Media are attacking Hillary Clinton as "out of touch" after she noted that she worked to pay off millions in legal debt by accepting speaking engagements. But Clinton's speaking income is consistent with other high-profile politicians, and she has long supported efforts to reduce poverty and income inequality.
Media Ask Hillary Clinton About Personal Finances
ABC's Diane Sawyer Asked Clinton About Speech Income During Interview For Book Tour. During a June 9 interview, ABC's Diane Sawyer asked Hillary Clinton about her speech earnings:
DIANE SAWYER: It has been reported you've made $5 million making speeches, the president's made more than $100 million.
CLINTON: Well, if you -- you have no reason to remember, but we came out of the White House not only dead broke, but in debt. We had no money when we got there and we struggled to, you know, piece together the resources for mortgages for houses, for Chelsea's education, you know, it was not easy. Bill has worked really hard and it's been amazing to me. He's worked very hard, first of all, we had to pay off all our debts which was, you know, we had to make double the money because of obviously taxes, and then pay off the debts, and get us houses and take care of family members.
SAWYER: But do you think Americans are going to understand five times the median income in this country for one speech?
CLINTON: Well, let me put it this way, I thought making speeches for money was a much better thing than getting connected with any one group or company as so many people who leave public life do. [ABC, Good Morning America, 6/9/14, via RealClearPolitics ]
ABC's Robin Roberts Asked Clinton About Reaction To Her Remarks About Speech Income. On June 10, Roberts sat down with Clinton on Good Morning America. From Clinton's interview with Roberts:
CLINTON: Let me just clarify that I fully appreciate how hard life is for so many Americans today. It's an issue that I have worked on and cared about my entire adult life. Bill and I were obviously blessed. We worked hard for everything we got in our lives. And we have continued to work hard. And we've been blessed in the last 14 years. But I want to use the talents and resources I have to make sure other people get the same chances. So, for me, it's just a reality what we faced when he got out of the White House, meant that we had to keep working really hard. We always have. That's who we are. We're grateful we can do that. But I worry a lot about people that I know personally and people in our country who don't have the same opportunities that we've been given.
ROBIN ROBERTS: Can you understand the reaction though when you say struggling, and when you say --
CLINTON: Well, yes, I can. But I think, you know everything in life has to be put into context and as I recall, we were something like $12 million in debt. You know, that was something that we really had to work hard. And I was in the Senate, and could not do anything to help us meet those obligations. And I'm very grateful that my husband who's always been a hard worker since he was born, poor, and given opportunities with a good education and strong values to work hard and take responsibility, he did that. So, you know, we understand what that struggle is because we had student debts, both of us, we had to pay off. We've had to work. I had a couple of jobs in law school. He had a lot of jobs. So we have a life experience that is clearly different in very dramatic ways from many Americans, but we also have gone through some of the same challenges as many people have. [ABC, Good Morning America, 6/10/14]
Media Pounce On Clinton's Remarks To Paint Her As "Out Of Touch With Average Americans"
National Review Online : "Hillary Clinton's Entitlement Problem." Writing for National Review Online, Charles Cooke cited the Sawyer interview to deride Clinton as having an "entitlement" problem due to her personal finances, arguing that "At its root, this affair neatly revealed the treacherous relationship that exists between the Clintons as idea and the Clintons as reality." [National Review Online, 6/9/14]
CNN's Out Front Wondered If Clinton's Personal Finances Make Her "Out Of Touch With Average Americans." On June 10, CNN's OutFront tweeted a link to a story on Clinton's Sawyer interview, saying:
Washington Post's Jennifer Rubin: Clinton "Hardens The Impression That She is Out Of Touch" With Ordinary Americans. In a June 10 op-ed, Washington Post contributor Jennifer Rubin criticized Hillary Clinton's remarks about wealth, claiming that it "hardens the impressions that she is out of touch with the lives of ordinary people":
Among her worst moments in the interview, which aired Monday night:
Clinton was and still is forced to give six-figure speeches because she left the White House -- in 1998, some 16 years ago -- in debt. In claiming she and her husband had "struggled," she hardens the impression that she is out of touch with the lives of ordinary people. [Washington Post, 9/10/14]
Fox's Outnumbered: Hillary Clinton "Out-Of-Touch" Because Of Her "Net Worth." On the June 11 edition of Fox News' Outnumbered, co-hosts Anna Kooiman and Jedediah Bila responded to Clinton's remarks to Sawyer about wealth by arguing that Clinton is "out of touch with average Americans":
KOOIMAN: That is just as disgusting as those comments she made about her coming out of the White House, and her and poor Bill Clinton didn't have any money, that they had several mortgages to pay off. And shows just how out of touch they are with the lack of transparency and also with the amount of money -- and now their net worth is estimated between one hundred and two hundred million dollars.
