CHICAGO (CBS) — It might seem hard to swallow that Former President Bill Clinton and former First Lady Hillary Clinton were “dead broke” at the end of his second term, given they both make millions now on speaking engagements. Even Mayor Rahm Emanuel, a close friend and ally, apparently doesn’t buy it.
Emanuel, questioning Hillary Clinton while she’s in Chicago for her book tour, ribbed the former Secretary of State for stating in an interview this week that she and her husband were “dead broke” when they left the White House in 2001.
“I’ve been reading a lot about the kickoff for the book tour. Hillary, dead broke? Really?” Emanuel asked with a wry grin and a chuckle.
Earlier this week, Clinton fanned a bit of controversy when she said she defended the millions she and her husband make in speaking fees, saying the two had huge debts to pay off from taxes, legal fees, and multiple mortgages.
“We came out of the White House not only dead broke, but in debt,” Clinton said in an interview with Diane Sawyer earlier this week. “We had no money when we got there, and we struggled to, you know, piece together the resources for mortgages, for houses, for Chelsea’s education. You know, it was not easy.”
On Wednesday, Clinton tried her best to laugh off the criticism she’s received for that statement.
“Well, that may have not been the most artful way of saying that Bill and I have gone through a lot of different phases in our lives. That was then, this is now and obviously we are very fortunate,” Clinton told Emanuel.
The mayor was interviewing Clinton as part of Chicago Ideas Week, while she’s in town on her national book tour.
The two also had a funny exchange when Emanuel asked Clinton about deciding when and where to speak out when she was First Lady:
Clinton: “When I went to China in 1995, first there was a big debate in our own government. People were worried – in the White House, the State Department, elsewhere – that if I called out China or any other country, frankly …
Emanuel: “There would be a senior advisor in the White House who was worried.”
Clinton: “Yeah, senior adviser, anonymous sourced. ‘It’s like, oh my gosh, there she goes again. Can’t you control your wife, Mr. President?’”
Of course, Emanuel was a senior adviser to President Bill Clinton in the 1990s, and has long been famous for having a hot temper, and not being one to mince words.
Not surprisingly, Emanuel asked mostly easy questions of his friend and former White House colleague. He served as President Barack Obama’s first chief of staff while Clinton was Secretary of State, and the two remain friends.
The two touched on the surprising primary election defeat of House Republican Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) to Tea Party challenger David Brat, who Clinton described as being anti-immigration and anti-immigrant.
“His argument was this: there are Americans out of work, so why should we allow immigrants into our country to take those jobs?” Clinton said. “I think that’s a fair question, but the answer is not to throw out of work and deport the 11 million immigrants who are contributing already to our economy. The answer is to grow our economy to create more jobs.”
Emanuel did not ask Clinton about possibly running for president again in 2016, but a question from the audience dealt with whether it’s possible to find compromise in today’s politically-charged atmosphere.
Clinton said yes, but it’s hard. She recalled when her husband was in the White House and had to get along with then-House Speaker Newt Gingrich.
“He [Gingrich] unfortunately injected a lot of vitriol and negativism into our politics, but you could make an agreement with him,” Clinton said. “Trying to save Mexico from financial collapse, there was no support in the country for it, and Gingrich said ‘Well, I sure can’t support it. I’m going to go on TV and rail against it, but I’m not going to block it.’ So, yeah, that’s what happens behind the scenes.”