Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton fell ill during a memorial service marking the 15th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, leaving abruptly and inserting new speculation about her health into a presidential campaign in which Republican Donald Trump has called her weak and unfit.
Video of Clinton’s hurried departure from the Ground Zero memorial showed her buckling and stumbling as she got into her van. Clinton’s campaign issued a statement from her doctor later Sunday revealing that she had been diagnosed with pneumonia two days earlier.
The video, circulated on Twitter, appeared to show Clinton, 68, flanked by several Secret Service agents, leaning against a security bollard while agents prepare to assist her into a black van. As she steps forward, Clinton can be seen falling as agents help lift her into the van.
“Secretary Clinton has been experiencing a cough related to allergies,” Lisa R. Bardack, Clinton’s physician, said Sunday in the statement. “On Friday, during follow up evaluation of her prolonged cough, she was diagnosed with pneumonia. She was put on antibiotics, and advised to rest and modify her schedule. While at this morning’s event, she became overheated and dehydrated. I have just examined her and she is now re-hydrated and recovering nicely.”
A planned trip to California on Monday and Tuesday has been canceled, campaign officials said late Sunday. Clinton had been scheduled to attend several fundraising events across the state, in addition to a major economic speech in Southern California and a taped appearance on the talk show “Ellen.” It remained uncertain whether Clinton would continue with her planned travel to Las Vegas on Wednesday.
But Sunday’s drama was just merely a capstone on Clinton’s rough 48 hours.
Clinton aides spent Saturday cleaning up her remark
that “half” of Trump’s supporters were “deplorables,” meaning racists, sexists and homophobes. The remark, for which she later expressed “regret,” suddenly united a Republican Party that has struggled to get behind its divisive nominee.
The double blows came at just the wrong time for the 68-year-old Clinton, as Trump closes in the polls and pressure builds ahead of the first presidential debate in two weeks — an event shaping up to be a potentially pivotal moment of the campaign.
But a weekend on defense and a possibly reduced schedule going forward threatens to slow Clinton’s campaign at an unwelcome moment and will do little to calm increasingly jittery Democrats who only weeks ago were speculating about the possibility of an electoral landslide.
Donna Brazile, the interim chair of the Democratic National Committee, released a reassuring statement late Sunday wishing Clinton a “speedy recovery.”
“I look forward to seeing her back out on the campaign trail and continuing on the path to victory,” she said.
It was bad enough for Clinton that she had to leave the ceremony marking the 15th anniversary of the September 11 attacks early — setting off alarm bells among her traveling press pool. But the later emergence of video showing her wobbly, staggering and stumbling before being helped into her black van conjured up the kind of image, played over and over on television, that campaign strategists dread.
The footage was more than a blow to her dignity. It will be used by opponents to validate a months-long campaign of rumors and innuendo about the true state of Clinton’s health. Trump has frequently cast doubt on Clinton’s physical fitness, saying she lacks “stamina” and takes naps in the afternoon and runs on an easy schedule — a claim debunked by reporters who follow her campaign.