August 10th, 2009
11:54 PM ET
5 years ago

Lost in translation, question 'struck a nerve' with Clinton


(CNN) – The question may have been lost in translation, but a visibly angry Secretary of State Hillary Clinton bluntly told a town hall meeting in Congo on Monday: "I will you tell you my opinion, I'm not going to channel my husband."

The tense moment happened as Clinton spoke to students at a Congolese university in Kinshasa. A male student rose to ask a question about Chinese financial contracts in his country. The student asked Clinton what President Obama would think of the deal, but pool reporters in the room said the translator made a mistake and asked what Bill Clinton would think.

Clinton looked surprised when she first heard the translation in her headset, and then sharply replied, "You want me to tell you what my husband thinks? My husband is not the Secretary of State, I am. You ask my opinion, I will tell you my opinion. I'm not going to channel my husband."

At the State Department, Assistant Secretary P.J. Crowley said the question she heard "struck a nerve" - that her opinion on the matter was apparently of less interest than that of her husband, the former president.

Crowley told CNN her answer must be considered in the context of her African trip.

"The Secretary of State is going to Goma Tuesday, to draw attention to the plight of women who are victims of rape as a weapon of war" in Congo, he said. "She did react to what she heard," Crowley explained. Even if the interpreter mixed up the translation, he said, "you can't separate the question from the setting."

"If Africa, if Congo is going to advance, women have to play a more significant role," Crowley said. "She was in the setting of a town hall, and the questioner was interested in what two men thought, not the Secretary of State."

Crowley, who has just returned to Washington after traveling with Secretary Clinton during the first part of her trip to Africa, said the State Department has not yet reviewed recordings of the original question in French to learn whether the student clearly intended the question to refer to President Obama, not former President Clinton.

"She did talk with the student afterward, and they seemed to have reached an understanding," Crowley said.


Filed under: Bill Clinton • Extra • Hillary Clinton • Popular Posts • President Obama
soundoff (90 Responses)
  1. Greg

    wow-zer

    August 10, 2009 07:47 pm at 7:47 pm |
  2. S Callahan

    I'm am so PROUD of you Hillary Clinton....you were right to respond as you did...you DO have a brillant mind and set the example for all the woman of Congo that should be called on for opinion , dialogue and even government service. Well Done!!!

    August 10, 2009 09:19 pm at 9:19 pm |
  3. J.C.

    This reminds me of Senator Boxer of CA scolded Army General Walsh for calling her Ma'am, instead of Senator.

    Some French and humor would probably help this incident a lot. This is very unfortunate in diplomacy.

    August 10, 2009 09:21 pm at 9:21 pm |
  4. Guy

    That was a way of demeaning her position as secretary of state. Men in those countries see women as servants and nothing more. She gave it to him good.

    August 10, 2009 09:25 pm at 9:25 pm |
  5. Fan of Common Sense

    My goodness, what an insecure woman. You would think the only reason she got her job was because of her husband. What a silly thought. :-)

    August 10, 2009 09:33 pm at 9:33 pm |
  6. Idiot_Pelosi

    The old bag of wind thinks she is important.

    She is idologoical idiot. Almost as big of one as Obummer.

    August 10, 2009 09:38 pm at 9:38 pm |
  7. Liar and thief

    I despise Obama as he is nothing but a lying, gutless coward, BUT I thought he made a good choice of Hillary for Sec of state (he did it for political reasons foremost, but still a good choice), this however is not a GOOD SIDE OF HILLARY no matter how you Obama sheep spin it.

    She was talking to impressionable young people here and for her to hammer this poor student is UNBELIEVABLE.

    She could have verified the QUESTION again and used professional tact, she DID NOT ACT PROFESSIONAL here at all.

    The Sec of state needs to have thick skin especially considering this was overseas with YOUNG STUDENTS.

    Crowley to no suprise to me, backs the Democrat/Woman 100%, but I KNOW that she and the wanton media would not be so charitable if it was Condi "far more classy" Rice.

    I can hear the liar in chief already, "She was uh, uh, uh, uh taken out of context".............

    August 10, 2009 09:41 pm at 9:41 pm |
  8. Truth-Bomb Thrower

    The question might has well been about Bill. After all, he is the ACTING secretary of state. Everyone with an I.Q. higher than room tempurature knows the only reason Hillary got tapped for the gig was because Obama wanted to appease Bill. The woman is an empty pant suit.

