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Hillary Clinton pneumonia coverage misses big picture

By Christina Okello

Hillary Clinton's bout with pneumonia triggered a media and social media frenzy this week, that has led to accusations of sexism and bias. In this report, RFI's Christina Okello looks at why all this talk of Hillary's health is deflecting attention away from the real campaign issues of the US elections.

It took one stumble, captured on camera at the 9/11 memorial ceremony in New York on Sunday, to trigger an avalanche of reactions over the state of Hillary Clinton's health.

"When Clinton coughs, we get a cold", Scott Lucas, a professor at Birmingham Universiy, told RFI.

Media across the political and geographical spectrum, seized on the episode to question whether or not Clinton will survive.

The Democratic presidential nominee was filmed losing her footing and being assisted into a waiting van after leaving early from a memorial for 9/11 victims.

She'd been diagnosed with pneumonia two days earlier.

"Can you think of a single in-depth story about the issue of health care in the 2016 campaign?" asks Lucas.

"We're only one or two years removed from perhaps one of the most comprehensive reforms of the American health care system in history - Obama care," instead the media are talking about Clinton's health problems, he complains.

Kinda Kanbar, a Washington correspondent for Arab newspaper Alarab shares similar concerns: "As journalists, we feel like we're in a trap, that we're following the nonsense that is appearing on social media."

Nonsense for some, but for others the health of US presidents and future leaders is paramount.

"The question is always asked," says France 24 correspondent Philip Crowther, "and it is an awkard one: is the person running for president, fit enough to be president and to stay in office without any health trouble for the next four and potentially 8 years?"

"It is very very hard for the Washington correspondents or the reporters on the election trail to be able to define a story now," reckons Lucas.

"There just simply isn't the time and space because before you know it your readers have already gone elsewhere."

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