Coughing Fit Ethics

From The Daily Caller:

“Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton struggled at an Ohio event Monday with a nearly two minute-long coughing fit.”

From The Washington Post website:

“Clinton jokes about Trump allergy during rally”

As of the time I’m writing this, the New York Times mentions nothing about Clinton’s coughing fit, either on its website, or in its hard copy edition. Not does the Post, which I just had delivered to me despite having cancelled our subscription weeks ago, mention the coughing. None of the major networks covered her coughing fit yesterday.

What’s going on here?

Good question, and not just from the usual ethics analysis perspective, which often starts with this query. What is going on with Hillary?

1. I have no idea. I do know that when I have two-minute coughing fits, it means that I’m sick. It doesn’t mean I’m dying, but if the cough becomes chronic, I see a doctor. Hillary Clinton has been having coughing episodes during speeches and televised appearances for quite some time, though none this severe. However, a Presidential candidate having a coughing fit while speaking is the news item, not the joke she makes to recover. (By the way, that was quick thinking by Hillary, and I admire the quip…unless she had it pre-planned in case she had a coughing fit.).  She is in her late sixties. There are some doubts about her health. A presidential campaign is grueling for anyone; I’m amazed it hasn’t incapacitated a candidate yet. The fact that the conservative, Hillary-hating news media is all over this story is expected, but that doesn’t mean their attention isn’t valid and responsible journalism. The news media has an ethical obligation to investigate and let the public know whether or not a candidate for President is fit, temporarily under the weather, or suffering from some more serious malady that might affect his or her ability to do the job.

2. The initial reaction of most of the mainstream media was to shrug off this story, bury it, or ignore it, while the conservative news media was almost gleefully running with it, especially Drudge, who has been chronicling Hillary’s chronic cough for a long time. MSNBC even cut from its live feed away mid-fit, which is inexcusable, but exactly the kind of reflex Clinton-protecting we are seeing more and more frequently. This is another smoking gun example of the unprofessional and dangerous partisan bias in the media, as well as the reason why  rational Americans should be grateful that there are right-slanting news sources to prevent journalists and liberal politicians collaborating in cover-ups.

3. The comics and celebrities, as well as liberal pundits, are going to look very bad if their mockery of those asking legitimate questions about Clinton ends up being rebutted by facts. They already look bad. Some have equated concerns about Clinton’s health with the Obama birth certificate controversy, coining the term “healthers,” to set up legitimate inquiries for condemnation as bias or derangement. New York Times columnist Frank Bruni submitted a satirical column about suspicions that Hillary has “an 11th toe,” writing…

“I don’t have the medical records. She refuses to release them. But just try to come up with some other explanation for why she’s so infrequently photographed in sandals or flip-flops; why she seldom appears barefoot in public; why, during debates, she keeps her legs, especially the lower halves, tucked carefully behind the lectern…She’s covering something up, and it’s that freakish, disqualifying digit.”

On CBS “Late Night, ” host Stephen Colbert said he was shocked to learn that he has started menopause, using the same method of medical research Clinton critics are basing questions about her health upon: searching the web.

The Clinton health issue on the liberal side is entering Jumbo territory: “Coughing fits? What coughing fits?”

4. The mainstream media’s double standard could not be more glaring. Journalists obsessed over John McCain’s age and his melanoma removal during the 2008 campaign, as they celebrated Obama’s youth and energy. The incidents and circumstantial evidence relating to Hillary Clinton’s health  and suggesting that there may be a problem have reached the point where the question demands a full and aggressive media inquiry. Her serious fall and concussion are well documented. She appears unsteady in many photographs. She uses steps to get into her car. She appears to be avoiding live interviews and press conferences. She used her concussion as an explanation for why she couldn’t remember State protocols for her e-mails. She has coughing fits. It could all add up to nothing, and it could be something. The array raises legitimate doubts, and since we are talking about the Clintons, there is no reason to believe the Hillary’s camp’s reassurances. We know she lies, and that her staff lies for her. The public has a right to know what, if anything, is going on with her health.

