The bizarre conspiracy theory surrounding Hillary Clinton's health

By Gavin Fernando of news.com.au

One zoomed-in photo of a Secret Service agent standing beside Hillary Clinton holding an unidentifiable cylindrical object. Photo / Twitter
One zoomed-in photo of a Secret Service agent standing beside Hillary Clinton holding an unidentifiable cylindrical object. Photo / Twitter

All it took was one photo.

One zoomed-in photo of a Secret Service agent standing beside Hillary Clinton holding an unidentifiable cylindrical object, for the internet to collectively embrace their inner Sherlock Holmes and launch a fresh take on the Democratic candidate's health.

In this case, right-wing social media users immediately concluded that the agent was holding an autoinjector containing Diazepam, a muscle-relaxant drug used to treat seizures and anxiety.


The story was soon picked up by prime-time US news outlets, before it was finally debunked by a simple phone call - which, by the way, the blogger who started the hysteria never bothered to make.

A Secret Service spokeswoman, Nicole Mainor, confirmed that the so-called Diazepam-filled syringe was actually a flashlight.

While this rumour is now being put to rest, it's just one in a series of many that have been associated with the conspiracy around Clinton's health.

THE CONSPIRACY OVER HILLARY'S HEALTH

For a number of years now, Hillary's physical health has been the subject of much debate and scrutiny, often with the absence of medical evidence.

It's become an ongoing part of the Trump campaign, to promote the idea that Clinton is physically unwell and therefore incapable of running the country.

Just last week, Trump told a rally in Wisconsin that "Hillary Clinton doesn't have that strength and stamina" to defeat Islamic State and radical terrorism.

A day before that, he similarly said she "lacks the mental and physical stamina to take on IS, and all the many adversaries we face".

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks to supporters. Photo / AP
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks to supporters. Photo / AP

Around the same time his campaign spokesperson, Katrina Pierson, went as far as to say Clinton had dysphasia, a language defieincy provoked by brain damage.

Speaking to radio host Hugh Hewitt earlier this month, Trump described his opponent as "a total mess".

"She'll do an event, and then you don't hear from her," he said. "Kust follow where she goes... she'll do an event, she'll make a short speech off a teleprompter, and then she goes home and goes to sleep. I tell you, she is dangerous."

The motive here is pretty simple - make out that the opponent is comparatively weak, hiding that weakness from the public, and incapable of running the country as a result.

WHEN DID THE CLAIMS START?

But in 2014, Republican strategist Karl Rove infamously suggested Clinton had suffered brain damage from the incident.

"Thirty days in the hospital? And when she reappears, she's wearing glasses that are only for people who have traumatic brain injury?" he said. "We need to know what's up with that."

The whole thing, unfortunately for Rove, ended up being untrue. She was there for three days, as opposed to 30, and her longtime physician later delivered her a clean bill of health.

Rove later attempted to walk back his comments, claiming he never used the phrase 'brain damage'.

Last month, pro-Trump blogger Jim Hoft posted a video of Hillary Clinton speaking to the press a few months back.

At one point, numerous reporters pipe up from the right to ask questions at once, and she turns to them, momentarily startled.

Hoft shared the 10-second clip with the headline "Wow! Did Hilary (sic) Clinton Just Suffer A Seizure On Camera?", and wrote: "Wow! The poor woman is in worse shape than we thought."

Rumours have surrounded Clinton's health for years now.

Back in 2012, Clinton suffered a concussion, which her spokesman attributed to a stomach virus that caused the then-Secretary of State to become dehydrated and faint.

The timing of the incident - days before she was scheduled to testify over the Benghazi terror attack - led Republicans to speculate that she was faking it to avoid the inquiry.

A few weeks later, she was prescribed blood thinners to dissolve a blood clot located behind her right ear. According to her doctors, the clot did not result in any complications related to her brain.

Clinton appeared at the Benghazi tribunal and testified at length the following month.

The video went viral, and gifs of the interaction were extracted and shared repeatedly online.

AP reporter Lisa Werer, one of the reporters who prompted Clinton's startled reaction, later came out acknowledging there was no seizure.

"Perhaps eager to avoid answering or maybe just taken aback by our volume, Clinton responded with an exaggerated motion, shaking her head vigorously for a few seconds," wrote Werer. "Video of the moment shows me holding out my recorder in front of her, laughing and stepping back in surprise. After the exchange, she took a few more photos, exited the shop and greeted supporters waiting outside."

But the incident soon found its way into the mainstream media, with Fox News host Sean Hannity dedicating a week to analysing Clinton's health, using a team of "medical experts".

None of these experts had ever examined Clinton personally. As neurologist Fiona Gupta even said: "You know, it's just so hard to speculate based on snippets of the clips that, you know, what is going on without having a full examination and workup."

Likewise, Fox News medical pundit Marc Siegel called on both candidates to release their medical histories, saying he would "need to see the records" to make a judgment.

"She may very well be completely fit, but we want to know."

PIC

But despite a lack of attainable evidence, the issue of her health had still gone viral.

In a separate incident this month, a new Twitter account called '@HillsMedRecords' published what it claimed to be Hillary Clinton's leaked medical records.

The documents, allegedly written by her physician, Dr Lisa Bardack, claimed she had been diagnosed with "early-onset Subcortical Vascular Dementia" in 2013, and suffered "intensified Complex Partial Seizures" between 2013 and 2014.

Despite the fact that the documents didn't resemble standard medical records, and did not include the doctor's signature, they still made the rounds on social media as though they were factual.

This prompted Dr Bardack to release an official statement putting the rumour to rest: "As Secretary Clinton's long time physician, I released a medical statement during the campaign indicating that she is in excellent health.

"I have recently been made aware of allegedly 'leaked' medical documents regarding Secretary Clinton with my name on them. These documents are false, were not written by me and are not based on any medical facts.

"To reiterate what I said in my previous statement, Secretary Clinton is in excellent health and fit to serve as President of the United States."

How such sketchy documents penned by a random new Twitter account were passed around as fact is another mystery altogether.

SO IS HILLARY... OKAY?

Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton pauses to pose for a photograph as she talks with Jimmy Kimmel. Photo / AP
Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton pauses to pose for a photograph as she talks with Jimmy Kimmel. Photo / AP

This week, Clinton appeared on Jimmy Kimmel to put the rumours to rest. She jokingly told him to take her pulse while they spoke about it, and was later challenged to open a jar of pickles to prove she was physically fit (which she successfully did).

She dismissed the assertions over her health as "part of the wacky strategy" to undermine her candidacy.

"I don't know why they are saying this," she said.

"I think on the one hand it's part of the wacky strategy ... on the other hand it absolutely makes no sense. And I don't go around questioning Donald Trump's health. I mean, as far as I can tell he's healthy as a horse."

If it helps put the rumours to bed, physicians for both presidential candidates have declared them fit to run for office.

- news.com.au

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