August 10th, 2009
11:54 PM ET
13 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. Vic in VA

    She could use some temperament training from our ultra-cool President. Me thinks Ms. Hillary needs a vacation. Sans Bill.

    August 11, 2009 12:51 am at 12:51 am |
  2. Tall si Good

    Oh, not good.

    August 11, 2009 12:55 am at 12:55 am |
  3. MatthewDetroit

    Hillary is the most ineffective Secretary of State of all time.
    Barack put her in a closet and wont let her out.
    She has no chance at anything.
    So Funny.
    How does it feel Hillary. Bill is a better man than you.
    And Barack was smart and shoved you under a rug.
    Good job Hillary.
    You are a genius.

    August 11, 2009 12:56 am at 12:56 am |
  4. No More Mrs. Nice Gal

    I'm a huge conservative. Don't fault you in the least for your response. The translation thing is a whole different issue. (Was it the another state department "reset" mis-translation?) I can't believe I'm agreeing with you! It would have been undiplomatic to respond in any other way. Just wish you respond the same way with terrorists and third world dictators instead of coddling them.

    August 11, 2009 12:58 am at 12:58 am |
  5. Alpha and Omega - The Great Physician Against Republicans and StOoPiD Barbie Pale-End

    It's Ok Hillary, we still love you even though the translator needed an interpreter. Don't sweat the small stuff. You're doing great as Secretary of State! Hillary in 2016!

    August 11, 2009 01:02 am at 1:02 am |
  6. Brandon

    Well, hit a nerve or the nations chief diplomat, she should have had a better reply than to get pissy with someone. A reply of "I'd be happy to tell you my thoughts on the matter, but my husband will have to speak for himself." would have been a far more appropriate answer for a diplomat.

    One demerit for Sec. Clinton.

    August 11, 2009 01:05 am at 1:05 am |
  7. Steve

    Obviously Secretary Clinton's anger was about the treatment of women and not about some fantasy, media generated competition with Bill Clinton.

    August 11, 2009 01:11 am at 1:11 am |
  8. nea-nea

    Shes not perfect she will get heated from time to time! I kind of wish she could be a spokes person at a time hall meeting for healthcare.

    August 11, 2009 01:20 am at 1:20 am |
  9. felipe

    What a badass Hillary! Even though the translator messed up I'd be annoyed too. So, for those who don't think she's tough, think again.

    August 11, 2009 01:26 am at 1:26 am |
  10. JJ

    It's funny how if a guy would have responded the same if asked a ridiculous question like that, headlines would read "So-and-so OWNED audience member," not "So-and-so went ballistic" like FOX News is advertising. How stupid.

    August 11, 2009 01:38 am at 1:38 am |
  11. arch

    She doesn't like be upstaged! I feel for the poor guy who asked a simple question that was not stated correctly, but even with what she thought, it was still a nasty response. As the so-called sec. of state, she is supposed to show diplomacy. I sure to hope this Obama is a simple one term office man along with his bozo creeps he has in the jobs. She actually is better than he is. This event was not needed and she should say she is sorry to the person who asked the question. He probably thought this was a big honor, etc. and she does that to him. Obama would have probably done worse. Are you guys happy with what you put in the wh? I wouldn't be.

    August 11, 2009 02:02 am at 2:02 am |
  12. Alexa

    I can see why she would get irritated!

    August 11, 2009 02:05 am at 2:05 am |
  13. jeff

    I am a big fan of Hillary's but the tone of her response is disgusting and inappropriate. Maybe its that time of the month? With all that anger – that is what it sounds like to me. This response is very unprofessional and embarrising coming from a Secretary of State. She should apologize – even though the question was inappropriate. Madame Secretary – Change you TONE!

    August 11, 2009 02:18 am at 2:18 am |
  14. jett johnson

    It's a shame that a woman with her intelligence, tenacity and prowess has to field questions regarding her husband! She is successful in her own right and has accomplished more than any first lady or female politician ever. When will people wake up and release themselves from the chains of patriarchy. It's a shame she isn't our president.

    August 11, 2009 02:28 am at 2:28 am |
  15. Robert

    This isn't the first time that Clinton didn't have an uncomfortable moment under the Obama Administation.....remember the mess in Germany with the gift giving event? Seems that the immature Obama group cannot even get a translator correct! Shame on them. Never hear of Rice having a translator problem or some stupid gift all messed up! Didn't much like George but.......he made sure his people were taken care of correctly. Obama is oblivious!

    August 11, 2009 03:10 am at 3:10 am |
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