BILA: This huge blunder right off the bat which shows her to be completely out of touch with average Americans -- Is this going to be a problem for her? [Fox News, Outnumbered,6/11/14]
Fox's Howard Kurtz Claimed Clinton "Poor-Mouthed" Her History To Show Middle-Class Americans She "Share[d] Their Concerns." Fox News' Kurtz claimed that Hillary Clinton's remarks "poor-mouthed" her history to show that she cared about middle-class concerns:
What Hillary is doing, of course, is trying to strike a bond with middle-class folks who are worried about the future. It's an age-old political tactic of signaling to voters that you share their concerns and were not always a rich and famous person. But it sounds rather tin-eared to me, especially for a woman who didn't just "leave" the White House but had just been elected a United States senator. [FoxNews.com, 6/10/14]
Fox News Politics On Clinton: "Out Of Touch Much?" On June 10, Fox News responded to Clinton's speech income remarks by tweeting, "Out of touch much?":
FOX NEWS FIRST: Out of touch much? Hillary makes shaky start http://t.co/2py2w3K99J-- Fox News Politics (@foxnewspolitics) June 10, 2014
Bill And Hillary Clinton Left White House In Debt
Clintons Left Office With Millions Of Dollars In Debt. As CNN reported, the "Clintons departed the White House in debt, thanks to enormous legal fees. By the end of 2000, the Clintons carried debt totaling somewhere between $2.28 million to $10.6 million." [CNN, 6/9/14]
Hillary Clinton's Speaking Fees Are Consistent With Other Well-Known Politicians
Former President George W. Bush Has Earned Millions Giving Speeches. The Daily Beast reported in May 2011 that former President Bush had "delivered nearly 140 paid talks" since leaving office, earning him "about $15 million." [The Daily Beast, 5/20/11]
Former Governor Jeb Bush Has "Generated Millions" Through Corporate Speaking. The New York Times reported that former Florida Governor Jeb Bush has given "more than 100" paid speeches since 2007. Charging "about $50,000," the paper reported Bush has "generated millions." [New York Times, 4/20/14]
Former Governor And Vice Presidential Candidate Sarah Palin Commanded $100,000 Per Speech After Leaving Office. Politico reported in 2010 that former Alaska Governor and current Fox News contributor Sarah Palin was charging $100,000 a speech, with a discount to $75,000 for West Coast appearances. [Politico, 1/12/10]
Former Mayor And Presidential Candidate Rudy Giuliani Made $9.2 Million Giving Speeches Between January 2006 And February 2007. According to MSN, during a 13 month speaking tour starting in January 2006, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani raked in $9.2 million for his public speaking engagements. [MSN, 10/20/11]
Clinton Has Spent Decades Fighting Child Poverty
Clinton's Advocacy On Behalf Of Children Started With Her Role At Anti-Poverty Group. In 2013, Hillary Clinton was honored for her children's advocacy projects including her major role working at the Children's Defense Fund, where she served as a board member and chairwoman. The Washington Post noted that Clinton has consistently advocated for children beginning in the 1970s, and that this work continues through today with her work with the Clinton Foundation:
Hillary Rodham Clinton, who through more than three decades in public life has advocated on behalf of children, will be honored this fall by the Children's Defense Fund.
Clinton, who as a young lawyer worked on the staff of the Children's Defense Fund and later served as a board member and chairwoman, will be honored for "her dedication and contributions to child advocacy," according to an announcement the group plans to make later Thursday.
Clinton worked on children's issues as first lady of Arkansas, beginning in the late 1970s, as well as in the White House during the 1990s.