5. The conservative website WND has mostly excellent coverage of the coughing fit (and apparently a second Clinton suffered talking to reporters on her plane). It also has statements from several physicians who argue that it is completely legitimate for doctors to raise questions about Clinton’s health. Said one of them, Dr. Jane Orient, M.D., executive director of the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons:

“I’m not making a diagnosis. I can look at the video. You can look .For a or a medical professional to simply ignore the evidence would be completely reckless…Meeting someone with these symptoms personally would require a “How are you?” These are not ridiculous questions.”

[UPDATE: I forgot to note, as I intended, that one of the ways the WND story is NOT excellent is that it perpetuates the current false accusation that CNN’s Dr. Drew Pinsky had his show cancelled because he questioned Hillary’s health in a radio interview. The game is classic post hoc ergo propter hoc nonsense: his show’s cancellation was announced after his statement, hence it must have been cancelled because of his statement. Dr. Drew has debunked this himself, though he confirmed that the blowback from CNN after his statement was severe.]

6. Of course they aren’t. But just as some journalists have suggested that the perceived special danger posed by Donald Trump justifies the psychiatric profession diagnosing his supposed mental instability from afar, that same perceived danger seems to be causing journalists to rationalize ignoring troubling health symptoms from his opposition. The reasoning clinician Hal Brown used in his post on the Daily Kos to argue for professionals issuing  opinions regarding Trump’s narcissism applies with even more force to Hillary’s physical symptoms.

7. I don’t know why the anti-Trump news media isn’t eagerly covering Clinton’s health problems. Tim Kaine, bland and wishy-washy as he is, wasn’t a terrible governor of Virginia (where I live). He’s much more trustworthy and honest than Hillary–heck, virtually anyone in public life is. He’d be an easy choice over Trump; I’d even feel better about voting for Hillary knowing that it was likely that she wouldn’t finish her term. Hillary can lose to Trump, who, whatever else one might think about him, always shows energy and appears to be younger than he is, like Ronald Reagan. Watch what happens in the polls when Clinton has a two-minute coughing fit during a debate, and defaults to the same line about being allergic to Trump.

8. Earlier, I wrote about how the bias on both sides of the news media ideological divide made it impossible for someone seeking the truth to know who to believe regarding Hillary Clinton’s health. Well, now there is something we can believe: our eyes.


Sources: WMD, The Gateway Pundit, BizPac Review, NBC News, ABC 

60 thoughts on “Coughing Fit Ethics

  1. I am wondering if the coughing isn’t a means to distract from a question that she does not wish to answer. I have not seen her finish what she was saying after each coughing episode.

      • A two-minute coughing fit is not just being a little dry. Three years ago they were tearing apart the office near my area, and there was so much dust that I got to the point of not only having lengthy coughing fits but being unable to finish a sentence without coughing. It stopped after the work stopped, but not before I had to have a chest x-ray and a tuberculosis test and was prescribed cough syrup with codeine (that also tasted like grape lollipops, making me wonder how easy it would be to get addicted). Had I continued to breathe in this dust I would probably have been looking at a permanent problem. This has been going on for long enough with HRC that there should be some questions, true.

        It’s also not the first time a presidential candidate or a president has had serious medical issues and buried them: Wilson (stroke), JFK (Addison’s disease, PTSD, crippling back pain), FDR (crazy high blood pressure), Chester Arthur (Bright’s disease), Grover Cleveland (cancer), and probably Reagan (beginnings of Alzheimers) all had major issues and hid them.

        The fact is that the mainstream media is used to the cushy gig they had during eight years of Obama, where they could just put it in park and coast, occasionally printing a press release and occasionally attacking someone from the other side, but mostly leaving it to the professional leftists to rip into those that needed to get ripped into. They want four or even eight more years where they can just coast, at the end of which, hopefully, the Democratic party and its policies will be so entrenched at the top that they will never have to seriously cover the presidency again. They want Clinton, who, although not loved universally, is close enough to Bill to be loved sector-wide. Kaine is like the groom at a wedding, needs to be there, but not at all important. The thought is probably that Clinton will smooth the way for Corey Booker (Cuomo as a white man is probably out of the running because he would represent a step backwards) and then he will smooth the way for, hopefully, the first gay president or the first Muslim president, eventually both.

