The many portrayals of Hillary Clinton

The many portrayals of Hillary Clinton


As the presidential race tightens between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, their policies, personal lives and past faux pas have been thrust into the limelight. Since the announcement of Hillary running for candidacy in the 2016 US Presidency race for the Democratic Party, the media hype surrounding her, has varied hugely. From Australia’s ABC declaring that Hillary Clinton has shattered the glass ceiling with ‘milestone’ presidential nomination in early 2015, to later  exclaiming why the election of Hillary Clinton promises a more dangerous world. There is no doubt that the media are consumed with Hillary Clinton and her candidacy. Nevertheless, the portrayal of Clinton is full of contention within the media landscape.  The BBC’s iWonder, Who is Hillary Clinton, details the milestones of her life thus far including her husband’s notorious infidelity whilst the Times contrasts Hillary’s persona to that of a professional corporate avatar in, Why is Clinton disliked? An Observer article examining Hillary’s past words from 2006 when Audio emerged of Hillary Clinton proposing rigging Palestinian Election exemplifies that the worse the news is surrounding Hillary, the better this is for newspapers. The plethora of news articles, in varying styles of hard and views news reports indicate that any topic to do with Hillary Clinton will be picked up by a general readership, allowing diverse portrayal of Mrs. Clinton.


A close analysis of these five main articles with references to several supplementary sources explore how the medias understanding of Hillary Clinton has differed over the past several months. Through indirect and direct persuasive techniques, the media have been influencing the general public to both an immediate and global effect. The vast coverage on Hillary Clinton and her opposition Donald Trump, who himself has faced similar dichotomy from the media has been dispersed globally. This coverage not only effects the immediate opinions of American’s who will vote on the 8th of November, but will also validate global opinions and persuade undecided audiences.

Firstly, the initial reaction to Hillary Clinton being nominated for Presidency in the US was met with (mostly) global support at the nomination of a woman for presidential candidacy. The ABC’s article opens with, ‘the glass ceiling has been shattered with a powerful blow.’

The succeeding quotes chosen by Stephanie March, from Hillary Clinton immediately after her candidacy was announced position the responder to elicit an emotional response.

“Tonight, we’ve reached a milestone in our nation’s march toward a more perfect union: the first time that a major party has nominated a woman for president,” Hillary Clinton said to a roar of applause at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia.

“When any barrier falls in America, for anyone, it clears the way for everyone. When there are no ceilings, the sky’s the limit.”

The mood in the arena was jubilant but as one Hillary Clinton delegate put it, this is a love fest. How her message translates to the rest of America is yet to be seen.”  

Gender inequality is a salient issue in today’s landscape. Through highlighting the plight of Hillary Clinton and allying it with an issue every woman faces, March is using an emotional appeal as well as an ad populum argument to garner support for Clinton. Establishing Hillary as the minority and as the first woman to ‘shatter’ the glass ceiling appeals to a lack of precedent. This works to position readers to be sympathetic towards Clinton and her candidacy. This would especially resonate with a female readership. Whilst the article is a hard news report and aims to report non-biasedly phrases such as ‘roar of applause,’ and ‘the mood in the arena was jubilant,’ are positively loaded. Hillary is being presented as a strong, feminist woman who is challenging the status quo.

A further report by the New York Times entitled, Hillary for President authored by the editorial board, calls for the election of Hillary in a highly emotive plea.

“In any normal election year, we’d compare the two presidential candidates side by side on the issues. But this is not a normal election year.

 A comparison like that would be an empty exercise in a race where one candidate — our choice, Hillary Clinton — has a record of service and a raft of pragmatic ideas, and the other, Donald Trump, discloses nothing concrete about himself or his plans while promising the moon and offering the stars on layaway.

 (We will explain in a subsequent editorial why we believe Mr. Trump to be the worst nominee put forward by a major party in modern American history”.

 The warrant here is intrinsically linked with the justification. Hillary Clinton who has, a ‘record of service and a raft of pragmatic ideas’ is the obvious choice. The paradox, Trump, ‘promises the moon and offers the stars on a layaway.’ The emotive language used here, coupled with an appeal to analogy.  This analogy however, relies on the reader accepting a damning view of Donald Trump. Further support of their justificatory claim comes through the statement, “we will explain in a subsequent editorial why we believe Mr. Trump to be the worst nominee put forward by a major party in modern American history’.

