There’s a great tradition of fainting in US politics


The stress, the public scrutiny, the crazy travel schedule, the spotlight, the heat. Even powerful world leaders let their humanity slip sometimes, and there’s perhaps no better demonstration than the fainting spell.

After spending an hour and a half at the September 11 commemoration ceremony at Ground Zero in Manhattan today, Hillary Clinton left abruptly, absconding to her daughter’s apartment. Clinton’s spokesman said she felt “overheated.” New York City has had a humid week, with temperatures hovering around 80°F (27° C), and observers noted that the 68-year old presidential candidate looked “wobbly” on her way out.

Hours later, Clinton told reporters she was “feeling great” and her campaign disclosed that the presidential candidate is being treated for pneumonia. The illness was also behind her recent coughing spell.

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton waves after leaving an apartment building Sunday, Sept. 11, 2016, in New York. Clinton's campaign said the Democratic presidential nominee left the 9/11 anniversary ceremony in New York early after feeling "overheated."
Hillary Clinton leaving her daughter’s apartment several hours after fainting at the 9/11 anniversary ceremony in New York. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

Fainting, also medically referred to as vasovagal syncope, occurs because of a decrease in blood flow to the brain. While skeptics have been quick to jump on Clinton’s lightheadedness as evidence of ailing health, in the annals of US political theater, she is hardly the only one to get the dizzies in public.

Franklin Pierce became the fourteenth US president despite the nickname “Fainting Frank.” His detractors gave him the monicker after he passed out twice during battles in 1847. In 1992, George H. Bush famously fainted after vomiting at a state dinner hosted by Japanese prime minister Kiichi Miyazawa. And in 2002, his son, George W. Bush briefly lost consciousness after choking on a pretzel.

U.S. President George Bush is assisted by security officials and dinner guests after he collapsed to the floor during a state dinner at the Japanese prime minister's residence, Jan. 8, 1991 in Tokyo. First lady Barbara Bush looks on at right. Japanese Prime Minister Kiichi Miyazawa kneels to the right of Bush. (AP Photo)
The famous vomit-faint incident of 1992. (AP Photo)

Bill Clinton had to prop up his incoming chief of staff William Daley after he fainted during his own appointment ceremony.

President Clinton (2ndL) comes to the aid of Commerce Secretary-nominee William Daley after Daley collapsed during a press conference where he was nominated December 13. Daley, who blamed the fainting on the hot room and the fact that he had not eaten lunch, was examined by a White House medical team and found to be in good health. White House Chief of Staff Leon Panetta is at left. - RTXGBPW
Bill Clinton and William Daley.

And the fainting can happen to anyone. Barack Obama and Bernie Sanders both famously interrupted speeches to help supporters standing near them who were about to pass out.

U.S. President Barack Obama (2ndL) reaches out to help Affordable Care Act beneficiary Karmel Allison (C), who began to faint during the president's speech about healthcare from the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington October 21, 2013. Obama discussed glitches in a new healthcare website and outlined ways for consumers to sign up for insurance while his team scrambles to fix problems that have tainted the rollout of his signature healthcare law.
Barack Obama reaches out to help a woman who began to faint during a speech about health care in October 2013. (Reuters/Jason Reed)
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