Love her or hate her, Hillary Clinton isn’t going anywhere.
In her first live interview since losing the presidential election to Donald Trump in November 2016, she sat down with Today‘s Savannah Guthrie and Matt Lauer to promote her memoir, What Happened. Asked to rank her level of pain after the results came in, on a scale from 1 to 10—1 being the lowest and 10 being the highest—Clinton said, “It’s gone down the scale. It was probably 25 when the election ended in such a surprising, and for me, distressing way. But part of what has happened over the last months for me was writing a book that gave me a chance to look at everything that happened: what I did, what I could have done better, what my campaign could have done better, [and] these forces at work during the election and [are] still at work, when you think about Russia and other places that are of concern to me. So, it was cathartic.”
“Here I am,” Clinton added. “I hope that people will find it useful and informative.”
In writing the book, she said, “I really saw it as both personal and historical.”
“It started out, for me, trying to just come to grips with what happened. And to be as candid as I could with myself—that’s where I had to start. But also to look at it in a historic frame and say, ‘What was at work here?’ In addition to the mistakes that I made, which I recount in the book, what about endemic sexism and misogyny—not just in politics, but in our society? What about the unprecedented action of the FBI director [James Comey]? What about the interference by an adversary nation to determine or tilt the outcome of our election?” she asked. “What about voter suppression? Things that I think are just as important today as they were a year ago.”
The “determining factor” in her loss was the intervention by Comey on Oct. 28, 11 days before the general election. “It stopped my momentum. It drove voters from me, understandably. This is not about the voters who are saying, ‘Wait. What does this mean? And how do I evaluate it?'” Clinton said. “So, I think that—in terms of my personal defeat—was the most important factor.”
Clinton learned about the investigation while aboard her campaign plane. “I was stunned, to be honest. I didn’t know what to think about it because I knew there was nothing there, and we had trouble finding out what was really going on. And so I was just dumbfounded. I thought, ‘What is he doing? The investigation was closed, I know there’s no new information, I’ve certainly given everything of any relevance to them…’ And then it became clear: This was not necessary. He could have called me up. He could have called others involved up just to say, ‘Hey, can we look at this new stuff just to make sure it’s stuff we’ve seen before?’ ‘Absolutely! How about it?’ But, no—he had to write letters to Congress, which were immediately leaked,” she recalled. “So, I feel very strongly that he went way beyond his role in doing what he did.”
With an investigation into Trump and his associates’ possible ties to Russia, Lauer asked, “Do you think that the Trump campaign, with the knowledge of the now President, colluded with Russia and stole this election?” Clinton deflected, saying, “Matt, I can’t say that. That’s what this investigation is to determine. What I try to do in the book is to put forth all the information that I think should trouble Americans, whether you’re republicans or democrats or anything else…”
The important thing is “getting to the bottom of this,” Clinton continued. “If I had been elected, and this had come to light, if I had known once I wanted into that Oval Office what we now know, I would have stopped at nothing to make sure this never happened again to anybody.”
Guthrie pointed out that a black man, Barack Obama, had been elected President twice. In Clinton’s opinion, it harder for a woman to be elected? “I think there’s a lot of evidence, a lot of research supporting the idea that race is a much more motivating factor for others than gender is. I write in the book about an incredible conversation I had with Sheryl Sanders, who has done so much work to really untangle what it is—what’s realistic—in terms of here’s what you have to do to be successful, and what is tinged if not affected by sexism,” she said. “She says, ‘Look, the research is absolutely clear: The more professionally successful a man becomes, the more likeable he is. The more professionally successful a woman becomes, the less likeable she is.'”
Women are also more “likeable” if they are “in service of someone else,” she said.
“When I was Secretary of State, I came out of it with a 69 percent approval rating, because I was in service to our country. I was in service to our President. I was proud to do it. But, when a woman walks into the arena and says, ‘I’m going for this myself,’ it really does have a dramatic effect on how people perceive,” Clinton said. That reminded Lauer of when Obama called her “likeable enough” in 2008. “When I’m serving in an office, as I said, like Secretary of State, I have really high favorability ratings. But, as I write in the book, I have been—and I admit this—in the eye of the storm for a very long time in American public life,” she explained. “I have a lot of stuff that’s been thrown at me year after year, and I have tried to overcome it, stay focused on the job, do the best I could to help people, which is really why I’m motivated in this.”
Lauer then asked if she made “enough mistakes” without placing blame on others.
“I will say no, Matt. I don’t think that will surprise you,” Clinton said. “But also, this book has a lot of behind the scenes looks at what it’s like to run for President, particularly as a woman. So, it’s not all the sad side or the disappointment that obviously came because we lost, and especially somewhat bitterly because we won the popular vote pretty significantly…I personally believe that our press, which is such an essential part of our country, our democracy, has to take a hard look at how they covered the first reality TV candidate…We’re living in a 24/7 news world, and people are saying things all the time. How do you fact check what everybody says? How do you get a sense of what’s important versus what’s diversionary? So, in the book I write about some of what kept me going even though it was a challenging time. I think that story of resilience of how you get knocked down and you get back up, that’s a part of it as well.”
As the interview wrapped, Guthrie asked if she has a “visceral reaction” to hearing the words “President Donald Trump” on TV. “Well, he is the President. I respect that fact that he is the President. I just wish that he was the President for all Americans,” she said. “I wish he was not engaging in a lot of the scapegoating and behavior in office that I think is bad for the country.”
(E! and NBC are both members of the NBCUniversal family.)