WHITE HOUSE RACE: ANALYSIS

Hillary Clinton’s pneumonia moves her health problems from the realm of fringe conspiracy theory and places them at the heart of election debate

Trump was uncharacteristically subdued about Clinton’s health issues, insisting he takes no satisfaction from her problems

PUBLISHED : Monday, 12 September, 2016, 10:34pm
UPDATED : Monday, 12 September, 2016, 11:33pm

For weeks, Hillary Clinton dismissed questions about her health as little more than a conspiracy theory, part of a “wacky strategy” cooked up by rival Donald Trump as he embraced an “alternative reality”.

Those concerns are now unavoidable, made real by Clinton’s abrupt departure on Sunday from a 9/11 anniversary ceremony and a video showing the Democratic nominee staggering and eventually slumping forward before being held up by three people as she was helped into a van. The damage was compounded by the nearly eight hours of silence from Clinton and her team about the health scare, as well as the Sunday evening disclosure she had been diagnosed on Friday with pneumonia.

[I hope] she gets well and gets back on the trail and we’ll be seeing her at the debate
Republican candidate Donald Trump

Clinton’s doctor said the 68-year-old former secretary of state “became overheated and dehydrated” and “is now rehydrated and recovering nicely”. But less than two months from Election Day, it was a problematic visual for Clinton as she tries to project the vigour needed for one of the world’s most demanding jobs.

On Sunday, she cancelled plans to travel to California for two days of fundraising, campaign events and an appearance on Ellen DeGeneres’ talk show.

No longer can Trump’s questions about Clinton’s physical stamina be summarily dismissed. The episode was also sure to fuel a vocal group of online conspiracy theorists, deemed “healthers” by some Clinton supporters, who point to videos and photos of Clinton as evidence of her poor health.

In phone-in television interviews yesterday, Trump was uncharacteristically subdued about Clinton’s health issues. On CNBC, he said he takes no satisfaction from her problems. On Fox News, he said he hopes “she gets well and gets back on the trail and we’ll be seeing her at the debate”. The first of three debates is scheduled for September 26.

Trump also said he had a physical last week and will release detailed health information when he gets the results, which are expected in coming days.

“I think they’re going to be good. I feel great,” he said on Fox and Friends.

The incident compounds a difficult time for Clinton as the race enters its final stretch. Despite Trump’s numerous missteps, the race remains close and many Americans view Clinton as untrustworthy.

On Friday, Clinton told donors that “half” of Trump’s supporters are in a “basket of deplorables” – a comment that drew sharp criticism from Republicans. Clinton later said she regretted applying that description to “half” of Trump’s backers, but stuck by her assertion that the he has given a platform to “hateful views and voices”.

Trump yesterday called Clinton’s remarks “the biggest mistake of the political season”. On Fox, he said that being elected to the White House means: “You’re the president of all the people.”

Watch: Hillary Clinton diagnosed with pneumonia, after her legs buckle at 9/11 memorial

On Sunday, Clinton left the 9/11 memorial an hour earlier than planned. She had spent about 90 minutes standing with other dignitaries in the sun on a warm and humid day. Her departure was not witnessed by the reporters who travel with her campaign. Aides provided no information about why she left or her whereabouts for nearly two hours.

Clinton’s spokesman Nick Merrill eventually said Clinton had gone to her daughter’s nearby apartment, but refused to say whether she had required medical attention.

Clinton exited the apartment on her own, wearing sunglasses and carrying a handbag. She waved to reporters and said, “I’m feeling great. It’s a beautiful day in New York.”