I am not from the US but I keep reading that Hillary is perceived as untrustworthy. I tried looking for the things she actually said or did to earn this image, but I can't find many.

So I'm looking for a list of verifiable things that she actually said or did, to earn her this image (without judging whether or not she deserved it).

So far, what I've found are the

  1. the email controversy,
  2. the pneumonia episode,
  3. her changing position on gay marriage, and
  4. her changing position on free trade.

What else is there?


8 Answers 8


There's a lot of things, most easily found through Google ("lies Hillary Clinton told" produces many results).

Political Insider suggests:

  1. Dead Broke – In an interview, Clinton stated that she “came out of the White House not only dead broke, but in debt.” Something even the left-leaning Politifact found to be false.
  2. Sniper Fire – During the 2008 campaign, Clinton said she came under sniper fire in Bosnia during the ’90s. She went so far as to claim her group ran “with our heads down to get into the vehicles to get to our base.” Video of her actual arrival surfaced showing a very calm scene instead, and the Democrat would quickly say she simply misspoke.
  3. Immigrant Grandparents – When discussing immigrant stories, Clinton asserted that “all my grandparents… came over here.” It was another story Politifact said was false, as only one of her grandparents was an immigrant.
  4. Sir Edmund Hillary – Seems Clinton can’t even bring herself to tell the truth about her own name. She claimed to be named after Sir Edmund Hillary, one of the first men to climb Mt. Everest. One small problem though, the explorer didn’t climb Everest until Clinton was 6 years old.
  5. The Few, The Proud, The Marines – Very recently, Clinton claimed to have been turned down by the Marines when she applied in 1975. Washington Post fact-checkers quickly realized the absurdity that a rising legal star at the time, and soon to be wife of Bill Clinton, would drop everything and ship off with the Marines. They gave her a couple of Pinocchios for her tall tale.
  6. Secret E-Mails – Former Secretary of State Clinton claimed her infamous private e-mail server was set up in “accordance with the rules and the regulations in effect.” A federal judge disagreed, saying Clinton “violated government policy” when she used a private server to store official State Department messages.
  7. Benghazi – Clearly the most reprehensible lie of them all – Clinton failed to tell the truth about a terrorist attack that killed four Americans in Benghazi. She claimed for weeks, standing over the flag-draped coffins of murdered Americans, that an insensitive YouTube video had incited the violence that occurred that night. Why? Because a terrorist attack on the anniversary of 9/11 – which it was – would have destroyed President Obama’s re-election chances. But hey, at the end of the day it’s worth it to Clinton to tell a politically expedient lie, so long as her party can stay in power.

I'm not sure how Political Insider stands politically, although those seem to be written by one of Clinton's political opponents. I don't see six of them in your list.

If those seven aren't enough, a couple more sources:

Politifact gave her seven Pants on Fire! ratings. While many of Politifact's ratings involve exaggerations rather than outright lies, the Pants on Fire! rating are things that are deliberately false and "make ridiculous claims". Politifact claims to be neutral. If anything, they may lean left--towards Clinton (many conservatives would contest the "may").

Sean Hannity suggests thirty-six statements as lies. Note that Hannity is politically opposed to Clinton, so take his list with a grain of salt.


I think that the main reason many Americans don't trust Hillary are the scandals mentioned by @Brythan in his answer, whether they were exaggerated or not by some sources. But I want to add some additional informations, not about things she did (or didn't do) but about how people view Clinton, and why they don't trust her, i.e. more subjective things based indirectly in what she did or talked about.

Disclaimer: I'm a moderate conservative, and I'm more against Hillary than against Trump (and I'm not an American, if that matters). But my opinions shouldn't matter is this site! So I'll try to be neutral and just show the results of my research.

Before anything, it should be noted that OP's claim that "Hillary is perceived as untrustworthy" is probably true, according to what opinion researches say. This research by Morning Consult shows that "Clinton and Trump Are Historically Unpopular". And the reasons of Hillary's unpopularity are tied to trust. Besides the general "is not trustworthy", many participants of the research said she "is corrupt" and "changes her positions when it's politically convenient" (Donald Trump is seen as "Racist" and Inexperienced").