        You see, the mainstream media is so much smarter than everyone else that it’s their job to show us what to think, what to believe, and how to vote, and afterwards to tell us see, everything’s fine, there was no need to be such a worrywart. You just keep doing your job and paying your taxes, and everything will be perfectly all right except the very occasional thing that slips through the cracks.

        • FDR and you went with crazy high blood pressure?

          Polio? The fact that he could not stand?

          With Reagan, I am not sure the press knew about that. I didn’t think Alzheimer’s was that well known. His dementia was more of a joke than a clinical fact.


          • Dementia is not a joke.

            I’m sorry, I couldn’t resist.

            Reagan’s Alzheimer’s may well have kicked in by the end of his Presidency. Losing more than half his blood when he was shot didn’t help matters either.

            • Jack, I don’t get it. Seriously, I think the press joked about Reagan as an old man and we now suspect he had some dementia. But, they definitely covered for JFK and FDR. Did they know about Wilson’s stroke? I don’t know. And, now doctors have said Cleveland’s behavior looks like obstructive sleep apnea.

              Anyway, my point is that the press covered some stuff up, but others they did not know.

              The bigger point: I despise Clinton’s corruption and would not vote for her, but her health causes me greater concern. I could tolerate her extreme corruptness even though j won’t vote for her. But, a medical issue is a whole different issue. It disqualifies her on a whole different level.


    • I thought this as well. As a freshman in the Texas A&M corps of cadets, we were handed a large block of military skills we had to memorize perfectly in addition too hundred or so “facts about Texas A&M” which ranged from quick blurbs answering simple questions like “in what year was A&M the national champion in football?” (1939) to more in depth question like: “what was Governor Richard Coke’s advice to students in 1876?” (“…to the students: let your watchword be duty, and know no other talisman of success than labor. Let honor be your guiding star in your dealings with your superiors, your fellows, with all. Be as true to a trust reposed as the needle to the pole, stand by the right even to the sacrifice of life itself, and learn that death is preferable to dishonor.”).

      Our group of freshman…about 18 of us in our particular company, would be drilled and questioned for about an hour every afternoon. Mistakes led to push-ups and worse. I remember one particular cadet who didn’t put in the effort to memorize the knowledge and be able to recite it upon questioning – much to our anger when we started getting punished for her mistakes.

      We all noticed also, that she developed a tendency to start coughing when it was her turn to answer questions she wasn’t rehearsed for in hopes it would buy her time or even get upperclassmen to move to the next freshman. (It didn’t.) and we finally called her out on her fakery.

      It’s a sign a weakness and unpreparedness. And if true in Hillary’s case, a sign on disqualifyingly vast unpreparedness for the office.

      Third party here’s me vote. (Still)

      • Tex, it’s a ridiculous theory after the Monday fit: she wasn’t asked a question! She was making a speech! She looks sick and it raised serious questions! The phenomenon you mention is real (giggling is the same thing), but irrelevant to the issue.

        The polling suggests that the third party voting is coming from Hillary’s votes more than Trump’s, and in my assessment, the same as voting for Trump.

        • Jack’s right. When I made that statement I was thinking about other times when the coughing began. The most notable one that came to mind was during the 11 hr. Benghazi hearing. The episode on the the airplane was not preceded by a question.

  2. FDR was deteriorating before everyone’s eyes in late ’44 and into ’45. Legitimate concerns were raised about his health and they ended up faking a doctor’s report to make people think he was the picture of vitality. Even if Mrs. Clinton gets a check-up, I doubt it would be released and, if it was, we have no assurances that it would be any more candid than Roosevelt’s.

