamina.” Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, embracing the health conspiracy theory line of attack against Clinton, said that Clinton “lacks the mental and physical stamina” to serve as president. [The New York Times, 8/22/16]
CNN And CBS Anchors Suggest The Burden To Dispel Health Conspiracy Theories Is On Clinton
CNN’s Alisyn Camerota Asks If Clinton Has “Been Transparent Enough About Her Health.” CNN anchor Alisyn Camerota asked CNN political analyst Kirsten Powers if Clinton has “been transparent enough about her health” and, noting that Clinton “had that fall,” said that the people raising the concerns about Clinton’s health “feel that there’s a germ of … maybe her concussion caused some sort of brain thing.” Powers noted “There's nothing to suggest that she has any kind of problems with her stamina, with her health, with her mental health” and added, “honestly, I think there’s an element of sexism to this.” From the August 23 edition of CNN’s New Day:
ALISYN CAMEROTA (CO-HOST): OK let's start with Hillary Clinton's health. She seems to have mental acuity, as she always has. She can rattle off figures and stats like nobody. But has she been transparent enough about her health?
KIRSTEN POWERS: Well I mean I guess I have to ask why is there any concern about her health? And the only reason there's any concern about her health is because Donald Trump has sort of started his trutherism on Hillary Clinton's health. There's nothing to suggest she doesn't have stamina. I mean honestly I don't even know if I could do the schedule that she keeps. There's nothing to suggest that she has any kind of problems with her stamina, with her health, with her mental health.
CAMEROTA: Well she had that fall. I mean this is the thing. She has a fall years ago and then she wore those big sort of coke bottle glasses. And so they feel that there's a germ of maybe she had a mental -- maybe her concussion caused some sort of brain something?
POWERS: Yeah, but what is that based on? There's nothing to suggest that she's having any problems healthwise. And so even this picture that's been circulating where somebody is helping her up the stairs. OK so what if she fell down? Or there's another email from Sidney Blumenthal where he refers to her getting rest because she's not feeling well and at the end of it he says "get well." Well nobody says "get well" to somebody who's seriously ill. That's not what you say. So the things that they're pointing to I don't think support it and, honestly, I think there's an element of sexism to this. [CNN, New Day, 8/23/16]
CBS’ Norah O’Donnell Asks If Clinton Needs To “Say More” About Her Health In Response To “Questions” Raised About Her Health. After noting that “Donald Trump is raising questions about Hillary Clinton’s stamina,” CBS anchor Norah O’Donnell asked, “When do the two candidates need to say more about” their health and “release health records?” When CBS contributor Mark Leibovich noted Clinton’s physician “released a letter that seemed pretty authoritative” about her health, O’Donnell said, “it was two pages.” From the August 23 edition of CBS This Morning:
NORAH O'DONNELL (CO-HOST): Donald Trump is raising questions about Hillary Clinton's stamina. Her health, he says. We have never before in history had two candidates, nominees, as old as Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. 70 years old, Donald Trump; 68 years old, Hillary Clinton. She went on late night TV last night, addressed those charges, in part by opening a can of pickles to prove her strength. When do the two candidates need to say more about their -- and release health records?
MARK LEIBOVICH: You mean the pickle test doesn't just put away all these questions to rest immediately?
O'DONNELL: However, I must say -- I must say I have trouble opening up a can of pickles. I have a lot of trouble.
LEIBOVICH: I think we all do. I think it's an issue we can all relate to. No, I mean look, they've been very -- I think Hillary Clinton in fairness has been more transparent. Her personal physician has released a letter that seemed pretty authoritative, if somewhat brief.
O'DONNELL: It was two pages. I mean John McCain --
ANTHONY MASON (CO-HOST): Trump's letter is even shorter.
LEIBOVICH: She -- I mean I think she can say, rightly, that look, he's released virtually nothing. I mean if you count the two paragraph letter that his doctor released. I think people would like to see more. What I'm curious about in the larger sense is why do you make this an issue now if you're Donald Trump? I mean the health, the stamina of your opponent. I mean maybe he thinks he's sowing some kind of doubt, but there are other bigger, more legitimate issues to focus on, beginning with this email stuff. [CBS, CBS This Morning, 8/23/16]
Reporting From Those Outlets Have Debunked The Claims
CBS’ Nancy Cordes: Clinton Health Conspiracies Are “Unfounded.” CBS congressional correspondent Nancy Cordes said the health conspiracy theories pushed by Trump were “unfounded statements about Clinton's well-being.” Cordes added that “far-right websites” were “spreading a fake letter from” Clinton’s doctor “claiming that she has dementia.” From the August 17 edition of CBS This Morning:
NANCY CORDES: The 70-year-old Trump has made a series of unfounded statements about Clinton's well-being.
DONALD TRUMP: She's got -- she’s low energy. She actually is low energy.
CORDES: Clinton aides point out she has done hundreds of campaign events.
HILLARY CLINTON: We have to be committed.
CORDES: And sailed through an 11-hour Benghazi hearing.
CLINTON: Those are the facts, Mr. Chairman.
CORDES: But that hasn’t stopped Trump.
TRUMP: She’ll take a nap for four or five hours and she’ll come back. No naps for Trump.
CORDES: The 68-year-old Clinton got a clean bill of health from her doctor last year. But that hasn't stopped some far-right websites from spreading a fake letter from that doctor claiming that she has dementia and is prone to blacking out. [CBS, CBS This Morning, 8/17/16]
CNN’s Gregory Krieg: Health Conspiracy Theories Are A “Lie” Supported By “Junk Science.” CNN reporter Gregory Krieg wrote that the health conspiracies are based on “junk science” and that “There is absolutely no credible evidence to backstop any of these claims.” Krieg added that the “lie” is based on those believing “the press is in cahoots with Clinton, protecting her political prospects by working overtime to hide her imagined ailment,” and that “the facts … tell a very different story.” From the August 23 article:
Much in the way "birthers" (Trump was among the most prominent) sought similar ends by questioning President Barack Obama's citizenship, the "healthers" are using junk science and conspiracy theories to argue that Clinton is suffering from a series of debilitating brain injuries.
In an interview on "Fox News Sunday" this weekend, former New York City mayor and Trump surrogate Rudy Giuliani first accused the mainstream media of hiding evidence, then encouraged doubters to "go online and put down 'Hillary Clinton illness.'"
There is absolutely no credible evidence to backstop any of these claims, including on the "videos" Giuliani cited. Clinton's physician -- the only person to speak on the record who has actually examined her -- has repeatedly affirmed the former secretary of state's health and fitness for the highest office in the land.
But for those who want to believe, the structure of the lie borders on impenetrable -- baked into its "medical" assertions is the tightly held belief that the press is in cahoots with Clinton, protecting her political prospects by working overtime to hide her imagined ailment.
The facts, though, tell a very different story. [CNN.com, 8/23/16]
CNN’s Brian Stelter: “There Is No Doubt” Clinton Is “Physically Fit To Be President.” CNN host Brian Stelter castigated Sean Hannity for pushing conspiracy theories about Clinton’s health, noting Clinton’s “doctors say she is now physically fit to be president” and that “There is no doubt about that.” Stelter added that “conspiracy theories are so much more interesting than the truth.” 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]