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Now, let's search for some evidences to "why" she is seen as "untrustworthy".

According to this article from left-leaning The Atlantic:

Hillary Clinton can’t be trusted because she’ll do anything to win. That’s what several participants in a focus group of thirty undecided voters moderated by Republican strategist Frank Luntz on Friday in Alexandria, Virginia, seemed to believe. At least some of the group of Democratic, Republican and Independent-leaning voters felt the first woman to win the presidential nomination of a major U.S. political party was too ambitious.

Research indicates that women in leadership positions tend to be evaluated more negatively than men. A 2010 study on backlash against female politicians found that “participants experienced feelings of moral outrage” such as contempt, anger, and disgust when women politicians were described as power-seeking. In contrast, “when participants saw male politicians as power-seeking, they also saw them as having greater agency (i.e., being more assertive, stronger, and tougher) and greater competence.”

It’s difficult to differentiate or untangle lurking sexism from general distrust among voters of the political establishment. Clinton is also a political insider at a time when voters have very little trust in government.

So, according to these researchers, some voters have negative feelings about power-seeking politicians, specially if the politician is a female. However, the article also mentioned the possibility of her position as a political insider to be a source of her being considered untrustworthy for the public.

Another interesting finding is this research:

Research, including new work from our Human Cooperation Laboratory at Yale, suggests Trump may be successful precisely because of his hotheadedness and lack of carefully thought-out proposals. Being seen as calculated can make people trust you.

Hillary Clinton is the opposite of hotheaded. She is careful and calculating – which, despite being a strong asset in actually carrying out the duties of public office, has become a liability in her presidential campaign by undermining the public’s trust in her.

In a recent paper, we found that if you take an action that people like, you come off as much more trustworthy if you decide to act without doing a careful cost-benefit analysis first: Individuals who calculate seem liable to sell out when the price is right.

So, Hillary is seen as "cold and calculated", and people tend to think this kind of people is less trustworthy, according to this research.

There is also this NYT (another left-leaning source) podcast where they discuss exactly this question. According to one of the people they talk, Mark Landler (among others), a "White House correspondent for The Times", about the "high-profile episodes, from Benghazi, Libya, to a private email server, which have contributed to Mrs. Clinton’s troubles":

“Why wasn’t she willing to have a government email account like every other employee of the state department?” Mr. Landler asked on The Run-Up. “That goes to the broader issue around the Clintons: that they simply don’t view themselves as being subject to the same regulations that the rest of the world has to comply with.”

I'll not do the thing Hillary is accused, so I'll not lie: I have not listen the podcast. But maybe someone finds it interesting, so it's here!

Well... Maybe my sources are a bit biased if favour of Hillary (or maybe I'm biased against her so I think my non-biased sources are biased). However, I think these studies can draw a light on the more subjective, unconscious way some people unfavoured Hillary.

  • 10
    This is the single most horrendous pie graph I have seen in my life.
    – djechlin
    Commented Nov 15, 2016 at 15:56
  • 2
    ... wouldn't this just mean she's an extraordinary person who has no problems whatsoever besides being untrustworthy, which naturally spans 8 possible answers in their poll because of course that's what they want respondents to pick?
    – djechlin
    Commented Nov 15, 2016 at 15:57
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    @djechlin s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/originals/6c/b7/3d/… fixed.
    – Sirex
    Commented Nov 16, 2016 at 0:57
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    @djechlin What's wrong with a pie chart that adds up to 141%? :D
    – endolith
    Commented Mar 13, 2017 at 16:50
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    @djechlin Yes... they asked for the top two reasons... that's where the 141% comes from.
    – IronEagle
    Commented Oct 28, 2019 at 14:11

To directly answer your question: She has been accused of many scandalous acts during her long political career, and despite a lack of convictions, the perception of being consistently under investigation is enough cause for many people to solidify their judgement of her. She has also inherited a bit of reputation by association from her husband.