The weight of the word ‘our’ should not be missed in the below extract. Through grouping the staff of an intellectual ‘hard’ style newspaper, that is established and well recognised the phrase, ‘our endorsement’ becomes even more significant. The further appeal to appeal to emotion is clarified through the declaration of Hillary as the first or only woman in the arena. The New Yorker is campaigning for Hillary as a woman who fights for women’s rights and leads by example through being overly qualified and mature.

Over 40 years in public life, Hillary Clinton has studied these forces and weighed responses to these problems. Our endorsement is rooted in respect for her intellect, experience, toughness and courage over a career of almost continuous public service, often as the first or only woman in the arena”. 

A dichotomous view of the above is written by the ABC and declares in its headline that the election of Hillary Clinton promises a more dangerous world. This article negatively evaluates Clinton’s position as mainly policy free despite her position as former secretary of state and promises that the weaknesses in Clinton’s profile, mean we [the world] are in for a rather ‘torrid’ time.

The opening lines of Joseph Camilleri’s article making his position very clear. In what he calls a policy-free contest between Clinton and Trump he asserts that Clinton’s approach has escaped serious scrutiny. His use of questions signifies an appeal to the facts. Through using questions such as ‘how is it, then, that a former secretary of state, who loudly proclaims her intimate knowledge of world affairs, has given so little attention to the grave dangers looming on the horizon?’ forces the reader to recall her past speeches. There are two audiences present in this article, readers who are actively involved in the political sphere and would remember the utterances of Clinton, and the general public, who learn their opinions from establishments they respect. Camilleri is relying on this in his appeal to facts.

“In this largely policy-free contest, Hillary Clinton’s approach to the immense challenges facing the United States has escaped serious scrutiny. Yet, how America views its place in a rapidly transforming world has far-reaching implications not only for security at home and abroad, but for the economy, financial markets, the environment and much else.

“How is it, then, that a former secretary of state, who loudly proclaims her intimate knowledge of world affairs, has given so little attention to the grave dangers looming on the horizon? Part of the explanation is that Clinton’s campaign has judged the electorate as unwilling or unable to tune in to a serious discussion of international risks and opportunities”.

 Camilleri negatively evaluates Clinton again through terms such as ‘acknowledged a grasp of detail on many international issues’. Camilleri is painting a very dystopic view of the world Clinton would create in this way. He further mocks her ‘policy of strength’ through labelling them one-lines that are strong on rhetoric and dangerously weak on substances.   

Clinton has an acknowledged grasp of detail on many international issues. But neither her public utterances nor her stewardship of US diplomacy offer a compelling picture of a world in profound transition, or of the challenges this poses for both domestic and foreign policy”. 

“How then, does Clinton propose to address these and related challenges? In the words of her election manifesto, by pursuing “a policy of strength”.

 This includes preserving and strengthening military alliances, notably NATO; “standing up to Putin”; holding China accountable for any actions deemed destabilising of the existing order, whether in relation to trade, cyberspace, human rights or territorial disputes; holding on to a “qualitative military edge”; and maintaining a “rock solid commitment to the values that have made America great. 

“These one-liners are strong on rhetoric and dangerously weak on substance. What does “standing up to Putin” or “holding China accountable” mean in practice? The intention, one must assume, is to preserve the military, diplomatic and economic dominance the United States once enjoyed, even though the strategy is tantamount to King Canute stemming the tide”.

Camilleri is appealing to the facts, or lack thereof. His statement, ‘one must assume’ points out the holes in Clinton’s argument and aims to highlight the fact she has not made solid commitments or a cohesive argument in his view, surround these issues.  He also uses an analogy of an apocryphal anecdote of The King Canute, comparing Clinton’s strategy alike to Canute stemming the tide. This emphasises what Camilleri believes to be a futile policy and that Clinton doesn’t have the breadth of power she believes to.

His closing statement uses an appeal to consequence and popular opinion to educate his audience on the ‘Trump circus.’ This circus is a disservice to the human future, due to its distractive nature taking away from the very real issues of Clinton’s weak profile and neglect to mention any actual policy. His comments are more on the nature of the election than the content, with personal attacks and faux pas stealing the spotlight from critical discussion. His final sentence, ‘we may be in for a rather torrid time,’ emotionally appeals to his audience and aims to drive home his central argument; that Hillary promises a world that is more dangerous, due to her vague polices.

