When former House Speaker Newt Gingrich appeared on Sean Hannity’s talk radio program on Tuesday, the two engaged in a long segment of banter and speculation about Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s cough. Then, Gingrich started coughing himself.
Hannity opened the show with a segment of Clinton coughing, then went back to rehash it later with Gingrich. During a spirited debate over the length of the coughing fit, Gingrich remarked to Hannity that he thought the coughs are “deeper” and “last much longer” than her husband’s when he had coughing attacks over acid reflux in the nineties.
Hannity, pointing to a persistent myth about Clinton’s health, clocked Clinton’s cough at precisely four minutes and twenty-two seconds and said, before turning to a concussion Clinton had several years ago, “I think we need to know if she’s healthy.”
— Colin Jones (@colinjones) September 6, 2016
Both Clinton’s concussion and her coughing have become the fodder of a conspiracy theory, which originated in the recesses of the right-wing internet and aided by talk radio hosts like Hannity and by Republican nominee for president Donald Trump’s campaign, has spread to the mainstream.
Last year, Clinton’s doctor released detailed medical reports showing the candidate to be in fine health, however, the myth holds that her sporadic coughing fits and other ‘symptoms,’ such as a tendency to be around stools and to wear coats, are actually the insidious signs of a hidden illness. This conspiracy theory plays into a narrative pushed by the right-leaning media and by Donald Trump that paints Clinton as too weak and frail to be President.
“This coughing stuff, I hope she’s alright,” Newt Gingrich said. “It’s a little disturbing.”
However, moments later while discussing Trump’s visit to Mexico, Gingrich himself broke into a coughing fit.
“Now you sound like Hillary!” Hannity said. “Can I get you a drink of water? By the way, yours didn’t last 4 minutes and 20 seconds―thank God!”
“No, I’m in good shape,” Gingrich said. “At least I’m in better shape than Hillary.” Hannity agreed that Gingrich’s cough was (unlike Clinton’s) just a cough, and the two commiserated unironically over the fact that as people who spoke for a living and traveled a lot, they frequently deal with dry throats, which can cause coughing, as a result.
“I fly so much, my throat dries out,” said Gingrich.
“It does,” Hannity agreed. “You have to keep hydrated big-time.”
Like Hannity and Gingrich, Clinton is also a frequent flier and public speaker. She and her aides blamed her cough on seasonal allergies.