Team Clinton’s dismal damage limitation strategy gifts Trump an advantage

I’m sure you’ve all seen it by now – Hillary Clinton escorted from a 9/11 memorial event after being taken ill, before nearly collapsing while being helped into her car. Even before this latest health scare, Trump’s team had consistently brought into question the health of his rival. The Clinton campaign has also come under scrutiny elsewhere, with journalists and commentators questioning some of her assertions during the election circuit. So the video, which caught Clinton on the verge of collapse when hastily leaving the event, certainly hasn’t done her campaign any favors.

Without the video evidence, Mrs Clinton’s sudden exit from the event could have been explained away as a simple case of dehydration or exhaustion. They initially took this line, but today, with every member of the public carrying a smart phone with instant access to social media, there will always be someone capturing every incident, no matter how minor.

Trump plays the waiting game
The Clinton campaign team chose not to come clean and explain that she had been taken ill. There was a firm insistence that she simply felt ‘overheated’, followed by a refusal to answer any further questions – even as to where she had been taken to recover. It was not until later that we discovered that she had been suffering from pneumonia for several days. By then the damage was done, with the social media rumor mill working overtime to churn out damaging speculation.

Most telling was the reaction of the Trump’s campaign team. They immediately realized they did not need to go on the offensive over Clinton’s near-collapse. They just sat back and let Team Clinton, the public and the media do the work for them. The damage had been done by team Clinton – Trump did not need to fan the flames.

A healthy public interest
Clinton and Trump are aged 68 and 70 years old respectively – making them two of the oldest ever Presidential candidates – so this was always going to be a topic of debate during election season.

This entire situation could have been avoided if Team Clinton had disclosed her pneumonia prior to attending the 9/11 memorial in New York. As my colleague Jamie Kightley mentioned in his recent blog on the Rio Olympics ‘PoolGate’ – a straightforward, public explanation clarifying the situation and providing some reassurance could have prevented this from being plastered straight across the front pages of the world’s media.

Jon Brown is Pitch&Place specialist at IBA International

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