There is also some concern of negative public perception of strong-willed (some would probably prefer the term "bossy") women in prominent public circles.

In the end, I don't think that this question has a good "politics" answer and is more of a philosophical issue.

  • 5
    I think this answer can profit from some links to these studies about negative perception of strong-willed women, as the ones I mentioned in my answer below. Commented Nov 15, 2016 at 3:11

The reasons she came to be seen as untrustworthy to Americans are complicated by the heightened political battle between the main parties. The political right ran a very successful campaign to discredit her over a long period of time. If you look up the many claims against her, for example the list of https://politics.stackexchange.com/a/13405/4841, you will find that some are true, some are partly true and some are false. But after a while people stopped caring about how true the claims were or even making an effort to find out. They just generally took the view that she did lots of non-specific bad things. This was a considerable political victory by the strategists on the other side.

The irony is that her main opponent, D. Trump, is hardly known for telling the truth. In fact on any sensible objective measure he is less accurate in his statements than H. Clinton is. This fact shows, at least to me, that H. Clinton's poor reputation amongst voters is connected more to aspects of the US culture wars than just whether she told some lies or not.

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    Slight quibble with 'after a while people stopped caring about how true the claims were' and how that 'was a considerable political victory by the strategists on the other side'. Once someone has provably done bad behavior x, one no longer gets the benefit of the doubt when accused of x. That's just human nature, and equally applicable to the President Elect. Commented Nov 15, 2016 at 15:18
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    @jared smith but, on the other hand, it appears Trump got the benefit of the doubt after exhibiting bad behavior multiple times.
    – user1530
    Commented Nov 15, 2016 at 15:22
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    @blip disagree. People (at least people I know in my overwhelmingly red state) voted for Trump in spite of his behavior, not because of it. I don't know any women (including those that voted for him) who really want to be around him. I don't know any fathers (again, including those who voted for him) who'd want their daughters around him. Commented Nov 15, 2016 at 15:24
  • @JaredSmith I am not sure you are really disagreeing. I didn't express an opinion about whether the victory was deserved or not. As some of the charges are true, some partly true and some completely false, the question of whether this loss of confidence was deserved or not needs careful analysis. I do think it would be interesting for a neutral party to go through the entire catalog of accusations carefully for the history books.
    – Simd
    Commented Nov 15, 2016 at 15:35
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    @JaredSmith Right. I also regard this as a political victory by Trump. It's hard to imagine that that many people would really care about the exact handling of potentially classified material compared with, say, sexual assault, openly mocking the disabled, racist taunts and/or torture as a tool of war. But apparently they did.
    – Simd
    Commented Nov 15, 2016 at 16:19

One thing I haven't seen mentioned is that she's a career politician. A lot of Americans on both sides have a very cynical and distrustful view of politicians, seeing them as detached elites with little-to-no real experience

(I know how much that sounds like a Republican talking point, so just bear with me.) They expect politicians to lie, cheat, and screw people over because that's just how the game is played - or at least how they think it's played. Now if this is actually how things work is beyond the scope of my answer. It's just an unconscious bias that's hammered into them.

This was part of Trump's appeal. He played on the fact that people are distrusting of the political establishment, hence his rhetoric about being an outsider. Even without any scandals, simply being a politician already makes you look untrustworthy by comparison.

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    @Ismalith - because the man has been fighting for the people his entire life. He is nothing like Hilary.
    – Davor
    Commented Nov 17, 2016 at 15:35
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    @Ismalith - hmm, I'd say that Hillary did fail because she was a typical politician: a long carrier of scandals, lying and flip flopping. I'd say that Sanders is the one that is not typical.
    – Davor
    Commented Nov 18, 2016 at 15:46
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    @Davor I don't see this as a necessary part of being a politician, but there is no way to deny, that the usual politician is a cheap sleezeball.
    – Etaila
    Commented Nov 21, 2016 at 8:01
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    @user4012 - I'm not exactly sure what you mean. Sanders has been fighting for everyone's rights, not just those on the left.
    – Davor
    Commented Mar 13, 2017 at 15:10
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    @Davor - nope, he definitely wasn't fight for right of people like me (those who'd have to pay taxes to support his proposals) but against those people's rights.
    – user4012
    Commented Mar 13, 2017 at 15:12

