Though the former First Family is doing quite well for itself nowadays, Hillary Clinton says she and Bill were “dead broke” when they left the White House in 2001. In a new interview with Diane Sawyer, Clinton defended her high speaking fees — rumored to be around $200,000 per appearance — on the grounds that she and Bill actually went into debt during the Clinton presidency, and needed to pay it back. Predictably, conservative commentators reacted with apoplexy at the suggestion that, at some previous point in time, the Clintons weren’t fabulously rich.
“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. You know, it was not easy.”
The Clintons were reportedly around $12 million in debt when Bill left office; this debt came largely from legal fees relating to the Monica Lewinsky and Whitewater investigations. They settled that debt by 2004, and are now worth an estimated $100-$200 million.
Nevertheless, plenty of conservatives weren’t happy to hear that the Clintons were once in debt, preferring instead to think of them as perpetually wealthy.
The Washington Free-Beacon pithily referred to the family as “hard-working, middle-class millionaires,” quipping that they “somehow managed to put food on the table in their multiple houses.” The Daily Caller added that Clinton’s story “doesn’t explain why they’ve continued working the speech circuit even after overcoming their financial difficulties,” as if the Clintons are required to explain this in order for the story to check out.
In any event, Clinton added that giving speeches is a far more respectable way to make money than corporate lobbying, a trade many politicians enter into after holding office.
Let me put it 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.