Bill Clinton said he was "dumbfounded" by Karl Rove's suggestion that his wife might have suffered from a traumatic brain injury
, but shrugged off the incident and suggested that it was just the beginning of a GOP effort to raise questions about Hillary Rodham Clinton's stamina.
"I've got to give him credit -- that embodies that old saying that consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds," the former president said Wednesday when asked at a fiscal summit in Washington about Rove's comments. "First they said she faked her concussion and now they say she's auditioning for a part on 'The Walking Dead.'"
"Whatever it takes," Clinton continued with a chuckle. "Look, she works out every week. She is strong. She is doing great, as far as I can tell she's in better shape than I am. She certainly seems to have more stamina now. And there's nothing to it."
Rove, the former White House advisor to President George W. Bush, raised questions about Clinton's health at a conference in Los Angeles last week. According to a report in the New York Post, Rove erroneously said that Clinton spent 30 days in the hospital. (She was hospitalized for just three days.)
"When she reappears, she's wearing glasses that are only for people who have traumatic brain injury? We need to know what's up with that," Rove continued, according to the Post.
On Tuesday, Rove denied he had said Clinton suffered "brain damage" -- terminology used in the Post's headline --
but insisted that the public needed more information about what he called a "serious health episode."
Clinton was hospitalized at the end of 2012 after doctors discovered a blood clot behind her right ear. They said it
stemmed from a concussion that she had suffered after fainting while weakened by a stomach virus.
The injury led the then-Secretary of State to delay her testimony to Congress on the Sept. 11, 2012, attack on a diplomatic post in Benghazi, Libya, that killed four Americans. At that time, some Republicans questioned whether she actually had a medical condition or was simply trying to put off the hearing.
Offering a vigorous defense of his wife's health Wednesday, Bill Clinton told his interviewer, PBS anchor Gwen Ifill, that he was dumbfounded, particularly after Republicans "went to all this trouble to say she faked what was a terrible concussion that required six months of very serious work to get over."
"It's something that she never lowballed with the American people, never tried to pretend it didn't happen. Now they say she's really got brain damage," he said with a laugh. "If she does, then I must be in really tough shape because she is still quicker than I am."
When pressed by Ifill about whether Rove's comments were an attempt to raise Hillary Clinton's age as an issue as she weighs a run for the presidency, the former president said he wasn't sure of their motivations.
"But if it is, you can't be too upset about it, it's just the beginning," he said. "They'll get better and better at it. I mean, you know, I'm still waiting for them to admit there was nothing to Whitewater."