Coughing attack is grist for Republican conspiracy theories.
By Kenneth T. Walsh | Contributor Sept. 7, 2016, at 7:12 a.m.
U.S. News and World Report
When does a candidate’s cough become a campaign issue?
It’s happening to Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton as she begins the final, most intensive phase of her bid for the White House, prompting scrutiny of nearly everything she does.
Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump and his surrogates, such as former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, suggest (without citing valid evidence) that Clinton has serious health problems. And the media have been focusing intently on two coughing fits that Clinton endured in public this week amid continued speculation from her adversaries that she lacks stamina and may be very sick.
One coughing episode erupted during a speech in Cleveland Monday, and the second, even more embarrassing, came when she was answering reporters’ questions aboard her campaign plane later that day. It was supposed to be a very positive moment for Clinton, since it was the first time she had submitted herself to sustained questions from her press corps in nine months. Instead, while she handled the repartee with poise and demonstrated a deep understanding of the issues, she had to take a break when she couldn’t control her cough, which she attributed to seasonal allergies. She returned a few minutes later and completed the news conference.
It was all grist for the media, crowding out to some extent a discussion of more substantive issues.
NBC News drew the wrath of Clinton’s campaign for an online story entitled, “Hillary Clinton Fights Back Coughing Attack.” The story noted that Clinton tried to turn the episode against Trump by saying, “Every time I think about Trump, I get allergic.” But Clinton spokesman Nick Merrill indicated that it was bad journalism and tweeted, “Get a life.”
[DECISION 2016: U.S. News Covers the Race to the White House]
Trump tweeted, “Mainstream media never covered Hillary’s massive ‘hacking’ or coughing attack.”
Actually, that wasn’t true. The media did cover the issue extensively. CNN carried a story entitled, “Hillary Clinton coughs and a nation listens.” The New York Times ran an article under the headline, “Hillary Clinton Treats Theories About Coughing Attack With Dose of Humor.”
And it’s clear there will be another spasm of coverage if it happens again.
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