Reversal: NBC News Undermines Clinton Campaign’s ‘Conspiracy Theories’ Talking Point

Democratic presidential nominee former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton speaks to reporters on the tarmac at Westchester County Airport on September 8, 2016 in White Plains, New York. Hillary Clinton spoke to reporters and took questions before leaving New York to campaign in North Carolina and Missouri.
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

NBC News published a list Tuesday of “9 unanswered questions” about Hillary Clinton’s health that the campaign has presumably ignored from NBC’s reporters.

In the first entry on the list — “Why hide the pneumonia diagnosis?” — the authors use square quotes around the phrase “conspiracy theories,” a term which most establishment journalists have used uncritically for the past several months, even to describe physicians’ on-the-record analysis of Clinton’s health troubles.

Clinton suffered a coughing attack last week during an appearance in Cleveland, which she dismissed as seasonal allergies. She received her pneumonia diagnosis on Friday, but the public was not told about it until hours after the incident at the memorial, raising questions about whether Clinton had any plans to ever inform the public. Between the diagnosis and the near-collapse, Clinton appeared at two fundraisers, ran a national security working session, and held a press conference.

Clinton’s campaign appears to have, at best, withheld information from the public and — at worst — misled them by aggressively batting down “conspiracy theories” that her coughing fit was anything more than allergies. Opponents are already seeing the incident as proof of their claims that Clinton has been hiding health issues. And others may now be more incredulous of the campaign’s statements on her health.

This subtle dig at the Clinton campaign’s messaging is a reversal from previous NBC stories on the issue. In the past month, reporters Alexandra Jaffe and Anna Brand have used the term “conspiracy” without caveats or attribution to the Clinton campaign when describing Republicans’ concerns about Clinton’s health — i.e., assigning that label with their own, “objective” voice.

The sudden skepticism from NBC News comes a day after Washington Post blogger Chris Cillizza more explicitly contradicted himself, reversing his position that everyone should “just stop talking about Hillary Clinton’s health” and declaring it “a real issue in the presidential campaign.” At Politico, the triple byline of Glenn Thrush, Kenneth Vogel, and Annie Karni ruled that Clinton’s physical well-being “emerged Sunday as a legitimate campaign issue.”

On Sunday morning, a bystander in New York City videotaped Clinton’s security detail lifting her into a van after she left a 9/11 memorial service early — feeling, in her words, “overheated.” Clinton appears to go limp in their arms and loses a shoe, with the top of one foot dragging across the ground.


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