On a sunny September day in New York, then-presidential candidate Hillary Clinton was caught on video being rushed from a 9/11 memorial service to her waiting van.
She did not look well.
Then, in one of the most crucial moments of the 2016 presidential race, Clinton fainted.
The endlessly talked-about and analyzed moment spawned a mountain of conspiracy theories. The peculiar, cagey behavior of the campaign afterward only added fuel to the fire.
“Hillary Clinton’s health just became a real issue in the presidential campaign,” the Washington Post declared. Medical experts and old Secret Service agents chimed in with their expert, often conflicting, opinions.
Trump naturally seized on the moment and told Fox News that “something is going on”:
“I don't know what is going on, like you, I'm just, I see what I see. The coughing fit was a week ago, so I assume that was pneumonia also. So something is going on, I just hope she gets well and gets back on the trail and we'll be seeing her at the debate.”
The Clinton campaign initially explained the episode by calling it “overheating” and explained that Clinton was resting at her daughter's apartment. Later that day, Clinton's doctor revealed that Clinton was suffering from pneumonia. According to the New York Times:
[Clinton spokesperson] initially described Mrs. Clinton, the Democratic presidential nominee, as feeling “overheated” at the commemoration ceremony.
But just after 5 p.m., a campaign official said Mrs. Clinton's physician, Dr. Lisa R. Bardack, had examined the candidate at her home in Chappaqua, and Dr. Bardack said in a statement that Mrs. Clinton was “rehydrated and recovering nicely.”
“Secretary Clinton has been experiencing a cough related to allergies,” Dr. Bardack's statement said, adding that on Friday morning, after a prolonged cough, Mrs. Clinton was given a diagnosis of pneumonia.
The issue was put to rest as Clinton slowly got back to campaigning and entered debate season healthy. However, the campaign did not end well for Clinton, and according to a revealing campaign post-mortem, the critical episode of Hillary fainting could have and should have been avoided entirely.
Thomas Goulding of the Independent conducted a book review of “Shattered: Inside Hillary Clinton's Doomed Campaign,” which has served as a brutal tell-all for many failed aspects of the Clinton campaign. Within the review, the author pegs Clinton's blind loyalty to her close advisers as a major fault within the campaign.
Goulding specifically targets longtime controversial Clinton aide Huma Abedin as a person whose overprotection of Clinton exacerbated the preventable fainting episode:
When Hillary was diagnosed with pneumonia by her doctor, the closest advisor to her, Huma Abedin, kept this information guarded, with most of the rest of her team in the dark about a significant change in the candidate's health.
Goulding goes on to note that intense debate prep had left Clinton exhausted, further imperiling her health and setting her up for a fall:
As a result no-one stopped Hillary from intense debate preparation and then attendance of a September 11 memorial service, which made Clinton stagger and faint on the way to her car, giving Trump political meat to question her fitness for office. The campaign team misled the press in their initial response because Abedin hadn't properly briefed their spokespeople, and not for the first time. Like with the Clinton campaign's first response to the e-mail scandal, this only further cemented the impression of the Clintonworld misleading the public and hiding the truth.
All told, the fainting episode was turned into an object lesson in bad crisis management.
And to think it was all preventable.