  3. What I found more disturbing is a question that was posed to Clinton aboard her plane. The reporter asked her to comment on “Conspiracy theories” on her health. Nice way to frame the question – sycophant

  4. Your number 3 reminded me of my mindset back during the McCain campaign. I had nothing against McCain, but Palin was just so unpalatable… I think that was an impressionable, younger me buying hook line and sinker a media narrative (and she could see Russia from her porch, don’t’cha know?)… But the point is that had I been an impressionable, young, American voter, I might have stayed home or even voted Obama based on nothing but the spectre of McCain dying and leaving Palin in charge.

    It was… effective. And in a way I don’t think this can be. No one likes Clinton, her unfavorables are through the bloody roof. No one likes Trump for that matter. Either of their VP picks almost by definition have to be more popular than them, you’d think their impending demise might actually draw people to the ticket, rather than away from it.

    Regardless: Just want to point out: You don’t get to say that Hillary’s health is “only being pointed out because she’s a woman” after the McCain treatment. But you just wait and count the hacks willing to tout that line.

      • I think even his ostensible ‘supporters’ wouldn’t actually be his supporters if there had been a better candidate with similar views. Even the people who supported him purely on things like the wall… Let’s face it… You can’t logically support Trump on the issues without suffering from multiple personality disorder… His positions change every 5 minutes. Is he building the wall or isn’t he? Will he deport 11 million people or won’t he?

    • Hey Talent, you haven’t much to be humble about, vide the ‘see Russia from my porch’ quote was from an SNL routine, and was never said by Palin.

  5. Wait: Jack, you have TWO #3s. Well, on the screen. Damn! Now I have to actually read about this witch, to see if you intended that…

  6. Well karma catches up with you sooner or later. Time to send Hillary to an old folks home where she belongs. Trump looks healthy enough though. Maybe he will learn to put his brain in gear before he opens his mouth.

  7. Okay, a quick comment here. I don’t know what’s up with Hillary’s health — but I do know that Dr. Orient is not the sort of person you want to ask or cite about it.

    The Association of American Physicians and Surgeons is a political advocacy group dedicated to promoting a variety of scientifically-questionable and “alt-right” positions. A quick survey of the latest issue of their so-called “journal” finds a featured article arguing that diagnostic X-rays help prevent cancer (“Avoiding Diagnostic Imaging, Not Low-Dose
    Radiation, Is the Real Health Risk”) and an article arguing that health-workers should not be required to get flu shots (“Mandatory Influenza Vaccinations for Medical Workers: the Degradation of Ethics”). Other pieces include one on the allegedly-urgent need for an improved national network of radiation-detectors, and an editorial arguing against third-party payment schemes in medicine (“Uncle Sam Goes to the Doctor”).

    This is actually quite tame for them. They oppose any form of government involvement in the provision or regulation of health care (as exemplified by a 2001 resolution to “promote the immediate repeal of all laws, regulations, and policies that allow direct or de facto supervision or control over the practice of medicine by federal officers or employees”). They deride the FDA’s existence as unconstitutional, oppose public health programs on principle (“The Tyranny of Public Health”). Their 2006 newsletter opposed the concept of a standard of care and of evidence-based medicine. They oppose abortion (a 2003 resolution makes this quite explicitly clear).

    Then they get really cranky. Take this 1999 quote from a piece in their “journal”, written by a board member: “Humanists employ the slight of hand linguist trick of substituting the religion of evolutionary humanism for the creation religion of Jehovah by tagging the latter ‘religion, forbidden by the First Amend-ment’ and the former ‘scientific fact.’ Both labels, like humanism itself, are conspiratorial fabrications.”

    They give a venue (at least) to AIDS denialism and antivaccinationism. They oppose fluoridation of water supplies and vaccine mandates of all kinds. They oppose the notion of shaken-baby syndrome, arguing that it’s really a form of vaccine damage (or a variety of other things). I could go on, but I think I’ve made my point.

    Any media report that takes Dr. Orient — or her organization — seriously as a physician and source of expert testimony is at least questionable.

