Critics and conspiracy theorists went on the attack after Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton suffered a coughing fit while speaking at a campaign event in Cleveland, Ohio, on Monday.
The hashtag #HackingHillary was trending on Twitter as users speculated wildly about Clinton’s health.
GOP nominee Donald Trump – who has repeatedly suggested that Clinton lacks the “physical stamina” to be president – took to Twitter on Tuesday to call for more media coverage of his opponent’s coughing fit.
“Mainstream media never covered Hillary’s massive ‘hacking’ or coughing attack, yet it is #1 trending. What’s up?” he tweeted.
Clinton invoked Trump’s name to joke off the coughing episode, telling supporters at the rally, “I’ve been talking so much. Every time I think about Trump, I get allergic.” Campaign aides later said seasonal allergies were the culprit.
But the same media outlets and commentators who have stoked concerns over Clinton’s health throughout the election are now using her coughing fit as more fuel for the fire.
Fox News’ Sean Hannity, who previously launched a week-long investigation into the largely debunked claim that Clinton has seriously health issues, said on his radio show Tuesday that Trump is outpacing Clinton energy-wise “10 to 1” – “her and her coughing fits.”
The Drudge Report on Tuesday featured multiple photos and stories about Clinton’s coughing under the headline “CHOKE!”
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And Fox and Friends host Ainsley Earhardt suggested Clinton talked to the press onboard her plane after Monday’s rally in an effort to “divert attention away from [her] hacking.”
“We all have allergies, we all have our coughing spells but it doesn’t look good when you have all of these conspiracy theories about her health,” Earhardt said. “And I’m sure when she was at the podium she was freaking out, thinking, ‘Oh my gosh, what am I going to say?’ She came up with that clever line, which diverted the attention. Everyone started clapping, thinking she came up with a good line. Then she goes on her plane and I think she thought, ‘I needed to divert attention away from my hacking, from my coughing so let me speak to the press.’ And that’s why she went on the plane and was so excited. Then she started coughing on the plane.”
Clinton’s doctor released a letter last summer saying she is in “excellent” health and “fit to serve” as president.
“So,” The Washington Post‘s Chris Cillizza writes, “to believe that something is seriously wrong with Clinton, you have to a) assume her doctor lied and b) that her coughing, which often happens when someone catches a cold or spends a lot of time speaking publicly, is a symptom of her deeper, hidden illness.”
“That seems, um, unlikely to me?”