The Slatest

Does “Overheating” Episode Suddenly Turn Clinton’s Health Into a Legitimate Concern?

Hillary Clinton leaves her daughter’s apartment building on Sunday in New York.

Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images

Apocalyptic warnings about Hillary Clinton’s health have long been the purview of conspiracy theorists (and Sean Hannity). And, accordingly, the Democratic presidential candidate’s campaign has systematically rejected any suggestion that the former secretary of state was unfit to serve as commander-in-chief as simply ridiculous. Now though, Clinton leaving a Sept. 11 memorial service at Ground Zero because she felt “overheated” will almost certainly focus attention on her health like never before.

On Sunday afternoon, Clinton’s doctor released a statement saying that Clinton had been diagnosed with pneumonia on Friday. “She was put on antibiotics, and advised to rest and modify her schedule” wrote Dr. Lisa Bardack. “While at this morning’s event, she became overheated and dehydrated. I have just examined her and she is now re-hydrated and recovering nicely.”

The explanation means it would have been easy enough for the campaign to dismiss any concerns as overblown were it not for the shockingly graphic video caught by a bystander that appears to show Clinton wobbling and unable to stand up on her own as she is escorted out of the event.

“Forty-eight hours ago, this was something for the Flat-Earth Society and the birth certificate deniers,” Dan Schnur, director of USC’s Jesse M. Unruh Institute of Politics, tells the Los Angeles Times. “Now it’s a topic of legitimate, mainstream political discussion.” Plus the campaign’s failure to release details about what happened for several hours will only increase the questions. Reporters who were with Clinton were kept in the dark about everything, which, of course, is only bound to rile up the conspiracy theorists.

Even people close to Clinton acknowledged that the event, plus accompanying video, means the issue will be difficult to avoid. “It’s going to be something that people aren’t going to be able to stop talking about, so we’ll see,” longtime Clinton adviser James Carville told Politico. The timing is also particularly bad for Clinton because the “overheating” episode happened mere days after a coughing episode at a Labor Day rally that many of her opponents had pointed to as an illustration of her ill health. Of course, coughing doesn’t really mean anything, and neither necessarily does feeling “overheated.” “But those two things happening within six days of each other to a candidate who is 68 years old makes talk of Clinton’s health no longer just the stuff of conspiracy theorists,” writes the Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza.

This is also all happening at a time when many were already calling on both candidates to disclose more details about their health. Just two days ago, President Obama’s former physician, David Scheiner, wrote a piece for the Washington Post saying that the public was owed much more detail about the health of the candidates. “If elected, 70-year-old Donald Trump would be the oldest person ever to enter the Oval Office, while Hillary Clinton, 68, would be a close second, behind Ronald Reagan,” Scheiner wrote. “At these ages, stuff begins to happen.”

This additional scrutiny could also affect Trump, who has also been very reticent about releasing details about his own health despite raising questions about his opponent’s well-being. Recently, his doctor acknowledged he wrote a letter declaring Trump to be in “excellent” health in five minutes.

“Feels like a good day for Clinton to release her medical records and call on Trump to do same,” the New York Times’ Adam Nagourney wrote on Twitter.

Read more Slate coverage of the 2016 campaign.