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Hillary Clinton says she’s held to a higher standard — and gets high negative ratings as a result

Gustavo Caballero/Getty Images

Speaking on 60 Minutes Sunday, Hillary Clinton tried to make the case that she was held to a completely different standard than other politicians.

"I often feel like there's the Hillary standard and then there's the standard for everybody else," Clinton said. "People are very willing to say things about me, to make accusations about me."

Here is the whole exchange:

Scott Pelley: I was speaking to a young African-American man just the other day in a Democratic state. And he said, and I'll quote, "You know, I guess I would vote for Hillary, except for that corruption problem," end quote. As I talked to him further, he didn't quite know what he meant by that. But that was his impression and concern. Why do you think people say that about you?

Hillary Clinton: Well, first, I will take responsibility for any impression or anything I've ever done that people have legitimate questions about. But I think that it's fair to say there's been a concerted effort to convince people like that young man of something, nobody's quite sure what, but of something. I often feel like there's the Hillary standard and then there's the standard for everybody else. And—

Scott Pelley: What's the Hillary standard?

Hillary Clinton: Well, it — it is — you know, a lot of as you at the Republican convention — unfounded, inaccurate, mean-spirited attacks with no basis in truth — reality, which take on a life of their own. And for whatever reasons and I don't want to try to analyze the reasons. I see it. I understand it. People are very willing to say things about me, to make accusations about me that are — I don't get upset about them anymore, but they are very regrettable.

Clinton was vague about what the "Hillary standard" entails, but there are a couple of different ways to interpret this.

In the interview she referred to the Republican National Convention, where she was attacked for everything from her email scandal to Benghazi, and the crowd kept chanting, "Lock her up!"

The notion that Clinton is untrustworthy has obviously resonated with voters more broadly. A CNN poll found that 68 percent of Americans say Clinton is not honest and trustworthy. And her negatives are higher than nearly any candidate in recent memory (apart from Trump).

Clinton, quite obviously, does not agree with these attacks. The question is whether she’s really being judged differently than other politicians.

Some observers, like the Washington Post’s Aaron Blake, argue that the "Clinton standard" line sounds like a cop-out — a way for Clinton to blow off real concerns about her while disclaiming any responsibility. "[W]e could argue all day about whether ‘the Hillary standard’ exists," Blake writes. "But to your average swing voter who thinks the email server thing is a legitimate issue, this sounds a lot like Clinton blowing it off."

On the other hand, there are some Clinton defenders in the media who think she really is held to a double standard — and one that’s deeply gendered.

Slate’s Michelle Goldberg points out that popular "loathing" for Clinton has remained constant since the 1990s, even though the stated motivations have been all over the place: "Strikingly, the reasons people commonly give for hating Clinton now are almost the exact opposite of the reasons people gave for hating her in the 1990s. Back then, she was a self-righteous ideologue; now she’s a corrupt tool of the establishment."

The Boston Globe’s Madeleine May Kunin also argues that women candidates are unfairly held to a higher standard. "If you’re female and running for president, you better be perfect," she notes. She points out that time and again, Trump’s gaffes, blunders, self-aggrandizing speeches, and at times unconstitutional comments have been chalked up to "Trump being Trump."

Kunin contrasts this with the treatment Clinton gets:

The slightest stumble is magnified ten-fold. Compare Clinton’s e-mail carelessness with any of Trump’s deliberate false activities with Trump University, his bankruptcies, and the complaints from his vendors who still are waiting to be paid. Men wear imperfection comfortably. Some voters are incredibly forgiving of male politicians’ mistakes. "Boys will be boys," but girls must be goddesses.

How accurate this is, it’s difficult to say. But the numbers here are striking: According to a study by Harvard’s Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics, and Public Policy reported in June, Hillary Clinton received far more negative press than any other candidate during the primaries. Media coverage of Clinton was "negative in tone" 84 percent of the time — compared with 43 percent for Donald Trump and 17 percent for Bernie Sanders.

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