Karl Rove speaks on a cellphone during the Republican National Convention at the Tampa Bay Times Forum.
Photo by Josh Haner/New York Times/Redux

Karl Rove denies he said Hillary Clinton had brain damage

Updated

Republican strategist Karl Rove has denied a report that he said Hillary Clinton may have suffered brain damage, claiming he “never used that phrase.”

“I didn’t say she had brain damage; she had a serious health episode,” he said Tuesday on FOX News.

Morning Joe, 5/13/14, 7:09 AM ET

Karl Rove: Hillary may have brain injury

Top Talkers: GOP strategist Karl Rove is suggesting that Hillary Clinton may have suffered from a brain injury after she was hospitalized for a blood clot in 2012. “We need to know what’s up with that,” Rove reportedly said at a conference. The Morning…
According to The New York Post, at a conference last week, the former George W. Bush adviser brought up the topic of Clinton’s health after she was hospitalized in December 2012 for a blood clot.

“Thirty days in the hospital?” Rove reportedly told the conference, according to the Post. “And when she reappears, she’s wearing glasses that are only for people who have traumatic brain injury? We need to know what’s up with that.”

Clinton’s health scare hospitalized her for three days – not 30, as Rove reportedly suggested. The incident occurred after Clinton was recuperating from a fall and concussion, forcing the former secretary of state to push back her scheduled congressional testimony over the 2012 attack in Benghazi, Libya.

Though he denied characterizing Clinton’s injuries as “brain damage,” Rove on Tuesday largely stood by his reported comments. He said he brought up the issue to raise questions ahead of the looming 2016 presidential elections.

“I didn’t say [Clinton] had brain damage, she had a serious health episode.”
Karl Rove
“My point was is that Hillary Clinton wants to run for president, but she would not be human if this didn’t enter in as a consideration,” Rove said Tuesday on Fox. “This will be an issue in the 2016 race, whether she likes it or not.”

“When you go through a health incident like this, any presidential candidate has to ask themselves, ‘Am I willing to do this for eight years of my life?’ ” he continued. “She’s hidden a lot of this.”

Nick Merrill, a spokesman for Hillary Clinton, chided Rove’s claims in a statement.

“From the moment this happened 17 months ago, the right has politicized her health. First they accused her of faking it, now they’ve resorted to the other extreme – and are flat out lying,” he said. “Even this morning, Karl Rove is still all over the map and is continuing to get the facts wrong. But he doesn’t care, because all he wants to do is inject the issue into the echo chamber, and he’s succeeding. It’s flagrant and thinly veiled. They are scared of what she has achieved and what she has to offer. What he’s doing is its own form of sickness. But she is 100%, period. Time for them to move on to their next desperate attack.”

The Democratic National Committee also criticized Rove in a statement referencing his election-night episode in 2012, when he refused to accept Republican candidate Mitt Romney’s loss.

“It appears Karl Rove’s medical diagnoses are about as solid as his election night prognostications.”

The Cycle, 5/13/14, 4:23 PM ET

Karl Rove walks back comments on Hillary Clinton's health

Howard Fineman discusses Karl Rove’s reported comments on Hillary Clinton’s health and if Rove’s political tactics work.

Benghazi, Hillary Clinton and Karl Rove

Karl Rove denies he said Hillary Clinton had brain damage

Updated