    • I don’t know enough about Dr Orient to make a comment. Some of the poisons that AAPS has taken seem pretty nutty to me such as HIV doesn’t cause AIDS. However, the government has no right to access the medical records of anybody without a warrant and AAPS sued the government for doing that.

    • Thanks for that—I assumed it, given the source. And yet it goes to the earlier post about ad hominem attacks: i published her comment because, whatever her bias, it seems reasonable. Here’s the entirelty of the quote:

      “I’m not making a diagnosis.” OKAY.

      “I can look at the video. You can look.” TRUE.

      “For a or a medical professional to simply ignore the evidence would be completely reckless.” Is this wrong? If I told my doctor I has a two minute coughing fit, he’s be concerned. (I just asked him)

      Meeting someone with these symptoms personally would require a “How are you?” TRUE. Right?

      “These are not ridiculous questions.” No, they aren’t.

      I agree with you: she’s not an unbiased source. I quoted her because she made sense, If she doesn’t to you, let me know.

    • Any media report that takes Dr. Orient — or her organization — seriously as a physician and source of expert testimony is at least questionable.

      Considering the source was World Nut Daily–Birther Central–this is unsurprising.

      • Also, Jack, you have the website abbreviated to WMD, in both the article and the tags. It’s WND. Unless you’re making a subtle point about that site’s weaponization of ignorance…

      • Deal with what was said, not who says it. I’ve been very clear on this point: since the mainstream media is irresponsibly refusing to do due diligence, we have no alternatives but to rely on sources like WND for just a collection of the facts.

        Don’t play this game: It’s dishonest, and I resent it. So thanks to embargoing by “respectable” media, any reference to the story using the only sources covering it at all gets mocked. I expect better here. In fact, I insist on it.

  8. I look at both Clinton and Trump and see the Stay Puff Marshmallow Man. I have no idea what type of nutrition or exercise they do, but will take a wild guess that both could be a matching set of couch potatoes. I do have my ingrained prejudices.

    I will be 72 in a few weeks and generally run five to six miles a day. A long time gym rat who finally had to give up all other sports over chronic hamstring issues. Last week my once a week speed workout was 28:01 for 5K. Yes – I like to brag about that! I love getting on the trails and running with the dogs.

    Clinton, Obama, Bush I and II, Carter, Ford all had some interests in staying fit. It sets a positive example and is also crucial for health – especially mental health. Neither Clinton nor Trump appears to give a hoot. I suspect that both have some degree of health issues that are not public nor will they be. I doubt either will be able to complete four years in office free of serious physical breakdown.

  9. The WND website is an extremist hate group, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center.

    However, I’m pretty sure the Burger King Kid’s Club is also an extremist hate group according to the Southern Poverty Law Center.

  10. I have no idea Hillary’s health or fitness to sustain office, however I have had coughing fits just like that, as long or longer and tried to continue speaking through it and my voice broke just like hers. NOT because I was ill, but because I inhaled my own spit while speaking and once the coughing cascade began, it would not end – to the point of gagging and retching. SO embarrassing!! I think too much is being made of this. She looks pretty damn good for a 70 year old, better than any I know. Trump looks okay for 70 too. I’m sure none is in the shape of Obama and Michelle, but I would not expect them to. If we are so worried about the health of our leaders perhaps we ought not nominate senior citizens.

    • I speak for a living, and if I have a coughing fit, I’m sick. Your problem seems strange to me. I believe you, but it’s strange. As I said, its impossible to tell. However, I have never heard or read about any Presidential candidate having that kind of a spell on the stump. I do recall that the press mocked Marco Rubio mercilessly for taking a drink of water during a live televised address. That was news. The coughing fit wasn’t. Boy, these standards are hard to figure out…

      • Jack Marshall said, “I do recall that the press mocked Marco Rubio mercilessly for taking a drink of water during a live televised address. That was news. The coughing fit wasn’t. Boy, these standards are hard to figure out…”

        There are some times that I really appreciate the way your mind works.

