Hillary Clinton justified the tens of millions of dollars she and husband Bill have earned giving speeches, saying that they were in dire financial straits after leaving the White House.
“We came out of the White House not only dead broke, but in debt,” Clinton told ABC’s Diane Sawyer, explaining the legal fees the duo racked up during their White House stay, which stretched from 1993 to 2001.
“We had no money when we got there, and we struggled to, you know, piece together the resources for mortgages, for houses, for Chelsea’s education,” said Clinton.
“You know, it was not easy,” she added.
Clinton’s interview will air Monday, a day before the release of her latest memoir, “Hard Choices,” which recounts her time as U.S. secretary of state in the Obama administration. The book is seen as a warm-up to an expected 2016 presidential bid.
“Bill has worked really hard — and it’s been amazing to me — he’s worked very hard,” Clinton told Sawyer.
The couple average well into six figures for each speech, which they give organizations ranging from trade groups to large corporations, such as Goldman Sachs.
Hillary Clinton, who has also served as a U.S. senator from New York between her White House stay and her time at the State Department, reportedly averages $200,000 per gig. The former president earns more, having brought in $17 million in 2012. That hefty total included $700,000 for a speech to a company based in Lagos, Nigeria, according to The New York Times.
Between the two, the Clintons have an estimated fortune of between $100 million and $200 million.
In her interview with Sawyer, Clinton also offered a slight complaint of the hefty amount of income taxes the couple pays for their lucrative careers.
“First of all, we had to pay off all our debts, which was, you know, he had to make double the money because of, obviously, taxes, and then pay off the debts and get us houses and take care of family members,” she said.
Clinton also justified her post-office career, saying that giving speeches are better than the alternative of working solely for companies or special interests groups.
“Let me put it this way,” Clinton told Sawyer. “I thought making speeches for money was a much better thing than getting connected with any one group or company, as so many people who leave public life do.”
Clinton made clear to Sawyer that she does not always charge a fee.
“I happen to have given lots of free speeches,” she said, saying she waived her normal fee to talk to the United Methodist Women Conference in Kentucky.
Clinton’s rationale for the couples’ post-White House career doesn’t explain why they’ve continued working on the speech circuit even after overcoming their financial difficulties and putting their daughter Chelsea all the way through school.
The Clintons were reportedly $12 million in debt following their two terms in the White House, largely due to legal fees from the Monica Lewinsky and Whitewater investigations.
But that debt was paid in full by 2004, and the couple had banked millions, according to Hillary Clinton’s tax disclosures at the time.
According to tax returns the couple filed while in the White House, their income came almost entirely from Bill Clinton’s presidential salary.
Their income spiked in 1996 with the publication of then-first lady Clinton’s memoir, “It Takes A Village.” The Clinton’s reported $1,065,101 that year, with just over $740,000 of that came from royalties on the book.
Clinton reportedly received an advance between $12 and $14 million for her latest venture.