“Perhaps the greatest disservice the Trump circus has done to the human future — with the media as its willing accomplices — is the failure to lay bare these deeply entrenched and deeply troubling weaknesses in the Clinton profile. We may be in for a rather torrid time”.

  With most of Clinton’s life in the limelight, the BBC created a timeline of the most pivotal moments of her life thus far. With details of her husband’s various infidelities, the FBI email scandal and her most infamous quotes. Hillary’s conceding speech to her Democrat nomination in 2008 in place of Obama was one such occasion the BBC chose to highlight.

“Although we were not able to shatter that highest and hardest glass ceiling this time, thanks to you it has 18 million cracks in it”.

This is an emotional appeal on Clinton’s part. Speaking to the 18 million individuals who voted for her to be nominated and using terms such as ‘highest and hardest’ create a vivid mental representation of the feat she was trying to achieve. At the end of the timeline, the BBC praises Clinton’s extensive experience, though relays the fact that many remain highly uncertain of what she stands for. This appeal to popular opinion justifies their slight bias to Mrs. Clinton and they pander to an audience who view Hillary as the warranted candidate over Mr Trump.


 “Few candidates in history can match Clinton’s extensive experience and longevity. Yet despite this, many people remain uncertain as to what she stands for. She’s not Donald Trump. And for many Americans that will be enough to win their vote. But many others will never be persuaded to vote for Hillary. We will find out in November which way a deeply polarised electorate responds to a race that has been light on policy and long on soundbite”.

As the campaigning period has progressed, Clinton’s approval ratings are now in a similar range to that of Trump. David Brooks in his article, ‘why is Clinton disliked?’ negatively evaluates Clinton for being too career orientated and not showing the public who she is outside of the office. Through negative evaluations and appeals to popular opinions and analogies, Brook’s central argument is that in order for Clinton to win the trust of the public, she must show she is a real person instead of just a productive one.  With both Trump and Clinton sitting with a 57 percent disapproval rating within the American public. 60 percent of a New York Times survey respondents said they believed Clinton did not share the same values and 64 percent believed she is not honest or trustworthy, Brooks’ argument is a based on the laying out of the facts. Brooks commends Clinton on her dedication to her profession and tenacity but asks the following question:

 “I would begin my explanation with this question: Can you tell me what Hillary Clinton does for fun? We know what Obama does for fun — golf, basketball, etc. We know, unfortunately, what Trump does for fun.

“But when people talk about Clinton, they tend to talk of her exclusively in professional terms. For example, on Nov. 16, 2015, Peter D. Hart conducted a focus group on Clinton. Nearly every assessment had to do with on-the-job performance. She was “multitask-oriented” or “organised” or “deceptive.”

Brooks determination that a president should be more than face value, and create depth of character for themselves is a personal evaluation, however his use of the aforementioned facts supports his claims. The statement that as secretary of state she had a 66 percent approval rating and as early as March 2015 her approval rating was at 50 percent with a disapproval rating of 39 percent identifies the sharp decline in her popularity. Brooks is arguing that the more Clinton portrays herself in media as a résumé, the more her ratings will decline.

Brooks, in order to be unbiased anecdotally explains that those who work with Hillary adore her and explain she is warm and caring but counters this statement through saying she presents herself as a policy brief. This emotional appeal works in a tripartite way. Firstly, to establish Hillary as a grandma, with maternal instincts. Secondly as a warm and caring person and finally, contradictorily, as career orientated individual who lacks warmth in the eyes of the public.   Brooks justificatory warrant is that in order to regain mass public appeal

“People who work closely with her adore her and say she is warm and caring. But it’s hard from the outside to think of any non-career or pre-career aspect to her life. Except for a few grandma references, she presents herself as a résumé and policy brief”. 

 To supplement the above portray of Clinton, The New Yorker’s, ‘does Hillary Clinton still believe?’ and ‘the quiet ruthlessness of the Clinton campaign’ all enhance the idea of Clinton as hard hearted and determined to win the election, no matter the cost. Using an appeal to analogy of her behaviours to past president Obama and even Trump Leamann and Wallace harness analogy to create a Hillary as an individual with a cold persona.  Lemann’s, ‘the quiet ruthlessness of the Clinton campaign’ explores how James Comey, Director of the FBI’s announcement into the continuation of Hillary’s email scandal was turned into positive PR… “Within a few days, the campaign had managed to change the subject from what Comey might find that Clinton had done to what Comey himself had done by making such a dramatic announcement less than two weeks before the election.”


