ABC's Robin Roberts to Hillary: 'Any Regrets' Claiming You Were 'Dead Broke'?

In a live interview with Hillary Clinton on Tuesday's ABC Good Morning America, co-host Robin Roberts actually pressed the former first lady on claims that she and Bill Clinton left the White House "dead broke": "The reaction has been very strong about what you said to Diane [Sawyer]....using the words 'struggling' and that it wasn't easy, when many Americans are in the same situation but they know they don't have a book and the opportunities that you have. Any regrets in how you phrased that?" [Listen to the audio or watch the video after the jump]

Clinton tried to clean up her gaffe: "Well, let me just clarify that I fully appreciate how hard life is for so many Americans today. It's an issue that I've worked on and cared about my entire adult life. Bill and I were obviously blessed. We worked hard for everything we got in our lives and we have continued to work hard."

Roberts followed up: "Can you understand the reaction, though, when you say struggling?" Clinton replied:

Well, yes, I can. But I think, you know, everything in life has to be put into context. And as I recall, we were something like $12 million in debt....So, you know, we understand what that struggle is because we had student debts, both of us, we had to pay off....we have a life experience that is clearly different in very dramatic ways from many Americans, but also we have gone through some of the same challenges as many people have.

While Roberts challenged Clinton on her remark, the ABC host failed to provide a fact-check on the political couple's finances. In 2000, ABC reported on Hillary getting a "very expensive" book advance.

At the top of the exchange, Roberts asked about Benghazi: "Madame Secretary, you say, saying you made a mistake is often taken as weakness when, in fact, it can be a sign of strength and growth. So when it comes to Benghazi, do you believe you made any mistakes?"

Clinton deflected: "Well, I believe that there were systemic problems within the State Department and clearly if we had known that earlier perhaps we could have done some changes that would have prevented – at least hopefully, could have prevented what happened."

In an interview with Clinton aired Monday night in primetime, World News anchor Diane Sawyer grilled the former secretary of state on the 2012 terrorist attack: "Is there anything you personally should have been doing to make it safer in Benghazi?...I wonder if people are looking for a sentence that begins from you, 'I should have...'"

Wrapping up the first part of her exchange with Clinton on Tuesday, Roberts wondered if the potential 2016 presidential candidate would try to separate herself from an unpopular President Obama: "His foreign policy comes under a great deal of criticism. At an all-time low. If you are to run in 2016, given that you have supported him so strongly in his foreign policy, will you have to distance yourself from that?"


Here are portions of the first part of the June 10 GMA interview:

7:00 AM ET TEASE:

ROBIN ROBERTS: Hillary Clinton is here for her first live interview about her new book, answering questions about Benghazi. Will she testify? The claims of being, quote, "dead broke" when they left the White House. And her health. No holds barred, only Good Morning America.

7:03 AM ET SEGMENT:

ROBERTS: Now to Hillary Clinton joining us live and exclusively, very much in the news right now with her new book out today, it's called Hard Choices, focusing on major decisions in a professional and personal life. Madam Secretary, welcome.

HILLARY CLINTON: Thank you, Robin.

ROBERTS: Couldn't help but notice how you intently were watching Martha Raddatz's report [on five American troops killed in Afghanistan].

CLINTON: Oh, it just makes me so sick. You know, it's bad enough to lose anybody, but if these reports turn out to be accurate, that it was friendly fire, there was some kind of mistake, it just compounds the grief and just the sense of horror about what's going on over there.

ROBERTS: That very much stays a part of the news and I know stays close to you.

[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: Hillary Clinton Live Interview; Mistakes Made in Benghazi?]

Also, there's been much reaction already to your book and your interview last night with Diane [Sawyer] about Benghazi. And you wrote in the book about your decision about Iraq. And the vote there and how you know now and that you should have admitted earlier that you made a mistake. So, when it comes to Benghazi – because it was very interesting, Madame Secretary, you say, saying you made a mistake is often taken as weakness when, in fact, it can be a sign of strength and growth. So when it comes to Benghazi, do you believe you made any mistakes?