Now a private citizen, Clinton is pursuing a similar agenda through the charitable foundation her husband, President Bill Clinton, began when he left office. [Washington Post, 6/27/13]
As First Lady, Clinton Worked To Expand Health Care For Millions Of Children
Clinton Played "A Major Role" In Legislating State Children's Health Insurance Program. FactCheck.org reported that as First Lady, Clinton was a driving force for providing health insurance to millions of children through SCHIP, a government program that provided health insurance for uninsured children who do not qualify for Medicaid. FactCheck.org noted that Clinton played a "major role in translating the new law into action." [FactCheck.org, 3/18/08]
Clinton "Used Her Influence Behind The Scenes To Push For SCHIP." PolitiFact also reported that Clinton's "behind the scenes" influence worked to push SCHIP through Congress:
Clinton is also on solid ground saying that she helped to create SCHIP. Much of the credit for SCHIP usually goes to Sen. Ted Kennedy, D-Mass., who shepherded the legislation through a Republican-controlled Congress. But the Clinton campaign has said previously that she used her influence behind the scenes to push for SCHIP, and there is evidence to support that.
Soon after the legislation passed, the New York Times reported, "Participants in the campaign for the health bill both on and off Capitol Hill said the first lady had played a crucial behind-the-scenes role in lining up White House support." [PolitiFact, 1/6/08]
As A Senator, Clinton Advocated For Policies Benefiting Low-Income Individuals
Senator Clinton sponsored and co-sponsored numerous bills that favored low-income Americans, including:
- National Affordable House Trust Fund Act Of 2003. Clinton co-sponsored the National Affordable House Trust Fund Act, which supports low income housing by providing funds to communities to "build, preserve, and rehabilitate rental homes that are affordable for extremely and very low income households." [National Housing Trust Fund, accessed 6/10/14] [Thepoliticalguide.com, accessed 6/10/14]
- Relief For Working Families Tax Act of 2003. Clinton co-sponsored the Relief for Working Families Tax Act, which supported a lower tax burden for families with children and "working families." [CCH Tax Briefing, 10/4/04] [Thepoliticalguide.com, accessed 6/10/14]
- Overtime Compensation Protection Act of 2003. Clinton co-sponsored a bill to protect overtime compensation in 2003. The bill amended "the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 (FLSA) to prohibit the Secretary of Labor from promulgating any regulation that has the effect of exempting from FLSA overtime compensation requirements (which limit maximum hours at regular compensation) any employee who is not otherwise exempted under regulations in effect on the date of enactment of this Act." [Thepoliticalguide.com, accessed 6/10/14]
- Multiple Laws That Would Benefit Women, Children, And Low-Income Individuals. During her Senate tenure, Clinton co-sponsored bills to increase the minimum wage, a measure that would expand Social Security coverage to pregnant women, a bill to provide dental service to disadvantaged children, as well as a bill to provide education for homeless and foster children. Clinton also introduced the Food Insecurity Reduction Act of 2008 that would expand access to food stamps for low-income individuals. [Thepoliticalguide.com, accessed 6/10/14] [Govtrack.us, accessed6/10/14]
Clinton Has Worked To Reduce Global Poverty And Improve Lives Through Health And Education
Hillary And Bill Clinton Established The Clinton Foundation In 2001. After Bill Clinton left office, he and Hillary Clinton worked to found their non-profit, the Clinton Foundation. The Foundation works globally "to improve global health and wellness, increase opportunity for women and girls, reduce childhood obesity, create economic opportunity and growth, and help communities address the effects of climate change." [ClintonFoundation.org, accessed 6/10/14]
Clinton Global Initiative Invests Billions In Global Development Projects. The Clinton Global initiative is an offshoot of the Clinton Foundation that secures funding for projects supporting global development initiatives, health projects, and other social good movements around the world. [ClintonFoundation.org, accessed 6/10/14]
Clinton Supported Raising Taxes On Upper-Income Americans Like Herself
Hillary Clinton Has Called For Raising Tax Rates On Upper-Income Americans. During her 2008 presidential campaign, Clinton proposed "return[ing] to the income tax rates for upper-income Americans that we had in the 1990s," a move which would impact the former first couple. From a May 2007 speech:
And when the president's irresponsible tax breaks for high-income Americans expire, we will return to the income tax rates for upper- income Americans that we had in the 1990s, rates that were consistent with a balanced budget and economic growth.
For middle-class Americans, who haven't seen their paychecks increase, let's keep the middle-class tax cuts and reform the alternative minimum tax in order to give middle-class Americans the tax relief they deserve to have. [American Presidency Project, 3/29/07]