It is not a single line that brought her down, it is everything she does coming together, for example she doesn't stand for anything, while she was running to become the democratic candidate she run as a center democrat, with promoting things as healthcare, doing more for public education and regulation of markets (Wallstreet in public speaking), but in the election she run a "strong America" line, with heavy militarism and free marked rhetoric. People don't simply forget these things, they also remember what she stood for before the whole election process, things like her support of deregulating the markets, what lead to the 2008 crash and her vote for Iraq war, one of the least supported wars by the public and one, that even the supporters of that time now say, was false.

And then her character, the way she talks and acts, she is a living lie, always on the side where she can get the most out of, and tomorrow if things changed she is on the other. This is probably the part where she lost the most, you can say what you want about Trump, that he is an ass hole, retarded, racists, an whatnot, but he always was that way and didn't change. And many people set up with the decision, voting for a corrupt liar that already has shown to work against them or an idiot that doesn't know what he is doing but has the ego of a country, they tend to go for luck over a direct shot in the own foot.

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    FWIW, Trump hasn't always 'been that way'. He's been all over the place politically on a much grander scale than Hillary was. Aside from this being a personal opinion rant, it's actually just plain incorrect.
    – user1530
    Commented Nov 14, 2016 at 23:45
  • He isn't really all over the place, instead permanent hard right wing, overconfident and clueless. Two of these things are liked by some people. Hillary was at the beginning left wing (primary election), than right wing and at the end flipped between right and left wing. Too left for Republicans, too right for Democrats and less confident than Trump. Also she lied, too. So honesty wasn't going for her as well, and to make it really bad she has a hard-line right wing history as already pointed out. So the only thing she had running for her, was that she isn't Trump, not enough for an election.
    – Etaila
    Commented Nov 15, 2016 at 11:32
  • To the answer being opinion, the only opinion here is, that these are the factors that costed her the election, maybe it is something completely different and I am wrong, but that is true with everyone that is giving any kind of answer here, nobody has "the truth" about this election and just because some people use their title or some nice diagrams to state their opinion, doesn't change the fact that it is an opinion, to expect real theories or some kind of facts is a rather odd expectation.
    – Etaila
    Commented Nov 15, 2016 at 11:34
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    He was a strong democrat for a long time. So definitely not "permanent hard right wing"
    – user1530
    Commented Nov 15, 2016 at 15:18
  • I had to look that up, I give you that, but there isn't that much of a change in direction. link for an example, (other sources state basicly the same), he wasn't for Obama or a left wing politic, he was for Clinton before he switched to the Republicans, remember that I said that Clinton was extremely right wing before the election? Keep that in mind and everything comes together.
    – Etaila
    Commented Nov 15, 2016 at 22:49

The Clinton "Foundation" is another excellent reason. If you look at their website as of today, you see some touching pictures of people who appear to be African, prominently displayed, with the statement

Fact: 87% of Clinton Foundation spending goes to directly to programs that improve people's lives around the world.

Really? Let's go to their tax returns. Here is their 2015 form 990. If you look at page 10, you will see the (rounding everything to the nearest million dollars) $99 million in total expenses. Here is a partial list:

$4 million on "Grants and assistance"
$5 million on Direct Program
$29 million on salaries
$9 million on pension plans, payroll taxes, and other employee benefits
$4 million on accounting, fundraising, legal, and investment management
$4 million on advertising, information technology, and office expenses
$5 million on rent
$7 million on travel
$12 million on conventions, conferences, and meetings
$9 million on "other fees"

I don't know what creative thinking they use from there to get to the highlighted statement above. Paying money to your employees improves their lives, I suppose, and conferences and travel can be a lot of fun, too. But are they playing it straight with the average viewer of the website?