    August 10, 2009 09:43 pm at 9:43 pm |
  9. 4 and the door

    wow. If she can blow up like that during a humantarian trip to the Congo, I am sure she will never get an opportunity to do a real mission, like "rescuing" journalists from North Korea.

    The best thing Obama has done was to beat Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination. Her ego is embarrassing enough as Secretary of State...

    August 10, 2009 09:43 pm at 9:43 pm |
  10. Ohio Annie

    Yes, I understood why Hillary Clinton responded this way. She was annoyed for all women who have been marginalized, particularly in Africa. I do not think that it was a matter of ego at all.

    August 10, 2009 09:44 pm at 9:44 pm |
  11. Kimberly in Oregon

    I love her. I cant wait to see her become president in 8 years....She is going to win HANDS DOWN!!!

    August 10, 2009 09:46 pm at 9:46 pm |
  12. AMN

    Wowwwww...............
    I understand her irritation, it must be tough trying to carve out her own place in world politics since her husband is so popular. But she has to understand that in some countries, men's opinions are more highly valued than women. I hope this doesn't make Congolese think that Americans are rude and arrogant, though.

    August 10, 2009 09:51 pm at 9:51 pm |
  13. Doraine Gordon

    Good for Hillary! Nobody is going to make anything off of that girl. She is such a smart lady and we are so lucky to have her as Secretary Of State. Obama made a great choice when he picked Hillary. I know he wishes he had more like her. She's a jewel!

    August 10, 2009 09:55 pm at 9:55 pm |
  14. Davif

    Poor Hillary! Trying to step out of the shadow of Bill must be tough, despite being First Lady and a US Senator, and now Secretary of State.

    August 10, 2009 09:58 pm at 9:58 pm |
  15. SL

    I love her.

    August 10, 2009 10:02 pm at 10:02 pm |
  16. smb

    Whoop-pish!! Get it, Hillary!!! Nobody puts you in a corner!

    August 10, 2009 10:13 pm at 10:13 pm |
  17. jen

    Good for her! Make us proud please.

    August 10, 2009 10:20 pm at 10:20 pm |
  18. M J

    That was not a good moment for someone who is usually very disciplined. Of course Carville was lame trying to fend off the media spin-go away James.

    August 10, 2009 10:24 pm at 10:24 pm |
  19. Loren

    Typical Hilllary, She is a hag, on an egotistical, self important, and self serving power trip. This is a great example of why a women like her should never become president. She lacks any self control.

    August 10, 2009 10:24 pm at 10:24 pm |
  20. lil

    Thats right, you go girls.

    August 10, 2009 10:25 pm at 10:25 pm |
  21. Kdgreat

    It doesn't matter if the person meant to ask of Bill Clinton, Barack Obama, or Hillary's opinion. If she wouldn't have reacted to the same question in America the way she did in Congo then she needs some education. I am African, and we respect our women far more than in this country. As a matter of fact, most of the exploitation of women in Africa and other less developed parts of the world is done by Westerners. They are the ones who take these ladies to Europe and America and turn them into sex slaves and what have you.

    August 10, 2009 10:26 pm at 10:26 pm |
  22. Tsshhh

    I'm not much of a Hillary Clinton fan, BUT, give her a break here. She was asked an inappropriate question. The translator made a booboo; it's still inappropriate. Hillary is allowed to get annoyed if she's insulted. I'm still not a fan, but she entitled to her reaction. Let her do her job and have human reactions.

    August 10, 2009 10:29 pm at 10:29 pm |
  23. Johnny DC

    So clever... to insult a foreign student with a witty response. Bravo, Madame First Lady Secretary Clinton. Way to show off that Liberal arrogance that everybody has come to love.

    August 10, 2009 10:29 pm at 10:29 pm |
  24. Robert

    The actual translation was: "Thank you. Mrs. Clinton, weve all heard about the Chinese contracts in this country. The interference is from the World Bank against this contract. What does Mr. Clinton think through the mouth of Mrs. Clinton and what does Mr. Mutombo think on this situation? Thank you very much."

    I am proud of Hillary!!!! You go girl!!!!

    August 10, 2009 10:33 pm at 10:33 pm |
  25. Sergio

    Whew! She has an even thinner skin than Obama.

    August 10, 2009 10:33 pm at 10:33 pm |
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