Well, that’s embarrassing! While speaking to supporters of her mother’s presidential campaign in Minnesota, Wednesday, Chelsea Clinton called Bernie Sanders “President Sanders” — and it was pretty much as awkward as it sounds. She quickly backtracked and corrected herself (“I hope not ‘President’ Sanders!'”), but naturally it was impossible not to notice, and her verbal gaffe has since made headlines, according to The Hill. But even though seeing Clinton squirm as she tried to rectify her mistake was strangely satisfying to, well, anyone who isn’t a supporter of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (‘President Sanders’ has a pretty nice ring to it, if I do say so myself), Chelsea definitely deserves to be given a break for this misstep.
It can’t really be that easy to be Chelsea, after all. She may have lived a very privileged life (and still does — according to the Washington Post, she earned a reported $600,000 salary in her former side gig as a special correspondent for NBC News, despite having basically no experience whatsoever), but it hasn’t come without some major concessions. I mean, she moved into the White House when she was only 13 years old, and as New York Magazine noted, she had to contend with cruel jabs about her teenage appearance, as well as salacious and controversial headlines about both of her parents (and still does, come to think of it).
These days Clinton is a married, soon-to-be mother of two, and functions as Vice Chair of the Clinton Foundation. She is also, of course, an ardent and vocal supporter of her mother’s presidential campaign. But despite being firmly in the political spotlight, Chelsea has been upfront in sharing that she’s, “a daughter, not a pundit.” And she should be treated that way.
Understandably, not everyone agrees that she deserves to be given the benefit of the doubt now that she’s an adult — especially since she’s decided to maintain a public life, and because she is so involved in the Clinton Foundation, which is inherently political. Writer Jack Shafer argued in a piece for Politico that, now that she’s no longer a White House teenager, but an active public figure, Chelsea deserves the same type of scrutiny given to her parents:
She has maintained a role as adviser and advocate inside the Clinton family’s political dynasty since leaving Stanford University...Today, Chelsea serves as vice chair of the politically controversial Clinton Foundation, which has raised $2 billion since 2001. She’s a board member at Barry Diller’s IAC...She charges $65,000 per speech...She’s powerful. She exercises influence...If she isn’t newsworthy, nobody is.
Shafer’s argument makes sense of course — she shouldn’t be immune to being criticized when she makes a controversial statement, and she was appropriately grilled when she incorrectly suggested that Sanders’ health care plan would “dismantle Obamacare” and "strip millions and millions and millions of people of their health insurance,” according to The Huffington Post. Former Obama aide David Axelrod called Clinton out for her comment, according to the Daily Mail, saying, “It’s not really an honest attack, and it’s not something that they should have sent her out to do.”
For the most part though, Chelsea has remained steadfast in her decision to steer away from making controversial statements, and in many cases she avoids media questioning entirely. And since she isn’t a politician — her parents are — it seems like she should get to make essentially-meaningless mistakes like her "President Sanders" slip without being laughed at for them.
Besides, it’s not like her comment was indicative that she is secretly “Team Sanders.” Although if she were, that would really be a story.