And who is getting those salaries? Lower on the form, we see (rounding to the nearest $10k):

$360k -- [Name omitted], Chairman of the Board
$360k -- [Name omitted], Director until 1/19/15
$190k -- [Name omitted], CFO

and so on for another 12 people, with most of the rest making around $200k. The names look like American names. One can guess that if the top people are making those amounts, the next tier might be making $100-150k or so, and they will be much more numerous.

Additionally, their address is in this 48-story building in midtown Manhattan.

And where do they get all that money? Donations, naturally, but from whom? This news story has at least 10 quotes where someone at the State Department was asking whether or not someone was a "Friend of Bill" or FoB, (in other words, a big donor to the Foundation) when deciding how to respond to various requests.

But why would the State Department care whether or not a particular person was a donor to the Clinton "Foundation"? Should that make any difference one way or the other?

Here are what Mother Jones (liberal) and the Daily Caller (conservative) had to say about what various donors got from the State Department.

Was all of this legal? I have no idea; you'd have to check with an expert. Does it stink to high heaven? I have a rather clear opinion about that; what is yours?

  • 1
    This answer seems to show a lack of understanding of how foundations' operational budgets are used. There's nothing contradictory over your laundry list with the statement you quoted. And, again, this doesn't really explain why Trump, when doing clearly worse things with his own foundation, is completely unaffected by it.
    – user1530
    Commented Jan 2, 2018 at 15:08
  • care to elaborate on the first sentence? And what about the second part of the answer? Commented Jan 2, 2018 at 22:15
  • Operational costs are part of what it costs for foundations to do their mission.
    – user1530
    Commented Jan 3, 2018 at 4:35
  • Ie, the foundation spends 87% of its budget on programs. That doesn’t mean the foundation gives 87% of its budget directly to the programs.
    – user1530
    Commented Jan 3, 2018 at 4:37
  • Look at the quote again. Commented Jan 3, 2018 at 5:14

Don't forget about the terrorist attack that happened in the consulate in Benghazi when she was Secretary of State. Although an investigation has shown her not to be at fault, people still don't trust her in part because of the aforementioned. Whether they are misunderstanding what occurred is up for debate. Also, she was using her power and influence as Secretary of State and Democratic presidential nominee to give people (including foreign leaders and Wall Street) favors in return for payment through the Clinton Foundation and, from what I've heard, private bank accounts.

  • 7
    "from what I've heard" Did you ever worry about checking "what you have heard" from other sources, or did it just sound good to you and decided that it was true?
    – SJuan76
    Commented Nov 15, 2016 at 8:55
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    @SJuan76 I heard it on the radio. Here: Those billions intended to rebuild the ruined nation instead disappeared into fantasy houses and roads that were never built, jobs that were never created, a national revival that never happened, and often private bank accounts never traceable. And a company with Tony Rodham, Hillary’s brother, on the board, somehow scored a lucrative 25-year gold mining deal. google.com/amp/townhall.com/columnists/joyoverbeck/2016/09/03/…
    – Levi
    Commented Nov 15, 2016 at 12:53
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    I do not claim that you did invent it, what I did ask was if you did check those "facts" in other, non partisan sources? Didn't you find strange that there was no explanation of how these "facts" were discovered, how the newscaster "knew" about "untraceable accounts"? Any serious news media making these kind of claim would detail which are their information sources (reports, people, etc.), not just drop the accusation. Did you ever wonder why a supposed fraud of "billions" with such supposed "proof" was neither investigated by authorities nor reported by other media?
    – SJuan76
    Commented Nov 15, 2016 at 13:10
  • @SJuan76 that was an other source.
    – Levi
    Commented Nov 15, 2016 at 13:13
  • Like those: buzzfeed.com/craigsilverman/…. It ends being rather "funny" (in a dark way) how just a few foreign teenagers can "convince" Americans of anything they want, no matter how unbelievable, just because it catters to their tastes...
    – SJuan76
    Commented Nov 16, 2016 at 9:53

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