Fact-checking Hillary Clinton's 'dead broke' comment and her book
By Louis Jacobson
Published on Tuesday, June 10th, 2014 at 6:31 p.m.
Hillary Clinton’s new, 656-page book, Hard Choices, was making news even before it was released. During a pre-book-release interview with ABC, Diane Sawyer pressed Clinton on a reported haul of $5 million in speaking fees.
"You have no reason to remember, but we came out of the White House not only dead broke, but in debt," Clinton responded. "We had no money when we got there, and we struggled to piece together the resources for mortgages for houses, for Chelsea's education. It was not easy. Bill has worked really hard. And it's been amazing to me. He's worked very hard."
Republicans called the claim laughable and the next day Clinton clarified, again on ABC, that she and Bill had done very well over the past 14 years.
"We have a life experience that is clearly different in very dramatic ways from many Americans," Clinton said. "But we also have gone through some of the same challenges many people have."
As we kicked off a spurt of fact-checking Hard Choices, we made sure to take a closer look at Clinton’s claim of being "dead broke" when their time in the White House ended after December 2000.
We found that the public record shows that the Clintons may have had more liabilities than assets, but it doesn’t show that conclusively. More important, looking at the question through a balance sheet alone does not tell the full story. Experts say the Clintons’ future earning potential had a real economic value that the financial sector traditionally acknowledges and is willing to bank on.
Indeed, a few weeks before they left the White House, the Clintons were able to muster a cash down payment of $855,000 and secure a $1.995 million mortgage. This hardly fits the common meaning of "dead broke. We rated the claim Mostly False.
Here’s our first fact-check from the book itself:
In Hard Choices, Clinton took some pride in Afghanistan’s quality-of-life improvements during her tenure as secretary of state.
"By the time I left State, the Afghans had made progress," Clinton wrote. "Economic growth was up and opium production was down. Infant mortality declined by 22 percent. Under the Taliban only 900,000 boys and no girls had been enrolled in schools. By 2010, 7.1 million students were enrolled, and nearly 40 percent of them were girls."
We found her claims about school enrollment, infant mortality, and economic growth to be basically accurate, but the data on opium production shows her claim to be somewhat exaggerated. We rated the claim Mostly True.
See original Truth-O-Meter items.
Names in this article: Hillary Clinton
We want to hear your suggestions and comments.
For tips or comments on our Obameter and our GOP-Pledge-O-Meter promise databases, please e-mail the Obameter. If you are commenting on a specific promise, please include the wording of the promise.For comments about our Truth-O-Meter or Flip-O-Meter items, please e-mail the Truth-O-Meter. We’re especially interested in seeing any chain e-mails you receive that you would like us to check out. If you send us a comment, we'll assume you don't mind us publishing it unless you tell us otherwise.
Keep up to date with Politifact :
- Sign up for our e-mail (about once a week)
- Put a free PolitiFact widget on your blog or Web page
- Subscribe to our RSS feeds on Truth-O-Meter items
- Subscribe to our RSS feeds on GOP Pledge-O-Meter items
- Subscribe to our RSS feeds on Obameter items
- Advertise on PolitiFact
- Shop the PolitiFact store for T-shirts, hats and other PolitiFact swag