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. Kathy

    Hillary has every right to be angry. She knows if Obama hadn't played dirty in the primaries and used fake donors to raise his coffers, she'd have been the person running against McCain. The translation was a slap in the face, and I'm sure it wasn't in error as they are now saying...

    August 10, 2009 10:33 pm at 10:33 pm |
  2. conservative

    My My ;what an egotistical power babe ! She should have said Bill who because that Psuedo relationship was all about attaining personal power!

    August 10, 2009 10:35 pm at 10:35 pm |
  3. SR

    I think she was appropriately annoyed.

    August 10, 2009 10:36 pm at 10:36 pm |
  4. Ohio Lady

    The translation was an insult to Hillary, and so she reacted. So what? We were just in India and saw how well Hillary represented the United States. We were so proud of her!! One of her appearances was in St. Xavier's College in Mumbai where she discussed with teachers and future teachers about education. Her ideas were brilliant. All of India was talking about Hillary! How refreshing to be abroad and hear positive things about our leaders. What a difference a change makes.

    August 10, 2009 10:40 pm at 10:40 pm |
  5. Lori

    I have such respect for Ms. Rodham-Clinton and the work she is undertaking. Having a powerful, intelligent woman travel to the Congo, where so many women are struggling for the most basic human rights, is wonderful. I can completely appreciate her response and wouldn't have wanted her to respond in any other way. Excellent – even in misunderstanding, she brings light to the issues. May God bless the women, men and children of the Congo.

    August 10, 2009 10:43 pm at 10:43 pm |
  6. Johnny

    Ouch. Put down the chainsaw, Hill.

    August 10, 2009 10:44 pm at 10:44 pm |
  7. Brendan H., San Antonio, TX

    Relax Hillary, and remember without Bill, you're not the Secretary of Anything!

    August 10, 2009 10:47 pm at 10:47 pm |
  8. Jess

    I can't say I blame her for being annoyed by the question, but as America's chief diplomat, I think her answer could have been much more diplomatic. Instead, she looked almost as foolish as the person who asked the question.

    August 10, 2009 10:47 pm at 10:47 pm |
  9. epinsc

    Candy Crowley is a fantastic political reporter and Secretary Cinton is a great SOS. Candy is the best political reporter in the business. She is quite perceptive about the context of the setting. And Hillary, if ever given her due, could answer any question put to her, on any subject as intelligently or more intelligently than President Clinton. Also, in the end, She did talk with the student afterward, and they seemed to have reached an understanding," Crowley said., so it all worked out. It would have been an overreaction, if the interpreter was speaking of President Obama, but I heard Pres. Clinton.

    August 10, 2009 10:53 pm at 10:53 pm |
  10. Myrna

    The Old Evil Witch is back at it again!! Perhaps Obama should have Named Bubba for Secretary of state, instead of this annoying pathetic whining Has been.. For sure with this action, set back relations with Africa back a hundred years.... Time for a New Secretary of State !! Enough of the Clintons !!!!

    August 10, 2009 10:54 pm at 10:54 pm |
  11. Jason

    Clinton's spokesperson is now saying it would be inappropriate even if the student was asking about President Obama because he is a man and she traveled to Congo to talk about women issues. This is tone deaf considering Obama as an african american has special meaning in Congo as the u.s president.

    August 10, 2009 11:02 pm at 11:02 pm |
  12. thescoundrel

    Hillary is probably always going to live under the shadow of Bill Clinton despite being the real politcal power of the couple.

    August 10, 2009 11:03 pm at 11:03 pm |
  13. Jim Vogh

    Madam Secretary already wasn't too happy about the fact that N. Korea requested Bill Clinton and not her. So this was kinda like adding a little more fuel to the fire and she lost her cool.

    August 10, 2009 11:03 pm at 11:03 pm |
  14. yuri

    Hillary! How about verifyin' the accuracy of the questioner's translation, before hittin' the ceiling? Exasperation in an African country can be extremely exhaustin'. Do not lose your cool. It is a health hazard.

    August 10, 2009 11:04 pm at 11:04 pm |
  15. tess

    well, well, well, so we see the REAL feelings hillary has for bill! she hates him and can't hide it anymore!

    August 10, 2009 11:05 pm at 11:05 pm |
  16. tbury

    Has anyone noticed that Hillary has put on a few pounds?

    August 10, 2009 11:06 pm at 11:06 pm |
  17. Dan

    It's not the Secretary of State's fault, she reacted to what was interpreted to her. The interpreter screwed it up. We all make mistakes. However, I understand the student and Secretary of State Clinton shook hands later as she was leaving. All's well and Clinton has moved on to other State Dept business.

    August 10, 2009 11:08 pm at 11:08 pm |
  18. Nija

    I don't think she conducted her self in a good manner.

    August 10, 2009 11:18 pm at 11:18 pm |
  19. Kim

    She was probably sick of dealing with the chauvanistic behavior from these stupid media people and constituants in the US and then having to go over there and deal with it too.

    August 10, 2009 11:18 pm at 11:18 pm |
  20. Matt

    Secretary of State Jr.

    August 10, 2009 11:20 pm at 11:20 pm |
  21. Don

    Wow, this is our nation's chief diplomat? We certainly can do better.

    August 10, 2009 11:25 pm at 11:25 pm |
  22. Karl in Charleston,SC

    That's pretty touchy for a diplomat!!

    August 10, 2009 11:28 pm at 11:28 pm |
  23. Grrr-awful-o

    Poor Hillary – always in somebody's shadow. She should have been elected president (if people wanted experience) but she lost and got the booby prize. Then Bill upstages her (on her own stage) in N. Korea. No wonder Hillary always feels like 2nd fiddle. Just fate.

    August 10, 2009 11:31 pm at 11:31 pm |
  24. makesUwonder

    Hillary Clinton showing her true colors and the colors of this administration!

    August 10, 2009 11:32 pm at 11:32 pm |
  25. Matt

    Great job Billary. Bite the head off a student when the translator made a mistake. Ms Rice never did that, goes to show you who truely earned their way into a position rather than marring into it. Who's next, Michelle?

    August 10, 2009 11:35 pm at 11:35 pm |
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