CLINTON: Well, I believe that there were systemic problems within the State Department and clearly if we had known that earlier perhaps we could have done some changes that would have prevented – at least hopefully, could have prevented what happened.

But I've obviously thought about this long and hard. And the security issues around this attack or the attacks we had when my husband was president or when President Reagan was in office, you learn from them, you can't always predict, you always sit in an office in Washington and say, "Well, we think this, this, and this will happen."

So I believe the independent review reached the right conclusion, there were problems and they needed to be addressed and we did. Whether those could have been understood earlier, I'm just not sure about that, Robin.

ROBERTS: You also talked a bit about your health – but, no, I wanna go first about money, because that is something else. The reaction has been very strong about what you said to Diane about you and your husband leaving the White House as you said, "dead broke," using the words "struggling" and that it wasn't easy, when many Americans are in the same situation but they know they don't have a book and the opportunities that you have. Any regrets in how you phrased that?

[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: Hillary Clinton Live Interview; Critics Pounce on "Dead Broke"]

CLINTON: Well, let me just clarify that I fully appreciate how hard life is for so many Americans today. It's an issue that I've worked on and cared about my entire adult life. Bill and I were obviously 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 fourteen years. But I want to use the talents and resources I have to make sure other people get the same chances.

So, 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. We always have, that's who we are. We're grateful we can do that. 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.

ROBERTS: Can you understand the reaction, though, when you say struggling? And when you say-

CLINTON: Well, yes, I can. But I think, you know, everything in life has to be put into context. And as I recall, we were something like $12 million in debt. And you know, that was something that we really had to work hard. And I was in the Senate and could not do anything to help us meet those obligations. And I'm very grateful that my husband, who's always been a hard worker since he was born, you know, poor, and given opportunities with a good education and strong values to work hard and take responsibility, he did that.

So, you know, we understand what that struggle is because we had student debts, both of us, we had to pay off. We've had to work I had a couple of jobs in law school. He had a lot of jobs. So we have a life experience that is clearly different in very dramatic ways from many Americans, but also we have gone through some of the same challenges as many people have.

ROBERTS: Some people were surprised that you didn't really – after all that you read and wrote in the book – that you didn't talk about your concussion that you had in 2012, in light of your husband just last month saying that it took six months of serious work in recovery. So it makes people believe that it was more serious.

(...)

ROBERTS: It was no surprise that you talked a great deal about President Obama and how one-time rival and now the friendship that you were able to forge and how it was like being a first date we you were all, after...

CLINTON: It was.

ROBERTS: ..after the election.

CLINTON: It was.

ROBERTS: His foreign policy comes under a great deal of criticism.

CLINTON: Right.

ROBERTS: At an all-time low. If you are to run in 2016, given that you have supported him so strongly in his foreign policy, will you have to distance yourself from that?

[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: Hillary Clinton Live Interview; Differences With President Obama]

CLINTON: No. Because, I mean, the reason I called this book Hard Choices is because that's what any president faces. And I remember very well my husband being in the White House making some hard choices that were not popular at the time but being able to persevere and everybody could see the results, whether it was in the Balkans or bailing out Mexico in its financial crisis or anything along those lines.

And in the book I'm very clear, there were areas I disagreed with the President on, I talk about those. But we often reached the same conclusion. But at the end of the day, he's the president. He gets to make the decision and I respect that 100%.

So, for me, this is about trying to explain to Americans how – how any president, I don't care what party you are in, what, you know, perspective or experience you have, any president will face hard choices. Hard choices are made with imperfect information by imperfect people and we have to be doing the best we can every day.

Now, we have a great system here, where we can have a vigorous public debate. Where people in Washington, people in the press can say, "Why'd you do that and what's the reason for it?" That's all part of our system, which I think is the best system in the world. But the hard choices are going to keep coming and where I disagree with President Obama I will be clear, but, in many areas, he and I worked together and I think we saw positive results. I'm very proud of what we did during the time I was there. I think we restored America's leadership at a time when it was in quite dire straits.

(...)

Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen is a News Analyst for MRC