Smacking down incendiary allegations Karl Rove made about Hillary Rodham Clinton's health, a spokesman for the former secretary of state said Tuesday that Mr. Rove was "lying," and that "the right has politicized" Ms. Clinton's health from the moment she was treated for a blood clot after a fall 17 months ago.
Mr. Rove, the White House adviser to former President George W. Bush, raised questions about Ms. Clinton's health at a conference last week in Los Angeles.
"Thirty days in the hospital?" he said at the conference, according to the New York Post, which first reported the comments late Monday night. "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."
Mr. Rove's remarks grossly misstated the length of Ms. Clinton's hospitalization, which was only several days at the end of 2012, after doctors discovered a blood clot behind her right ear that stemmed from a concussion. The then-secretary of state suffered the concussion after fainting at her Washington home while weakened from a stomach virus. The clot was discovered during a follow-up exam for the concussion at New York Presbyterian Hospital.
The injury led Ms. Clinton to delay her testimony to Congress about the Sept. 11, 2012, attack on a diplomatic post in Benghazi, Libya, that left four Americans dead. Republicans are expected to try to use the attacks in Benghazi as a central issue against Ms. Clinton if she decides to run for president in 2016.
Mr. Rove attempted to roll back his remarks Tuesday in an interview with Fox News -- but continued to raise Ms. Clinton's age as an issue, calling her injury a "serious health episode."
"I didn't say she had brain damage," he told Fox, pushing back at the New York Post's headline. "This was a serious deal. ... We don't know what the doctors said about what does she have to be concerned about. ... I mean, she's hidden a lot of this."
Noting reporters raised questions about the health of Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., the 2008 GOP presidential nominee, Mr. Rove told Fox that "this will be an issue in the 2016 race, whether she likes it or not."
"Every presidential candidate is asked for all of their health records. ... Look, she'll be 69 by the time of the 2016 election. She will be 77 if she serves two terms."
Ms. Clinton has kept up a brisk schedule of public appearances since leaving the State Department, delivering speeches all over the country while writing her memoirs, which will be published June 10.
Clinton spokesman Nick Merrill said Mr. Rove's comments were part of a "flagrant and thinly veiled" attempt by the right to politicize Ms. Clinton's health. Mr. Rove's comments last week came shortly after Republican leaders in Congress announced they were forming a select committee to expand their investigation into how the Obama administration handled the Benghazi matter.
Mr. Merrill noted that when Ms. Clinton first had to delay her testimony to Congress, Republicans questioned whether her health issues were real.
"First, they accused her of faking it; now, they've resorted to the other extreme -- and are flat-out lying," Mr. Merrill said in a statement. "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.
"They are scared of what she has achieved and what she has to offer," Mr. Merrill said. "What he's doing is its own form of sickness. But she is 100 percent, period. Time for them to move on to their next desperate attack."