Hillary Clinton Diagnosed With Pneumonia; Campaign Events Canceled

Sep 12, 2016
Originally published on September 12, 2016 7:41 am
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RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

We're going to sort out some questions now about health and politics. Hillary Clinton abruptly left a ceremony yesterday at the World Trade Center marking the 9/11 anniversary. Her campaign said initially that she was overheated.

Not long after, Clinton re-emerged outside her daughter Chelsea Clinton's home in Manhattan and assured the assembled reporters and pedestrians that she was just fine.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: How are you feeling, Secretary Clinton?

HILLARY CLINTON: Feeling great, feeling great.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: What happened?

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #3: What happened?

CLINTON: It's a beautiful day in New York.

MONTAGNE: Some time later though, we learned Clinton had, in fact, been diagnosed with pneumonia last Friday. And to sort this all out, we're joined by just two people - the right people, though, in this case - NPR's Tamara Keith, who covers the Clinton campaign, and Richard Harris, who is NPR health and science correspondent. Good morning.

RICHARD HARRIS, BYLINE: Good morning.

TAMARA KEITH, BYLINE: Good morning.

MONTAGNE: And so, Tamara, let's start with you. What have you learned about what exactly happened to Hillary Clinton yesterday?

KEITH: Well, she was seen on video struggling to stay upright, needing help getting into her van. She went to her daughter Chelsea's house, as you said, for a couple of hours. And the campaign said she had simply overheated.

Then Clinton went home, to Chappaqua, N.Y., and was examined by her doctor, who later said in a statement Clinton was recovering nicely after getting both overheated and dehydrated.

But the statement also said that Clinton had been diagnosed with pneumonia on Friday, after fighting a cough that we all observed on the campaign trail last week. She's been put on antibiotics and told to rest. And late last night, the campaign canceled a planned campaign swing for Clinton through California.

MONTAGNE: So her campaign, I must say, did not announce that she had pneumonia for a couple of days, and it sounds like until they really had to. But maybe we want to talk about that. But, Richard Harris, does this sound like a serious health issue?

HARRIS: Well, Renee, obviously someone running for president is putting in punishing, long hours. And that can take a toll and leave you more susceptible to communicable diseases like pneumonia. But that said, from what we've been told, this doesn't point to any underlying health problems.

We actually don't know that much about either candidate's health. Mrs. Clinton's doctor, Lisa Bardack, released a two-page letter earlier in the campaign. And that said she was in, quote, "excellent physical condition." And it had a few more details than has been released about Donald Trump's health. But in fact, there's been relatively little information available about either of them.

MONTAGNE: Although, her health has come up before, I mean, especially that concussion in 2012. Remind us what happened then.

HARRIS: Right, that was another episode where apparently Mrs. Clinton got dehydrated. This time, it was a result of a stomach virus that she picked up while traveling, her doctor said. And in that case, she apparently passed out and hit her head. That gave her a concussion. And it took her months to fully recover. Doctors found a blood clot also during this, during - between her skull and her brain. But they said that did not affect her mental abilities. And her doctor says the problem had completely resolved in 2013.

MONTAGNE: And, Richard, you mentioned we also don't know much about Donald Trump's health. I mean, these two candidates are among the oldest presidential candidates we've ever had. Clinton's 68. Trump's 70. What information has he provided?

HARRIS: Well, Donald Trump's personal physician, Jacob Bornstein, released a very short note last December that bragged about Trump's health and made the unsupported assertion that if elected, Trump will, quote, "be the healthiest person ever elected to the presidency." It said he recently had a complete medical examination that showed only, quote, "positive results." And that's a curious thing to say because positive test results often indicate the presence of disease. But apparently that's not what the doctor meant.

The doctor's note said Trump is taking a drug to lower cholesterol as well as a low-dose aspirin, which is usually recommended for people at risk for heart disease. But it's a very spartan and uninformative report compared to what other candidates for president have issued in recent decades. And that said, this morning, Donald Trump told "Fox & Friends" that he had had a physical last week and will release the results this week.

MONTAGNE: So about the pneumonia you suggested, it's a - you know, treatable disease, not too serious, as it sounds. But, Tamara, what does this all mean for Hillary Clinton politically?

KEITH: Yes, politics are different than health. One, this incident feeds into a trust issue that has hung over Clinton's campaign, that she always errs on the privacy - on the side of privacy - and that that, at times, has made problems worse, especially when the truth comes out later and it looks like maybe she was hiding something.

And also, people have been asking about her health. Now, a lot of those people have been conspiracy theorists. And a lot of the questions have not been based on any verifiable evidence. But this does raise legitimate concerns. And this comes as, you know, Donald Trump has been throwing slights at her for quite some time that she doesn't have the, quote, "stamina to be president," which may be one reason why she was just trying to power through and go on with her schedule until she decided to not power through and go on with her schedule for these next couple of days.

MONTAGNE: And, Tam, a quick turn here, she's also trying to clarify some very strong statements she made the other night about Trump supporters, quote, being - some of them - "deplorable."

KEITH: Yeah. On Friday night, she referred to half of Trump's supporters as deplorable and then later, on Saturday, released a statement saying that she had overgeneralized and shouldn't have said half. Though, she didn't back down from criticizing what she says is deplorable and racist parts of Donald Trump's appeal.

The reaction has been a real mixed bag. Many of her supporters cheered her on for calling out racism, sexism and xenophobia. Others were insulted. And yet others still said it was a tactical mistake for criticizing voters instead of just focusing on her opponent.

MONTAGNE: And that's NPR's Tamara Keith, who covers the Clinton campaign. And we were also joined by Richard Harris, who is NPR's health and science correspondent. Thank you both.

KEITH: You're welcome.

HARRIS: Any time. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.