NEW YORK - An ill Hillary Clinton abruptly left a 9/11 anniversary ceremony Sunday and needed to be held up by three people before she appeared to stumble off a curb and was helped into a van. Several hours later, her campaign revealed she had been diagnosed with pneumonia Friday and advised to rest.
Less than two months from Election Day, it was an unwanted visual for Clinton as she tries to project the strength and vigor needed for one of the world’s most demanding jobs. Republican rival Donald Trump has spent months questioning Clinton’s health, saying she lacks the stamina to be president.
In a statement, Clinton’s doctor said the former secretary of state had become overheated and dehydrated at the event in Lower Manhattan. “I have just examined her and she is now rehydrated and recovering nicely,” Dr. Lisa Bardack said.
The physician said Clinton has had an allergy-related cough and that during a follow-up examination Friday, the candidate was diagnosed with pneumonia, put on antibiotics, and advised to rest and modify her schedule.
Clinton’s departure from the event was not witnessed by the reporters who travel with her campaign and aides provided no information about why she left or her whereabouts for nearly two hours. Spokesman Nick Merrill eventually said Clinton had gone to her daughter’s nearby apartment, but refused to say whether the former secretary of state had required medical attention.
Clinton exited the apartment on her own shortly before noon. She waved to reporters and said, “I’m feeling great. It’s a beautiful day in New York.”
In the meantime, a video surfaced on Twitter that showed Clinton being held up by aides as a black van pulls up. She stumbles and appears to fall off the curb as she is helped inside.
After leaving her daughter’s, Clinton was driven to her home in Chappaqua, New York, and made no public appearances. She later called off plans to fly to California on Monday morning for two days of fundraising, campaign events and an appearance on Ellen DeGeneres’ talk show.
Trump, who attended the same event marking the 15th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, was noticeably restrained.
Asked by a reporter about Clinton’s health incident, Trump said, “I don’t know anything.”
The incident compounds an already difficult stretch for Clinton as the presidential race enters its final stretch. Despite Trump’s numerous missteps, the race remains close and many Americans view Clinton as dishonest and untrustworthy.
On Friday, Clinton told donors that “half” of Trump’s supporters are in a “basket of deplorables” — a comment that drew sharp criticism from Republicans. Clinton later said she regretted applying that description to “half” of Trump’s backers, but stuck by her assertion that the GOP nominee has given a platform to “hateful views and voices.”
Now Clinton is sure to face new questions about whether she’s physically fit for the presidency.
Trump and his supporters have been hinting at potential health issues for months, questioning Clinton’s stamina when she takes routine days off the campaign trail and reviving questions about a concussion she sustained in December 2012 after fainting. Her doctor attributed that episode to a stomach virus and dehydration.
Clinton’s doctor reported she is fully recovered from the concussion, which led to temporary double vision and discovery of a blood clot in a vein in the space between her brain and skull. Clinton also has experienced deep vein thrombosis, a clot usually in the leg, and takes the blood thinner Coumadin to prevent new clots.
Clinton spent about 90 minutes at the 9/11 event Sunday, standing alongside numerous other dignitaries, including Chuck Schumer and Kirstin Gillibrand, New York’s Democratic senators.
The weather was warm and humid in New York on Sunday, and there was a breeze at the crowded memorial plaza during the ceremony.
New York Democratic Rep. Joe Crowley said he spent time before the ceremony chatting with Clinton and watching her sign autographs and take pictures. He said he was standing behind her during the remembrance and “she did not seem out of the ordinary at all.”
“It was stiflingly hot. I was sweating through my shirt,” Crowley said. “I had to leave myself. I drank about a gallon (4 liters) of water.”
Schumer said he also spoke with Clinton during the event and saw her leave “on her own accord.”
Trump’s personal physician has said the Republican presidential nominee is in excellent health both physically and mentally. But the 70-year-old has refused to release his own health records.
Dr. Harold Bornstein’s report last December remains the only medical information released so far by the Trump campaign. Bornstein told NBC News he needed just five minutes to write a glowing public assessment of Trump’s health as a limousine waited to carry the letter back to Trump.