MARTHA’S VINEYARD – At a crowded book signing yesterday former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was photographed doing a Nazi salute as she and several women around her laugh. When Mrs. Clinton was asked about the photograph after it went viral she laughed and said her Nazi salute was “just a silly joke.” This morning Mrs. Clinton’s publicist dismissed any rumors alleging Mrs. Clinton was in any way associated with the Nazi party.
“Mrs. Clinton has always had a staunch aversion to Adolph Hitler and his Nazi party. For anyone to suggest that she would do a Nazi salute for any reason other than fun is ridiculous. As those who know the former first lady will tell you, Mrs. Clinton has a fertile sense of humor and she’s able to make the most morbid subjects the butt of her jokes. For Mrs. Clinton, enacting Nazi salutes has always been an ice breaker at parties or a way to cheer up friends and colleagues who might be down in the dumps.”
At various times in the past, family and friends of Mrs. Clinton have described her sense of humor as crazy, zany, sardonic and even risque. She’s known for using her innovative jocularity to bring laughter to the sick and hope to the troubled. Chelsea Clinton recently spoke to Oprah about growing up with her mother’s sense of humor.
OPRAH: Now what about your mom’s sense of humor? What’s going on there?
CHELSEA: (laughing) I thought you might bring that up.
OPRAH: Nazi salutes? Stroke victim impersonations? Prison rape jokes?
CHELSEA: And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Mom will make a joke about anything.
OPRAH: Obviously she kept that side of her private during the White House years.
CHELSEA: She was aware that being the first lady meant portraying a sense of decorum to the world. With all the attention dad’s affairs were getting, the last thing they needed was for mom to tell one of her harelip lesbian jokes.
OPRAH: Is that really something you can joke about?
CHELSEA: For mom it is. She always says if you can’t laugh at something then you’re taking yourself too seriously.
OPRAH: I hear she’s pretty brutal with fat kids.
CHELSEA: (giggling) Oh, she’s merciless with fat kids.
OPRAH: But childhood obesity is such a sensitive issue. It’s so painful for so many families.
CHELSEA: Yeah, but mom says it’s better to laugh at them than ruin your day fretting about something that isn’t going to get any better.
OPRAH: I was told that your mom would make Monica Lewinsky jokes?
CHELSEA: (giggling) Mom used to call her the horny corn-fed humidor. At the time I had no idea what it meant, but it used to make dad laugh.
OPRAH: Did your mom do Nazi salutes around the house when you were growing up?
CHELSEA: Oh sure. Lots of times that’s how we’d say goodnight to each other.
OPRAH: With a Nazi salute?
CHELSEA: Yeah. It’s just a funny thing to do. And if you’ll notice, mom’s always smiling when she does her salute. You never see any pictures of Hitler smiling when he did it.
“When we first began dating Hillary and I used to sit up late into the night laughing like hyenas,” Clinton chuckled. “She would do her stroke victim or amputee impersonations and I would laugh so hard that I’d blow a big ol’ fart. Gosh, it was so much fun. And Hillary still makes me fart. The other night she put on one of her pork pie hats and sang The Star Spangled Banner like a person who’s had their tongue cut out. Just hilarious.”
After giving a pro-shotgun speech at a Gary, Indiana nursing home this morning, Vice President Biden was asked about Mrs. Clinton’s Nazi salutes.
“The first time I saw Hillary’s Nazi salute was at a fundraiser at Ted Kennedy’s house back in the the mid-nineties,” Biden recalled. “Senator Kennedy had a fair amount to drink, if you know what I’m sayin’, when he made a belittling remark about Hillary’s failed healthcare initiative. Hillary stood up, gave a Nazi salute and in a very heavy German accent said, Comrade Kennedy, your jokes sink faster than the young women you drive home,” Biden laughed. “Needless to say, Teddy didn’t come back to our table again.”
But not everybody is keen to be in on the joke. During a luncheon for Holocaust survivors and their families last week in Atlantic City, Mrs. Clinton gave a touching speech about the resilience and determination of the Jewish people. She was greeted with enthusiastic applause at the conclusion of her talk when, much to the surprise of many at the gathering, she gave her Nazi salute to staff members as she walked off the stage.
“I was dumbfounded,” the hostess of the luncheon later said. “I mean, my mouth dropped open but I was unable to speak. How can a former first lady of the United States not realize how insensitive that is?”
Following the luncheon Mrs. Clinton told the hostess that she meant no harm, that her Nazi salute had become such a routine gesture between her and her staff that she forgot how it might be interpreted by Holocaust survivors. Later that night Mrs. Clinton sent an apologetic email to attendees of the event.
“I apologize if anyone was offended by what some feel was an inappropriate gesture,” Mrs. Clinton wrote. “I wasn’t thinking and the last thing I would ever intend is to mock the remarkable fortitude of the Jewish people who have always been an inspiration for me. Sometimes a Nazi salute just isn’t appropriate and today may have been one of those times. Again, I apologize if anyone was offended and I assure you, there won’t be any Nazi salutes at next year’s Holocaust survivor dinner.”