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Hillary Clinton defends speaking fees but says she understands hardships

Hillary ClintonWhite HouseCredit and DebtBill ClintonPoliticsElections
Clinton clarifies remarks that she and Bill Clinton 'struggled' after leaving White House
Hillary Clinton: 'I fully appreciate how hard life is for so many Americans today'

Under fire from critics for saying she and Bill Clinton were “dead broke” when they left the White House, Hillary Clinton defended her statement during a live interview Tuesday morning.

Clinton acknowledged that she and her husband have collected millions in speaking fees, but she stressed that she was in touch with the financial hardships faced by many Americans and was dedicated to helping alleviate them.

“Let me just clarify that I fully appreciate how hard life is for so many Americans today,” Clinton told ABC’s Robin Roberts in a live interview Tuesday on ABC’s "Good Morning America" –  the day her new book "Hard Choices" was published. “It’s an issue that I’ve worked on and cared about my entire adult life. Bill and I obviously were blessed. We worked hard for everything we got in our lives and we have continued to work hard, and we’ve been blessed in the last 14 years.”

“I want to use the talents and resources that I have to make sure that other people get the same chances,” said Clinton, who plans to announce a decision about whether she will run for president in 2016 by early next year.

The former Secretary of State was mocked by Republicans groups for telling ABC’s Diane Sawyer in an interview that aired Monday that she and her husband “had no money” when they arrived at the White House and left “dead broke.”

It was a reference, in part, to the enormous legal bills that the couple incurred as a result of the Whitewater investigation.

“We struggled to, you know, piece together the resources for mortgages, for houses, for Chelsea’s education,” Clinton told Sawyer in the initial interview. “It was not easy.” 

Asked by Roberts on Tuesday whether she had any regrets about those remarks, Clinton said it was “just a reality -- what we faced when he got out of the White House meant that we just had to keep working really hard. We always have. That’s who we are.”  

“We’re grateful we can do that,” the former secretary of State added, “but I worry a lot about people I know personally and people in our country who don’t have the same opportunities that we’ve been given.”

Clinton said she understood the strong reaction to her assertion that she and Bill Clinton had struggled, “but everything in life has to be put into context.” She explained that they were about $12 million in debt when they left the White House.

“We really had to work hard. And I was in the Senate and could not do anything to help us meet those obligations,” she said. “And I’m very grateful that my husband—who has always been a hard worker since he was born poor and given opportunities with a good education with strong values to work hard and take responsibility—he did that.”

Clinton went on to detail how both she and her husband had worked multiple jobs to pay off their student loans early in their marriage. “We have a life experience that is clearly different, in very dramatic ways, from many Americans, but we also have gone through some of the same challenges as many people have.”

Clinton sets out Tuesday on a coast-to-coast book tour to promote her new memoir. She will sign copies of the book at a Union Square Barnes & Noble in New York before setting out for Chicago, where she will deliver a paid speech to the convention of the United Fresh Produce Assn.

Clinton’s book tour will bring her to Los Angeles on June 19 for a book signing at Barnes & Noble at the Grove.

Twitter: @MaeveReston

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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Hillary ClintonWhite HouseCredit and DebtBill ClintonPoliticsElections
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