Hillary Clinton in New York City, September 11, 2016.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
NEW YORK – The sight of a physically buckling Hillary Clinton has shaken the presidential race, turning conspiratorial questions over her health into a legitimate national concern.
Aides to the Democratic presidential nominee later explained that her overheating and loss of balance – which forced her to abruptly leave a September 11 memorial ceremony at Ground Zero on Sunday – was caused by pneumonia.
But their decision to withhold a diagnosis, which she learned of two days prior, has enraged the press pool that covers her daily and fed a narrative that the Clintons value privacy to a fault.
While her doctor said that she is recovering nicely, she nor the campaign have explained what caused the pneumonia, prompting more questions than answers as to the exact state of her health, as well as demands for a broad release of her medical records. Clinton is 68 years old.
Donald Trump, the Republican nominee, is 70. He said Monday he had a physical checkup last week, and that he planned on releasing the results of those tests.
The startling images of a stumbling Clinton also play into conspiracy theories that the candidate has been seriously ill for months, despite no evidence to back them. Clinton has, indeed, been treated for a blood clot in the head, and has been caught on camera before in fits of coughing. But the doctors that have monitored her health have given her a clean bill of health to serve as president.
Nevertheless, the presumed innocence of a pneumonia diagnosis – which is not necessarily indicative of her overall well-being, and certainly not of her mental capacity – takes on an inflated role in a campaign that Trump has made a referendum on toughness and stamina.
And Clinton continues to face a public skeptical that she is honest and trustworthy – worries that are only deepened when the candidate refrains from sharing basic facts about her health.
Trump has released even fewer medical records than Clinton has, and the physical exam he is to release this week will tell the public very little about the state of his overall health.
If Trump wins, he will be the nation’s oldest president-elect and if Clinton wins, she will be the second oldest, behind only Ronald Reagan, who was 69 when he took the oath of office in 1981.