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. SBrown

    Power hungry women like Clinton, Pelosi and Boxer have no business in politics. It is all about them and their feminist anti men attitudes. Why would anyone react like this if they didn't have a huge chip on there shoulder. I can see why Bill did and does what he does-I feel sorry for the guy!!!!!

    August 10, 2009 11:37 pm at 11:37 pm |
  2. Paul S Calif

    HAHAHA ... Ms. Clinton is as much a loser as her husband!!! The truth of their personalities comes out under pressure ... perhaps she should just step to the side because Obama is playing her as irrelevant as she actually is while Billy Boy is off pretending to be the master negotiator ... NOT. A pathetic group they are and second only to the Pelosi putzs! Glad to see this come out in Barry's second 100.

    August 10, 2009 11:40 pm at 11:40 pm |
  3. rorsharch

    hmmm... "We are the president!" wonder why she was so twerked?

    August 10, 2009 11:41 pm at 11:41 pm |
  4. Paul

    Sooooooo funny. And I bet Bill and Barack are having a beer and a laugh over this. They really put her in a tough spot, and this reaction shows how sincerely angry she is at Obama sending Bill in to North Korea.

    August 10, 2009 11:42 pm at 11:42 pm |
  5. RR

    maybe she's made North Korea asked for her husband and not her, or that she's had zero effect on the international stage. Bill accomplished more in 6 hours, then she has in 6 months.

    August 10, 2009 11:42 pm at 11:42 pm |
  6. Paul Jodice

    Its so obvious that we are trying to manuver around the Giant Pink Elephant in the room. Hilary and Bill are No More. They are only togetehr for Polital Reasons and it is SO INSULTING of the Media to potray them as a Married Couple. Hilary is an Oportunist and Bill Clinton is Probably the best President we have had since either Ronald Reagan or John F. Kennedy himself......

    August 10, 2009 11:43 pm at 11:43 pm |
  7. jm

    The Secretary of State cannot afford to personalize–she represents the United States much more than she represents herself. Clearly her husband rose above his personal ego needs when he went to North Korea; he could have just told everyone he wouldn't do it since they were so intent upon pushing him into the background. Whatever he felt about all of that, he went on his mission as a true statesman in service of his country. This type of above-the-frey professional approach was very becoming; it would be a very good thing for Secretary Clinton to "channel"..

    August 10, 2009 11:43 pm at 11:43 pm |
  8. Grace

    Good for her! I don't care if the interpreter made a mistake, she responded according to the question, which if that had really been the question, her response was very appropriate. Hillary has shown that she can be a team player, and she is doing a fine job. Bill also did a fine job bringing those 2 women from North Korea back to the U.S., but the focus for this trip should be on Hillary.

    August 10, 2009 11:44 pm at 11:44 pm |
  9. frank

    What hillary the ball buster angry? She will always be in the shadow of bill and she knowes it.

    August 10, 2009 11:46 pm at 11:46 pm |
  10. Rekonner

    Welcome to Africa my friend.
    It is the land of .. someone we know ..in the whitehouse actually .
    Woman ?.....did you say that word...! is not a word.
    Please, ask the man.
    We don't know you. What ?
    Welcome, and get real.

    August 10, 2009 11:55 pm at 11:55 pm |
  11. Stuart L. Riley

    Hillary, you've been on the road too long.
    And, we're seeing one of your "hot buttons".
    Go have a beer with Obama & Bill.
    Chill girl!

    August 10, 2009 11:58 pm at 11:58 pm |
  12. Kevin

    How extraordinarily arrogent of her.

    August 11, 2009 12:05 am at 12:05 am |
  13. Aunt Bea and Opie

    The question should have been,"Do the Chinese plan on colonizing the Congo in the future and take it over completely some day when climate change makes China unlivable".

    August 11, 2009 12:05 am at 12:05 am |
  14. JimT

    Could have handled it a little more gracefully. Way to go!

    August 11, 2009 12:13 am at 12:13 am |
  15. Joe Unger, San Francisco

    It's a sexist question and rude.
    Kind of like when I tell my girlfriend that MIchelle Obama wears the pants in her family.
    When Elizabeth Dole was in office, did any one ask her what her husband's thoughts were?

    August 11, 2009 12:14 am at 12:14 am |
  16. Goeff

    Hillary's reaction goes to clearly illustrate how emotional women are. They cannot think logically if they are emotionally charged. They are not fit to be leaders of anything except inside the home. it's what God intended and why feminists think otherwise is beyond reason.

    August 11, 2009 12:17 am at 12:17 am |
  17. Jay

    Get over yourself Hilary

    August 11, 2009 12:18 am at 12:18 am |
  18. Johnny the Boy

    Oh boy, hope she doesn't melt down like this with the Iranians.

    August 11, 2009 12:27 am at 12:27 am |
  19. JJ in NY

    Billary shows her true colors... a bitter and angry person .

    August 11, 2009 12:29 am at 12:29 am |
  20. Paul from Kissimmee

    Why would that question upset her? She didn't mind riding his coat tails to get where she's at. Besides, if he wanted to know what President Clinton thinks, isn't that an easier question than asking what Obama thinks? He hasn't had a chance to look at the poll numbers and talk to his political advisors to know what he thinks yet.

    August 11, 2009 12:29 am at 12:29 am |
  21. Cliff

    Having a "short fuse" appears to be a requirement to serve in the Obama administration!

    August 11, 2009 12:36 am at 12:36 am |
  22. Anonymous

    I just love strong women. Way to go Hillary.

    August 11, 2009 12:42 am at 12:42 am |
  23. Richard N. Komi

    I would have given the same response in that situation. I think Mrs. Clinton handled that situation well.

    August 11, 2009 12:43 am at 12:43 am |
  24. Eric

    That is of Hillary's finest moments. Straight ticket republican voter here, but I have to say, if you voted Barak Obama over Hillary your a complete idiot. That lady is infinitely more qualified to be president. But most idiots thought they were voting for prom king or queen.

    August 11, 2009 12:44 am at 12:44 am |
  25. African in America

    It's okay Hillary. Most Congolese people speak French and their African Languages, few speak English. I totally agree that the error was due to translation from French to English. It's Okay Hill, we love you in Africa, we also love President Clinton. Hope peole won't misjudge you for your reaction.

    August 11, 2009 12:50 am at 12:50 am |
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