'Can we just stop talking about Hillary Clinton's health now?', snapped Chris Cillizza of the Washington Post on September 6. The whole discussion was 'totally ridiculous', a smear campaign by conspiracy theorists, and to believe otherwise you had to assume that her doctor was lying.
Five days later, and even Cillizza thinks it's permissible to talk about Clinton's health, having now published a piece with the headline 'Hillary Clinton’s health just became a real issue in the presidential campaign'. Because yesterday – September 11, of all days – the conspiracy theorists got something right.
Only after the Democratic candidate was forced to leave a national 9/11 commemoration – and just think how desperately ill she must have been feeling to hand Trump that advantage – and was then filmed collapsing as she got into her car, did her doctor announce that she had pneumonia. Earlier, the Clinton camp had tried to pretend that Hillary had simply been overcome by the heat, made worse by her 'allergic cough'.
In other words, they lied about her health, which is just what the conspiracy theorists have been accusing them of doing for months, if not years. As Freddy Gray noted, yesterday was the day we had to start thinking seriously about President Tim Kaine. And, of course, President Donald Trump.
I hate it when conspiracy theorists score a point. Not because the truth shouldn't come out, but because it serves to legitimise their worldview. Trump's more toxic supporters aren't all full-blown crazies; rather, they have adopted what the Russian expert Peter Pomerantsev (writing about Putin's pretend news channel, RT) calls 'Russell Brand epistemology'. If a story is entertaining and embarrasses your opponents, then it's true.
But, although the Hillary health scare was a favourite topic of conspiracy merchants who also believe that Obama was born in Kenya, was it ever truly a conspiracy theory?
For me, it had the ring of truth. Which, admittedly, is not the same thing as evidence – but then Clinton is an astonishingly brazen liar. And, for nearly twenty years, she has attempted to deflect evidence of both her own and her husband's lies by alleging that they are the work of a 'vast, right-wing conspiracy'. She was at it again this year, telling Anderson Cooper that the conspiracy is now 'even better funded' by billionaires who soothe their consciences by giving to charity.
This is Hillary Clinton of the Clinton Foundation speaking, remember. But even if we overlook that hypocrisy, we're confronted by a woman constructing a conspiracy theory to justify her own conspiracy theory about conspiracy theories. That was back in February, incidentally, so we can't write it off as pneumonia-induced delirium.
I'm sorry to labour the point, but she's just a liar. And, though one mustn't fall into the alt-right trap of rejoicing in her illness, clearly a liar in poor health.
Perhaps this would have been clearer earlier if the liberal media hadn't been watching her back. But, boy, they've been working overtime for her. It's a round-the-clock job covering for this lady, such is the torrent of falsehoods from her lips – and never more than yesterday, when the mainstream media parroted the 'overheated' line while every Democratic pundit in the land insisted that they, too, routinely faint every time the thermometer climbs above 70 degrees Fahrenheit. As for those allergic coughs, everyone gets them!
Our own Guardian bought into that last one. 'Those of us with allergies know only too well what that tickle at the back of the throat feels like,' wrote David Ferguson breezily. 'Sometimes, oh ye right-wing vultures, a cough is just a cough.' The piece is still online here, though today it reads less convincingly thanks to an editorial insert underneath the headline:
Update: on Sunday, Hillary Clinton’s doctor announced that she has pneumonia.