Finally, an article published by the Observer, delved into the archives of 2006 to find audio ‘proof’ of Clinton proposing rigging the Palestinian Election. The heavy media scrutiny Hillary, her campaign and family have been under is immense. This final persona presented of Clinton is one that is highly contrary to her self representation. She is portrayed here as an undemocratic individual, which is a label Clinton has tried to fight. What may have been an offhand comment has been deemed deterministic of the election, as Trump has labelled the election rigged.

Clinton can be heard saying:

“I do not think we should have pushed for an election in the Palestinian territories. I think that was a big mistake…and if we were going to push for an election, then we should have made sure that we did something to determine who was going to win.”

Chomsky recalls being taken aback that “anyone could support the idea—offered by a national political leader, no less—that the U.S. should be in the business of fixing foreign elections.”

Ken Kurson is trying to position an appeal to consequence through the use of the phrase, ‘Chomsky recalls being taken aback that ‘any one could support the idea…that the U.S should be in the business of fixing foreign elections’. The aforementioned statement correlates to Trumps assertion that the presidential race is rigged, and the public knowledge that the Democrat National Committee, purposely rigged the nomination process through their campaign against Bernie Sanders to Hillary’s favour.

The question must be asked, is a ten-year-old interview, pertinent to today’s issue? Personally, I find it is. With a life in the spotlight and most of Hillary’s words carefully measured, accountability becomes an important issue. Further as secretary of state Clinton’s opposition to gay marriage was widely acknowledged.  Politifact found that as public sentiment around gay marriage became stronger, Clinton’s support of the issue backtracked from a stance that was originally anti-gay marriage to full support. In 2000 Clinton stated:


“Marriage has got historic, religious and moral content that goes back to the beginning of time, and I think a marriage is as a marriage has always been, between a man and a woman,” Mrs. Clinton said while running for the Senate in New York.

Hillary’s appeal to precedent and social norms has quickly evolved over the past 16 years. Aiming to point out the dichotomous views of Hillary, Politifact aspires to highlight Clintons the inconsistency of her opinions and argues Clinton always sides with the views of the people. Her opinions are parallel to that of the people i.e. ad populum.

“Hillary Clinton supports marriage equality and hopes the Supreme Court will come down on the side of same-sex couples being guaranteed that constitutional right,” Adrienne Elrod, a spokeswoman for Hillary for America, said while Mrs. Clinton was campaigning for the presidency in Iowa”.  

As a woman that has lived her life in the limelight, Clinton was always bound to come under severe media scrutiny. The perceptions and portrayals of Clinton range from nothing short of heroic to a pure demonisation of her character. As the presidential race tightens, every past move, current position and familial fall out will be public knowledge. The contention surrounding public opinion on Clinton, is and will remain highly divided. This news furore will no doubt continue, even if she is, or is not elected as America’s next president.  As the plethora of news articles grow, from opinion to hard news styled reports, the face of Hillary Clinton changes. The challenge for the growing number of the general public who are concerned with the political sphere, will be to decipher fact from fiction.

By Maesie Harris



Brooks, D. (2016). Why Is Clinton Disliked?. Retrieved 30 October 2016, from

Camilleri, J. (2016). Opinion: Election of Hillary Clinton promises a more dangerous world. ABC News. Retrieved 23 October 2016, from

Hillary Clinton for President. (2016). Retrieved 29 October 2016, from

Kurson, K. (2016). 2006 Audio Emerges of Hillary Clinton Proposing Rigging Palestine Election. Observer. Retrieved 2 November 2016, from

Leamann, N. (2016). The Quiet Ruthlessness of the Clinton Campaign – The New Yorker. The New Yorker. Retrieved 2 November 2016, from

March, S. (2016). Clinton shatters glass ceiling with ‘milestone’ presidential nomination. ABC News. Retrieved 23 October 2016, from

Sherman, A. (2016). Hillary Clinton’s changing position on same-sex marriage. @politifact. Retrieved 2 November 2016, from

Wallace-Wells, B. (2016). Does Hillary Clinton Still Believe? – The New Yorker. The New Yorker. Retrieved 1 November 2016, from

Who is the real Hillary Clinton?. (2016). BBC Timelines. Retrieved 23 October 2016, from

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