At a rally in Cleveland on Monday, presidential nominee Hillary Clinton coughed several times. She reached under the podium and grabbed a glass of water, excusing the cough as a consequence of having talked so much. When the cough didn’t immediately go away, she laughed it off as an allergy to thinking about Donald Trump. The episode lasted around 20 seconds.
NBC published the clip of Clinton coughing as a Labor Day news story, under the headline “Hillary Clinton Fights Back Coughing Attack.” From there, conservative pundits took a hard turn into the shadows. Matt Drudge emblazoned the top of his still tremendously popular blog: “GETTING WORSE: CLINTON COUGH VIOLENTLY RETURNS. HEALTH STATUS UP IN THE AIR.”
The coughing spell played into a narrative that Drudge and some other media outlets have attempted to construct—and conservative politicians like Rudy Giuliani have encouraged—in which Clinton is physically unfit for the presidency. This morning, Drudge links to an article wherein “10 Prominent Doctors Question Hillary Clinton’s Health.”
Among doctors there is sometimes an inverse relationship between prominence and credibility. At Fox News, physicians can become prominent by fueling conservative narratives like the one where Clinton is covertly unwell. Their medical correspondent Marc Siegel raised ardent concerns about Clinton’s blood: “In 2012, she has a severe concussion ... then she ends up with a blood-clot in the brain, she’s on a lifetime of blood thinners. If she’s prone to falling ... guess what, if she falls and hits her head? She’ll get a blood clot on her brain.”