New Evidence Debunks Media Interpretation Of Clinton's "Truly Well Off" Quote
Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ
New evidence revealing the full context of Hillary Clinton's comment about the "truly well off" suggests that she was not trying to contrast herself from the ranks of the wealthy, as many in the media previously suggested.
On June 21, The Guardian reported pieces of an interview they had conducted with Clinton during the roll-out of her new memoir, Hard Choices:
America's glaring income inequality is certain to be a central bone of contention in the 2016 presidential election. But with her huge personal wealth, how could Clinton possibly hope to be credible on this issue when people see her as part of the problem, not its solution?
"But they don't see me as part of the problem," she protests, "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," she says, letting off another burst of laughter.
Numerous media outlets jumped on Clinton's comments, suggesting that in her statement "unlike a lot of people who are truly well off" Clinton was saying that she and President Clinton are not "truly well off." At times, media outlets even altered the quote to fit that impression, falsely reporting that Clinton had said they were "not truly well off." For example:
Business Insider: Hillary Clinton Says She Isn't 'Truly Well Off'
Washington Post: Hillary Clinton says she's unlike the 'truly well off'
Fox News: Clinton: I'm not 'truly well off'
As Media Matters' Eric Boehlert noted at the time, while Clinton's comments were somewhat unclear, "at least as good an interpretation of the quote is that Clinton included herself and her husband among the 'truly well off,' but was saying that unlike many of them, they pay ordinary income tax."
Indeed, the full transcript of Clinton's response supports this interpretation. Clinton immediately followed up the comment by noting, "We know how blessed we are." She went on to explain that the Clintons did not grow up rich and that her goal is to "create a level playing field" to ensure opportunity for all. Here's the transcript, posted by The Hill on June 26 (emphasis added):
QUESTION: Domestically, as you mentioned towards the end of the book, one of the key issues is inequality.
QUESTION: Presumably whoever runs in 2016 will be talking a lot about that. It's come up already, but I did want to - it's such a polar - another polarized issue. Can you be the right person, were you to decide to run, to raise an issue like that when - with your own huge personal wealth, which is something that people have already started sniping about? Is it possible to talk about that subject --
QUESTION: -- when people perceive you as part of the problem, not the solution?
CLINTON: But they don't see me as part of the problem because we pay ordinary income tax, unlike a lot of people who are truly well off, not to name names, and we have done it through dint of hard work. We know how blessed we are. We were neither of us raised with these kinds of opportunities, and we worked really hard for them. But all one has to do is look at my record going back to my time in college and law school to know not only where my heart is, but where my efforts have been. I want to create a level playing field so that once again, you can look a child in the eye and you can tell them the truth, whether they're born in a wealthy suburb or an inner city or a poor country community; you can point out the realistic possibility that they will have a better life. But here's what they must do: It's that wonderful combination of individual effort, but social support, mobility and opportunity on the other side of the equation. So I'm willing to have that debate with anybody.