Hillary Clinton acknowledges stumbles on wealth

Hillary Clinton acknowledged in an interview Tuesday with PBS NewsHour’s Gwen Ifill that she stumbled when talking about her and her husband’s wealth and could have had a better message.

“Well, I shouldn’t have said the five or so words that I said,” Clinton said, “but my inartful use of those few words doesn’t change who I am, what I’ve stood for my entire life, what I stand for today.”

It’s not clear what the exact five words Clinton is referring to, but the potential 2016 presidential candidate landed in some controversy over the last week when she said she and her husband, former President Bill Clinton, were “dead broke” when they left the White House, and when she tried to draw a distinction between herself and the “truly well off.”

It is true that the Clintons had a negative net worth of about $8 million when leaving the White House. They had as much as $2 million in assets, but about $10 million in debt because of legal fees, accrued because of the Monica Lewinsky scandal and investigations into their Whitewater investments.

The Clintons have more than made it up. It has been reported that Bill Clinton has made as much as $100 million since leaving the White House, between speaking fees and books, and that Hillary Clinton commands in the ballpark of $200,000 per speech since exiting the Obama administration as secretary of state.

“Bill and I have had terrific opportunities, both of us, you know, have worked hard,” she told Ifill, “but we’ve been grateful for everything that we’ve been able to achieve, and sadly that’s just not true for most Americans today. So many Americans are feeling, you know, shut out, shut down, the great recession hasn’t ended for too many Americans, wages are flat, families are struggling, not enough new jobs, or new businesses are being created, and it’s important that we all try to figure out what we’re going to do, and that’s what I’ve done my entire life.”

Bill Clinton defended his wife in an interview at a Clinton Global Initiative conference in Denver Tuesday.

“It is factually true that we were several million dollars in debt,” he said. “Everybody now assumes that what happened in the intervening years was automatic — I’m shocked that it’s happened. I’m shocked that people still want me to come give talks. And, so I’m grateful.”

He added of his wife, “She’s not out of touch, and she advocated and worked as a senator for things that were good for ordinary people. And before that all her life — I remember when we were in law school, she was out trying to get legal assistance for poor people. I remember she was working on, trying to — believing in paid leave for pregnant mothers in the 1970s.”

Secretary Clinton told Ifill she is fine standing up for herself.

“My husband was very sweet today,” she said, “but I don’t need anybody to defend my record, I think my record speaks for itself.”

You can watch the full interview on Wednesday’s PBS NewsHour.