In her first television interview since losing the 2016 election, Hillary Clinton reflected on her loss, placing blame on external actors like Russia, while acknowledging places where she could have improved her campaign.
Speaking to Jane Pauley on “CBS Sunday Morning”, the former secretary of state – who acknowledged that she did not prepare a concession speech in November – said the loss “hurts a lot”, “still is very painful,” and that she “felt like I had let everybody down.”
“It was a very hard transition,” Clinton said of the days following the election. “I really struggled. I couldn’t feel, I couldn’t think. I was just gob-smacked, wiped out.”
She described her reasons for attending President Donald Trump’s inauguration, and her reaction to watching his inflammatory, provocative speech on the platform.
“I’m a former first lady, and former presidents and first ladies show up. It’s part of the demonstration of the continuity of our government,” Clinton said. “And so there I was, on the platform, you know, feeling like an out-of-body experience. And then his speech, which was a cry from the white nationalist gut.”
Clinton elaborated on areas where she thought she could have improved her campaign, singling out her inability to connect with many individuals still recovering from the economic recession, and saying her “most important” mistake was using a private email server while serving as secretary of state, which she said was “presented in such a negative way” that her campaign couldn’t recover.
She argued that her political situation was the “perfect storm” of obstacles, blaming sexism and misogyny, Russian hacking and the release of private internal Democratic party emails, and former FBI Director James Comey’s investigation into her email practices.
Clinton reiterated her argument that Comey’s decision fewer than two weeks before the election to publicly re-open – and later close – the investigation into her email practices derailed the campaign, asking why Comey did not announce that he was also investigating Trump’s potential ties to Russia.
“It just stopped my momentum,” Clinton said. “At the same time he does that about a closed investigation, there’s an open investigation into the Trump campaign and their connections with Russia. You never hear a word about it. And when asked later, he goes, ‘Well, it was too close to the election.’ Now, help me make sense of that. I can’t understand it.”
Emphasizing that she was “done being a candidate,” Clinton also took plenty of swipes at Trump, saying he acted like a “creep” at one of the presidential debates, and mocking his statement that before taking office, he didn’t fully comprehend the responsibilities of the presidency.
“We have a reality show that leads to the election of a president,” she said. “He ends up in the Oval Office. He says, ‘Boy, it’s so much harder than I thought it would be. This is really tough. I had no idea.’ Well, yeah, because it’s not a show. It’s real. It’s reality for sure.”
Sunday’s interview marked the first of a series of high-profile public appearances the former senator will embark on promoting her campaign memoir “What Happened,” which is set to be released on Tuesday.
This week, Clinton is scheduled to appear on ABC’s “The View” and the popular center-left podcast “Pod Save America,” and she will attend a book signing in New York.
Though the interview did not mention Clinton’s perspective on the 2016 Democratic primary, many Democrats have privately and publicly grated at the release of the former candidate’s book, noting that it reopens many of the intraparty fights that Democrats have been attempting to put behind them since the election.
Indeed, in excerpts of her book that have leaked, Clinton takes swipes at many Democrats, including rivals like Sen. Bernie Sanders for making what she said were unrealistic campaign promises, and Vice President Joe Biden for his criticisms of her inability to connect with some white working class voters.