Iconic photo might not be all it seems, says Clinton
Clinton says she might be holding back a cough in this dramatic photograph captured by White House photographer Pete Souza.
May 5th, 2011
09:00 AM ET
12 years ago

Iconic photo might not be all it seems, says Clinton

(CNN) – It has become one of the most iconic photographs to emerge in the wake of Osama bin Laden’s killing: a rapt President Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, among others, watch a live feed in the White House Situation Room as the Sunday afternoon raid in Pakistan was unfolding.

The image, captured by White House photographer Pete Souza, shows a particularly dramatic-looking Clinton, with her hand clasped over her mouth and eyes staring intensely forward – an expression that begs the question of just what was unfolding at that instant.

But speaking to reporters in Rome earlier Thursday, Clinton said she doesn’t know what was happening during that now-forever memorialized moment, and added her reaction in particular might not be all that it seems.

"I am somewhat sheepishly concerned that it was my preventing one of my early spring allergic coughs," she said of the reason why her hand was over her mouth "So, it may have no great meaning whatsoever."

Clinton added the Navy SEAL raid was “38 of the most intense minutes,” but as for the particular details behind what will be one of the most famous photographs to emerge from the Obama administration, Clinton was able to offer few clues.

"I have no idea what any of us were looking at at that particular millisecond,” she said.

Filed under: Hillary Clinton • Osama bin Laden
soundoff (28 Responses)
  1. kcl

    Why do we have to dissect every little thing? It's an intense picture of people watching intense events.
    Geez, can't imagine why Obama won't release those pictures.....Americans are sick.

    May 5, 2011 09:20 am at 9:20 am |
  2. runswithbeer

    They were looking at Navy Seals in action live via satellite. Aw inspiring.

    May 5, 2011 09:21 am at 9:21 am |
  3. Rudy NYC

    Sounds like plausible deniability to me, not mention reasonable and quite believable. I would guess that either her eyes had not started watering yet, or she had already wiped them on her sleeve.

    May 5, 2011 09:23 am at 9:23 am |
  4. treinman

    Has the Army major with the football been repalced by a Brigadier General with a laptop as the person always at the President's side? Is it a PC or Mac?

    May 5, 2011 09:23 am at 9:23 am |
  5. sara

    The U.S. took him OUT! It doesn't matter about the 'whatever" he is a "swimmer" now. Thank you God.

    May 5, 2011 09:25 am at 9:25 am |
  6. Grammar Dude

    "Raises the question." Not "begs the question." In the words of the great Inigo Montoya, I do not think it means what he thinks it means.

    May 5, 2011 09:27 am at 9:27 am |
  7. Average American

    I think the picture shows the appropriate level of intensity for a situation like this. If I had to make a decision like this, I would have been vomiting in the corner of the Situation Room! The fact is, President Obama made a very gutsy decision, and it turned out to be the right decision. End of story...can't we just be proud Americans for a few days instead of nit picking everything?!?!

    May 5, 2011 09:31 am at 9:31 am |
  8. ConservaFASCISTS -aka- Mammon

    The President looks focused and determined. Souza takes spectacular shots.

    May 5, 2011 09:45 am at 9:45 am |
  9. Steve in Denver

    Runs with beer: I hope you meant AWE inspiring. don't think there were any awww moments that night.

    May 5, 2011 09:49 am at 9:49 am |
  10. GrogInOhio

    As someone else has noted, this dramatic photo appropriately shows the intensity of the moment. I would not have had the guts to make this decision. Having these brave people risk their lives on my orders would have shaken me to my core. I would have weaseled out for a smart bomb attack. Bravo to the SEALs, to the president and the entire team.

    May 5, 2011 09:50 am at 9:50 am |
  11. Liberal4Obama

    She was looking at Bin Laden getting popped but she is not at liberty to say that.

    May 5, 2011 09:52 am at 9:52 am |
  12. GI Joe

    Sensational headlines SELL. (Yellow journalism is getting disgusting).

    May 5, 2011 09:55 am at 9:55 am |
  13. Henry Miller, Libertarian

    Actually, the lot of them were watching a basketball game and she was yawning.

    May 5, 2011 10:07 am at 10:07 am |
  14. 100% ETH

    The audiences seems wondering while they are watching fictional long Movie that caused tiredness, except the General who still keep searching in his Computer, in case if he get the true picture of O.B.L

    May 5, 2011 10:09 am at 10:09 am |
  15. Bessy

    Some people in ths country are just sickos. For God's sake, stop trying to pull apart everything. I could care less if her hand was over her mouth because she was nervous for what was going on, or if she was coughing. Another thing, why are some people always trying to correct other people's English or their spelling ? This blog is not a homework assignment. Some people are just typing fast and so therefore they make type o's. Other folks have problems that we all should be " big enough " to undrstand. Some people on this blog need to get a life instead of always trying to second guess the president and critisize others. The main thing is that Bin Laden is DEAD. Yes, DEAD, and I don't need a picture to confirm it.

    May 5, 2011 10:13 am at 10:13 am |
  16. Thomas

    They were actually looking at nothing, since the cameras went out before the raid. That's why they keep changing the details of what happened, because no one actually saw it. Not sure why CNN didn't report that.

    May 5, 2011 10:15 am at 10:15 am |
  17. Luke Brown

    Looking at this photo, I'm reminded of others like it in the past that featured Rumsfeld, Cheney, and Bush... and cringe that they were in charge of our country for eight years.

    Thank you, Mr. President!

    May 5, 2011 10:17 am at 10:17 am |
  18. 100% ETH

    My President in small chair, looks a junior fresh Student in Elementary School. "Why I missed that question?".

    May 5, 2011 10:17 am at 10:17 am |
  19. patNY

    You know Saturday Night Live is going to do something on this pic this Saturday night! Can't wait!

    May 5, 2011 10:18 am at 10:18 am |
  20. Paul Whelan

    Biden looks surprisingly unaffected by the white house screening of 2 Girls One Cup.

    May 5, 2011 10:18 am at 10:18 am |
  21. Charlie

    That was the moment she realized they shot the wrong guy and now had to perform a cover up. We have nothing but hearsay to prove Obama Bin Laden is dead.

    May 5, 2011 10:18 am at 10:18 am |
  22. Bessy

    WOW Thomas!! You must be on the inside looking out. Where does your information come from ? Maybe Faux News ?

    May 5, 2011 10:20 am at 10:20 am |
  23. Four and The Door

    Actually, the general was trying to get his Windows Vista system to keep running while they were watching tweets from the residents of Abbotasbad.

    May 5, 2011 10:21 am at 10:21 am |
  24. Pat in IL

    I agree with kcl. Dissecting every little detail, especially when we're not a part of the inslide loop, is just a ridiculous waste of our own time. There are better things we can do with our time and intellect.

    May 5, 2011 10:27 am at 10:27 am |
  25. remy730

    Hmmm, no photo of a body and now no photo of the higher ups watching the raid. I wanted to believe, I really did want to, but I have to say the Obama Administration 's got nothing but a picture of a woman with hay fever. You'd think you'd know what you were doing the exact moment you were seeing people die. Even 10 years later each one of us can recall what we were doing when the towers fell.

    May 5, 2011 10:27 am at 10:27 am |
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