Why do people hate Hillary Clinton?

Credit: Lorie Shaull

Former First Lady, Secretary of State, and presidential candidate – Hillary Clinton has a long and impressive political background, and like any politician, public opinion of her is divided.

But for some reason, people seem to take particularly strong stances on Clinton. It could be attributed to the fact that the differences between her and her last opponent (Trump) were considerable and stark. However, people have had negative views of Mrs Clinton since well before 2016.

Credit: Lorie Shaull

Hillary first became a prominent figure on the political scene in 1979 when her husband, Bill Clinton, was elected first governor of Arkansas. She was immediately a divisive character, as she had kept her maiden name – Rodham – as a part of her name. She was considered a militant feminist, at a time when feminism was thought to be radical and overly liberal. This meant that when Bill was running for president in 1992, the (still male-dominated) media picked up on the image of Hillary as being difficult and too ambitious for a politician’s wife. Therefore she was portrayed fairly negatively in papers throughout the election (and afterwards). It was deemed inappropriate by some that she was so politically active and independent – she would be the first First Lady to have had a career (she was a lawyer) before moving to the White House.
In the run up to the election there was more under criticism than just her feminist attitude. Bill Clinton’s political opponent at the time, Jerry Brown, accused him of putting government money into Hillary’s law firm. This in itself lowered people’s opinions of both of them, and garnered further distrust towards Hillary.
However, it was perhaps Hillary’s response to this that sparked the most controversy about her. When confronted by the press asking about the alleged scandal, she replied “I suppose I could have stayed home and baked cookies and had teas, but what I decided to do was to fulfil my profession, which I entered before my husband was in public life.” This caused a lot of backlash, as stay-at-home wives and mothers felt it was a direct insult to them, and it further fuelled the media’s portrayal of her as a radical, callous feminist. However, some people were strongly in support of her due to this comment – other feminists of the day – so when, in response to the negative coverage of this comment, Hillary dialled back her public image to be a lot softer, those who had originally supported her were disappointed, and those who hadn’t supported her thought of her as fake, so she lost both sides.

From there going forward, she very much took more of a backseat in Bill’s political life than she had done beforehand. However, she was still implicated in the scandals of the time -Whitewater, in which she had invested money with two people who’d used it illegally, and Travelgate, where she fired the head of the travel office. This brought her character further into question, and she was overall seen as a pretty shady person.

However, in 2000, she was elected to be a US senator, a role in which she would stay for the next seven years. She then became Obama’s Secretary of State in 2008. During these years, there weren’t really any big scandals surrounding her, so public opinion of her shot back up – but not for long.

In 2015, controversy arose when Clinton was accused of using her personal emails to send classified information. This, once again, rose the question of whether she was shady.

Although the FBI concluded that no charges should be held against her, “Hillary’s emails” were a big selling point of Trump’s campaign against her in the run up to the 2016 elections. This, along with his habit of referring to her as ‘Crooked Hillary’, inspired more distrust for her. And despite the fact that she did win the popular vote, lots of people were still extremely vocal about their dislike of her, with many saying they only voted for her because she was the lesser of two evils.

So hate for Hillary stretches further back than we may have previously thought – and little as we’d like to believe it, much of the bad feeling towards her originated simply from the fact that she was a woman who was ambitious.

In the run-up to Mrs Clinton’s appearance at Cheltenham Literature Festival on Sunday 15th October, we’ll be posting a series of articles about her and the event – plus be sure to visit our site on the day for our liveblog of her talk!


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