I am not an avid follower of the US presidential election campaign but had been aware of the speculation about Hillary Clinton’s health. I’d dismissed it as negative campaigning from the Trump camp so was shocked when footage came out showing Clinton’s near-collapse at the 9/11 ceremony. It was clear that something was very wrong and with the statements from the PR team saying she had ‘just overheated’ it began to look like they were covering something up. Eventually the press were told Hillary had pneumonia which had been diagnosed a few days earlier.
The incident raises questions about why the PR team weren’t more transparent about the situation and why, even after she left the 9/11 ceremony, they still failed to be truthful about the illness. Whilst it is understandable that Clinton would want to keep personal health matters private, with her opponents trying to use her supposedly ‘fragile’ health against her, reporters raising questions about her persistent cough and her inability to make it through a public event, it could no longer be treated as a private matter.
As with any major news event, failure to give the media adequate information creates a vacuum, leading to speculation and rumour. Putting out statements that seem implausible and are later shown to fall well short of the true explanation mean that both media and the public begin to question everything they are being told.
Hillary Clinton’s communications director Jennifer Palmieri has accepted that they ‘could have done better’ when it came to the events on Sunday. As polls show Trump beginning to close the gap between the two candidates, it would be wise for them to ensure they tackle questions about Clinton’s health head on.
Clinton was filmed losing her footing and being assisted into a waiting van after leaving early from a memorial for 9/11 victims in New York on Sunday. Initially, campaign aides said she had “overheated”, though Clinton later insisted “I’m feeling great, it’s a beautiful day in New York,” after she left her daughter’s apartment, where she had been taken to rest.