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12 September 2016

How Hillary Clinton’s pneumonia revelation has intensified post-truth politics

The presidential candidate's team confirmed she was ill late on Sunday. What effect has this had on the US presidential race?

By Julia Rampen

Hillary Clinton’s supporters spent Sunday wishing her well after her campaign team revealed she had been diagnosed with the bacterial infection pneumonia.

The 68-year-old Democratic presidential candidate was forced to leave a 9/11 memorial event early, amid press speculation. Her team confirmed she was ill but added she was “feeling much better”.

As well as hoping Clinton gets well soon, her supporters have pointed out that prostate cancer didn’t stop John Kerry running, nor Rudi Giuliani.

But for supporters of her opponent, Donald Trump, 70, this news seems to confirm their deepest suspicions.

As early as July, fringe news websites and internet commentators were speculating whether Clinton suffered from seizures, often using the hashtag #Hillaryshealth. The basis for this theory appears to come from when she visited hospital in 2012 with a blood clot. In August, pro-Trump websites began publishing a photo of Clinton being helped up the stairs, with the claim she had trouble walking. In fact, this photo captures a specific moment where Clinton slipped on the steps.

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Although Trump has not referred explicitly to the wildest theories, he declared in August that Clinton lacked “the physical and mental stamina” to take on ISIS. He then followed this up with tweets about her health.

In fact, the conspiracy theory still seems far-fetched. Pneumonia is spread like the flu or other bacterial infections, and anyone can catch it, including babies and children. According to the NHS, the symptoms tend to develop almost immediately or over just a few days. 

What may be more damaging for Clinton is the fact that pneumonia is a serious condition, and could force her to take time out from her campaign, while Trump can build on his accusations that she is too frail to lead the country. And the fact her campaign team initially only confirmed Clinton had “overheated” fuels the more mainstream Trump accusation that “lyin Hillary” is evasive with the truth.