Former President Bill Clinton on Tuesday defended his wife’s modest depiction of the couple’s wealth, saying their affluence does not mean Hillary Rodham Clinton is out of touch with the concerns of average Americans.
Speaking in Denver at an annual meeting of his philanthropic organization, Clinton said his wife was correct to state they were “dead broke” when the couple left the White House in 2000.
“We were several million dollars in debt,” Clinton said, as Hillary Clinton and their daughter, Chelsea, looked on.
The family’s wealth, which has grown enormously since the end of Clinton’s presidency, has become a political issue since Hillary Clinton embarked on a book tour earlier this month to promote her new memoir. Having made tens of millions of dollars, the couple own luxurious homes in Washington and Chappaqua, N.Y., an affluent New York City suburb.
The controversy started with her first interview, when she defended her six-figure speaking fee.
“We came out of the White House not only dead broke, but in debt,” Hillary Clinton said on ABC. “We had no money when we got there and we struggled to, you know, piece together the resources for mortgages, for houses, for Chelsea’s education. You know, it was not easy.”
The issue flared anew when the former first lady and prospective 2016 presidential candidate discussed her finances in an interview published last weekend in the Guardian, a British newspaper. Clinton was asked whether she could reasonably champion the interest of economic underdogs, given her comfortable station.
“They don’t see me as part of the problem,” she said of voters, “because we pay ordinary income tax, unlike a lot of people who are truly well off.”
The former president was questioned Tuesday about his wife’s remarks in an interview by NBC’s David Gregory, who asked whether Clinton could appreciate how people, “as a political matter,” might feel that Hillary Clinton is out of touch.
“Yes, but she’s not out of touch,” the former president replied. “And she advocated and worked as a senator for things that were good for ordinary people. And before that, all her life. And the people asking her questions should put this into some sort of context.”
“We’ve got a good life, and I’m grateful for it,” Clinton went on. “But we go to our local grocery store on the weekend. We talk to people in our town. We know what’s going on. The real issue is if you’ve been fortunate enough to be successful, are you now out of touch and insensitive to the agonizing struggles other people are facing? That’s the real issue.”
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