David Axelrod, a top Democratic strategist and former senior adviser to President Obama, believes Hillary Clinton made the controversy surrounding her health worse by not disclosing her pneumonia diagnosis earlier.
"Obviously her penchant for privacy is what led her to have a separate email system, and there have been other occasions in her public career in which she's tried to create a zone of privacy," Axelrod told NPR's Steve Inskeep on Morning Edition. He tweeted a similar sentiment on Monday:
"Once she had to pull down her schedule, it seems to me that there was an obligation to share quickly what the set of circumstances were. And I honestly think they unwittingly played into a larger story," Axelrod continued. "I don't think health is as big a challenge for her as stealth. She is a relentless, indefatigable person, I can attest to that. But the concerns that people have run to the other thing, and they ended up creating a bigger story than the one they were trying to avoid."
The Democratic presidential nominee was diagnosed with pneumonia last Friday but didn't disclose the illness until she fell ill during a Sept. 11 memorial service on Sunday, having to leave the service after she became overheated and dehydrated. She took a three-day hiatus from the campaign trail, and is set to return today with a stop in Greensboro, N.C. On Wednesday, Clinton released more information about the pneumonia, which her doctor said she is "recovering well" from, and her overall health.
A statement from Clinton's campaign didn't come until hours after that incident on Sunday, which only fueled conspiracy theories that the 68-year-old was hiding information about her health and was suffering from a serious illness.
Axelrod said that while Clinton only fed the public perception she was hiding something — exacerbated by the ongoing controversy over her private email server at the State Department — she's being held to a tougher standard by the media than her GOP rival Donald Trump.
"She does have this reputation for being zealous about guarding her privacy, and that leading to challenges," he noted. "But the other thing is that she is being judged as the likely next president of the United States whereas her opponent often gets covered as kind of a sideshow and doesn't get the kind of scrutiny that she gets."
"He's been even less revealing about his health, he's been un-revealing about his personal finances or his business finances, which conceivably pose a much larger conflict of interest than anything that Hillary Clinton has been involved in," Axelrod continued, "and yet he seems to skip around that whereas she gets very intense scrutiny. And this is a source of great frustration to her."
Trump taped an interview on Wednesday with controversial TV host Dr. Mehmet Oz, set to air this afternoon, where the two discussed his recent physical examination, but the results haven't been released widely. And he has yet to release his tax returns, as is the custom for presidential candidates.
Axelrod's suggestion for Clinton was to view the media as a necessary evil.
"The media may be a dirty filter at times , but it's the filter through which you communicate to the American people," he said. "It impedes your effectiveness if you view this as a relentlessly adversarial relationship."