Hillary Clinton’s campaign scrambled Monday to put to rest questions about her health, promising to release additional medical records and blaming her near-collapse a day earlier on the candidate’s “breakneck pace” and refusal to slow down despite a bout of pneumonia.
Even so, the Democratic presidential nominee’s team took a lot of flak for its initial instinct to conceal: keeping reporters in the dark for nearly two hours after the incident, then calling it a mere case of “overheating,” and finally admitting to a two-day-old pneumonia diagnosis only after video surfaced of Mrs. Clinton collapsing.
David Axelrod, a former top political adviser to President Obama, laid bare the shortcomings in a tweet.
“Antibiotics can take care of pneumonia. What’s the cure for an unhealthy penchant for privacy that repeatedly creates unnecessary problems,” he asked.
Democrats urged Mrs. Clinton to do more to dispel the health concerns, as the medical episode she suffered in public gave new life to longstanding rumors that she’s hiding a serious affliction.
“She’s got to get up in front of the TV cameras and take some questions about this as quickly as she can,” said Democratic strategist Jim Manley.
She didn’t appear on camera, but did call into a cable TV news show late Monday to reassure Americans that she is recuperating.
“I’m feeling so much better,” the Democratic nominee said on the phone with CNN’s “Anderson Cooper 360” program. “Obviously, I should have gotten some rest sooner.”
For months Mrs. Clinton has laughed off and dismissed as “conspiracy theories” rumors that she secretly suffers from a debilitating ailment, such as seizures, dementia, Parkinson’s disease and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or Lou Gehrig’s disease.
“One of the real problems with this situation is that it has now allowed the whisper campaign that has largely occurred in the right-wing media to become a topic of mainstream media conversation,” said Mr. Manley.
The questions about the true status of her health both fed on and added to widespread mistrust of Mrs. Clinton in the electorate.
The former first lady, U.S. senator and secretary of state has not held a formal press conference in more than nine months, and now she likely will face questions not only about her medical episode Sunday but whether she has a seizure disorder or something else that could affect her ability to serve in the Oval Office.
Mrs. Clinton, 68, canceled a trip Monday to California for fundraising events, a speech on the economy and taping of an appearance on “The Ellen DeGeneres Show.”
It was unclear whether she would attend a rally scheduled Wednesday in Las Vegas.
The campaign said she was taking two days off to recuperate after the incident Sunday at a 9/11 commemoration ceremony in New York. She had to leave the ceremony early and was caught on video appearing to collapse as Secret Service agents held her up and hustled her into a van.
Clinton campaign spokesman Brain Fallon said that Mrs. Clinton would soon release more medical records, and he promised there wouldn’t be any surprises.
“There’s no other undisclosed condition. The pneumonia is the extent of it,” he said on MSNBC’s “Andrea Mitchell Reports.”
The decision to release more medical record followed an announcement by Republican nominee Donald Trump, 70, who also has released limited information about his health, that this week he would release “very specific numbers” from a recent physical exam.
Mr. Trump handled gingerly Mrs. Clinton’s medical problem, saying he hoped she “gets well soon.”
“I don’t know what’s going on. Like you, I see what I see,” he said on Fox News’ “Fox & Friends” program. “The coughing fit was a week ago; I assume that was pneumonia also. So something’s going on. I just hope she gets well and gets back on the trail.”
Mr. Fallon blamed the campaign staff for waiting to disclose that Mrs. Clinton had pneumonia. However, he said that Mrs. Clinton wanted to “power through” the illness and stick to her schedule.
“This is the Hillary Clinton that Americans got to know as secretary of state. She keeps a breakneck pace [and has] traveled the globe. She’s indefatigable,” he said.
Mr. Fallon, who was not at the 9/11 ceremony, said that as far as he knew, Mrs. Clinton never lost consciousness and regained quickly her composure once inside the van, making phone calls to staff while traveling.
Vanderbilt political science professor Marc J. Hetherington, who is an expert on voter behavior, said that the health issue could be a welcome distraction for Mrs. Clinton, if she recovers quickly.
“Of course, no candidate wants the definition of her image to be buckling knees,” he said. “It might not be all bad news for Clinton, however. Provided that her health is actually fine and the case of pneumonia clears up, this episode moves the focus of the campaign away from the email scandal and the ‘basket of deplorables’ line, which might be a good thing for Secretary Clinton.”