          • It’s not necessarily the fact’s pointed out that, it’s the method of delivery that I enjoy; I could see that one being delivered through the proscenium. Not many have that kind of skill.

            I just bet you have enough life experiences and the skills to write a thoughtful and yet humorous straight play.

  11. Jack,
    Is it possible that two minutes of watching an old lady hack just isn’t interesting television and that’s why it cut the live feed?

  12. I’ve had the same thought about Tim Kaine’s qualifications and sort of hoped a vote for Imelda would be a vote for Kaine. But can you imagine Bill Clinton acceding to a Tim Kaine upon Imelda’s becoming incapacitated? We’d have a true Clinton restoration at that point. Bill would pull a complete Al Haig and be running the country in a heartbeat and the mainstream media would consider that just fine and dandy. They’d cover the charade as long as necessary. And who’d be the next Democratic nominee? Can you say “I’m with Chelsea?” Sure you can.

    The Clintons really are the Snopes brought to life.

  13. How weird is this?

    On the New York City morning radio show ‘The Breakfast Club’ on Tuesday, Hillary Clinton laughed off her third coughing fit in two days after the host said she sounded like someone who was using medicinal marijuana.

    “I could use some,” Hillary laughed as she took a sip of coffee.

      • Then there’s this:

        MSNBC’s Mika Brzezinski Against Showing Video Of Clinton Coughing: “I Don’t Like It, I Don’t Want To Show It”

        The hosts of Morning Joe debated whether or not to show the video of Hillary Clinton’s lengthy episode of coughing on the campaign trail on Labor Day.

        “What you see is what you get with these candidates. [Trump is] trying to make it look like Hillary Clinton is sick or something because she coughed… I don’t want to show it,” co-host Mika Brzezinski said. “It’s silly.”

        “I thought you wanted to,” repied Joe. “I wasn’t even going to bring it up.”

        After viewing the video, Brzezinski says: “She’s awesome. Not sick.”


        MIKA BRZEZINSKI, MSNBC: What you see is what you get with these candidates. We have a lot to get to this morning. I will just start with what Trump is leading with, trying to make it look like Hillary Clinton is sick or something because she coughed.

        I want to know where Tim Kaine was when he was clapping behind her for two minutes. If I had a coughing fit what would you [Joe] do? You would probably take over and help out. Tim Kaine, what are you doing? You’d probably take over and help me out.

        Tim Kaine, step up, take the mic. Get her a drink of water.

        JOE SCARBOROUGH: [Tim Kaine] is a little awkward. And we have all of the conspiracy theories. Somebody was asking me, ohh, is this proof–

        BRZEZINSKI: It happens. You help out.

        SCARBOROUGH: It’s a tough schedule. It’s a really rough schedule and some times you cough and do stuff like that.

        BRZEZINSKI: I don’t really want to — She doesn’t, that’s just B.S. … It’s silly.

        I’m not — I don’t — I don’t want to show it.

        SCARBOROUGH: I thought you wanted to. I wasn’t even going to bring it up.

        BRZEZINSKI: This goes on for two minutes, and Tim Kaine just sits there. Grab the mic!

        She’s awesome. Not sick.

        SHE’S AWESOME. NOT SICK? Huh? Can anyone imagine Sam Donaldson saying any politician was awesome? Today’s word is “pandering.”

  14. About Clinton’s cough attack.

    I have cough attacks that are quite similar to Clinton’s. Mine stem from acid-reflex related irritation and once the coughing starts it’s really difficult to get it to stop without using something like Chloraseptic to temporarily numb the sensation; this stuff works well for me, a couple of applications and the cough attack is over.

    Based on personal experience, that coughing episode doesn’t bother me and I’m not going to make a pile of assumptions based on a cough attack, we’re all human and shit happens. What bothers me is the blatant unethical hypocrisy of the media’s reporting or lack of reporting in this.

    • And see, I feel like I’ve seen more news stories on Clinton’s coughing fit than stories covering Trump’s latest bribery scandal. But that could be me; I haven’t done any kind of research to see which has been covered more by the MSM.

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