Hillary Clinton says she wasn’t being insensitive to America’s middle class when she said in an interview that she and former President Bill Clinton were "dead broke" when they left the White House and struggled to pay mortgages on their two multimillion-dollar mansions.
Clinton, who is seen as the most likely Democratic nominee for the White House in 2016, told "Good Morning America"
host Robin Roberts that she recognizes she and her husband were "blessed" and that they worked "hard for everything we got in our lives, and we have continued to work hard."
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"Let me just clarify that I fully appreciate how hard life is for so many Americans today," Clinton told Roberts. "It’s an issue that I’ve worked on and cared about my entire adult life."
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Clinton said she was referring to the many legal bills she and the former president amassed during their eight years in the White House.
"For me, it’s just a reality. What we faced when he got out of the White House meant that we had to just keep working really hard," Clinton said. "Everything has to be put into context. As I recall, we were something like $12 million in debt."
Clinton’s comments about the family’s debt were part of an interview
aired Monday with ABC’s Diane Sawyer on Monday as part of the kick-off tour of her new memoir, "Hard Choices."
"We came out of the White House not only dead broke, but in debt," Clinton said. "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," said Clinton. "You know, it was not easy."
Their daughter, Chelsea, graduated from Stanford University in 2001 and later received graduate degrees from the University of Oxford and Columbia University.
Clinton’s comments were seized by Republicans who say the former secretary of state is out of touch. She alone has amassed as much as $5 million in speaking fees since leaving the State Department in 2013, reportedly earning $200,000 per speech.
When Hillary Clinton ran for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2008, she and her husband had earned a reported total of $109 million over the previous seven years.
"I think she's been out of touch with average people for a long time," said Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus. "Whether she was flat broke or not is not the issue. It's tone deaf to average people."
In reference to her speaking fees, Hillary Clinton justified things this way: "I thought making speeches for money was a much better thing than getting connected with any one group or company as so many people who leave public life do," she told Sawyer.
The Vox website
published a post titled "Only a rich person could go as broke as Hillary Clinton."
"The story with the Clintons is that they left office millions of dollars in hock to various law firms," according to Vox. "But this wasn't some random financial misfortune that could have happened to anyone. If you found yourself in legal hot water, you wouldn't possibly be able to hire the Clintons' lawyers.
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"No firm would let you run a multimillion-dollar tab. The reason the Clintons were able to get away with it is that it was always obvious that Bill had enormous post-presidential earnings potential."
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