Hillary Clinton Premieres Hulu Doc at Sundance and Addresses Those Bernie Comments

Hillary Clinton

"I’ve made it very clear that I will work hard for whoever our democratic nominee is. I think the number one priority for any American is to retire Donald Trump. Period," the former first lady and secretary of state said of speaking out about Sanders.

How did Hillary Clinton feel about her cover for The Hollywood Reporter?

"I was thrilled! Another thing I never thought I’d do," the former secretary of state told THR on the red carpet at the premiere of her Sundance docuseries Hillary on Saturday. 

It's only January and it's already a year of firsts for Clinton, whose life is explored across a four-part series by director Nanette Burstein set to debut March 6 on Hulu. It's the first time the former first lady and politician has opened her life to cameras as a private citizen, and it's the first time she's bringing a project to the Sundance Film Festival.

Shortly after THR's in-depth interview with Clinton was published on Tuesday, her comments about Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders — "Nobody likes him, nobody wants to work with him, he got nothing done," she says in the documentary — prompted the hashtag #nobodylikeshim to quickly became a top trend on Twitter. 

Asked why she felt it was important for her to speak out about the current Democratic candidates and what she wanted to convey with her comments on Sanders, Clinton replied: "Well, you know, I shot that interview probably a year and a half ago, and I didn’t think about the election. I’ve made it very clear that I will work hard for whoever our democratic nominee is. I think the number one priority for any American is to retire Donald Trump. Period."

Hillary explores Clinton's life from her earliest years to recounting everything from her husband's affair as president with then-intern Monica Lewinsky to election night 2016, when she became the first woman to come closest to the U.S. presidency, only for it to fall through her fingers. 

"What I liked about it, and it was surprising, is how effectively Nanette kind of pieced different parts of it together, so you see my childhood and you hear from people that I grew up with and my college years and law school — the way that she showed the consistency of my life and the opportunities that I’ve had was really so well done because when you think back on a life like the one I’ve lived, you know, you can get bogged down in one event or another event, but this was the whole arc of my life, and she really captured it," said Clinton. 

With the Democratic caucuses coming up in Iowa on Feb. 3 on the road to November's election, how might the documentary and Clinton's story play into the broader conversation?

"I think that there’ll be lots of contests that have already taken place, but I think it’s important to show that if you’re a Democrat, you stand for certain values and you are firmly in favor of policies like healthcare for everybody," she said. "We may have differences within the Democratic party, but they pale in comparison to the differences we have with this Republican party that has turned into Trump’s party, so I hope people recognize that they can see my life story as part of our political story and understand what we and others have been fighting for a long time."

As for what Clinton thinks audiences might be surprised to find out about her, she said she was interested to know herself. 

"I can’t wait for this screening to be over so that I can answer questions and find out what people picked up from it," she said with a laugh. "Because I think people will find different things, I think some people will respond to different parts of my life and different interviews of people that’ve known me or covered me as journalists, whatever it might be, so I’m waiting to see."

The Sundance audience — which included Gloria Steinem — cheered for Clinton's key milestones and passionate speeches during the screening, and there was applause for when Barack Obama appeared in the film. As viewers watched the events of the 2016 presidential election play out again towards the end, many audience members had tears glistening on their faces. 

After the screening, Clinton joined Burstein for a Q&A with the audience, in which she was not only asked about making the film, but what her thoughts were for Sanders voters and the current impeachment process and why she believes it is imperative for Trump to not win a second term as president. Read the full Q&A below. 

How was [making the doc] for you?

I really didn’t know what I was getting myself into. I was incredibly impressed by Nanette. I actually thought it was going to be a campaign film using, not exclusively, but largely the behind-the-scenes, the hours that had been photographed by our camera team. So when Nanette said, "No, this is going to be a bigger story, I want to talk to you about your life," I thought, why not? I admire her work. I had never met her before, but I thought it would be an opportunity to provide a different perspective, and so we did spend about 35 hours, seven days of interviewing, and it was 
exhausting and it was very overwhelming from time to time, but I thought the way she envisioned what she was trying to do made sense. And she went off and interviewed not only the people you saw in the film, but many more, so it turned out for me to be a really positive and challenge experience.

Since you’re an expert on articles of impeachment, we would like to know your thoughts on the current impeachment.

Well, do we have 35 hours? (Laughs.) I followed the evidence presented in the House that led to articles being voted on and then sent to the Senate. I thought that the House managers did a really comprehensive, excellent job in presenting the evidence and weaving it together in a narrative that clearly demonstrated that the kind of behavior that they included in the articles of impeachment was exactly what the founders were worried about and why they put in impeachment into the constitution — because of course they knew there were going to be elections that they thought there might very well be at some point, given human nature and the tide of human events, a leader whose behavior would be so egregious, so threatening to the republic that there had to be a remedy. I’m obviously realistic enough to understand that the House Republicans and the Senate Republicans don’t want to hear this, don’t want to think hard about it, don’t want to make a decision and are going to probably default to basically deriding the case — they started that today — and then trying to move as quickly as possible without anymore evidence being presented or witnesses called. I hope this will haunt them not only politically, but historically.

It’s one thing to take the behavior that’s embodied in the impeachment articles seriously but then conclude they didn’t arise to being convicted in a Senate trial. It’s another thing to be unwilling even to entertain the seriousness and implications of these charges, and I thought Adam Schiff did a superb job in his summaries because he really got to the heart of the matter. When people criticized Speaker [Nancy] Pelosi for not rushing to impeachment because, let’s be clear, there were a lot of things that could have triggered an impeachment investigation based on my experience and based on having been one of the authors in 1974 of the analytic piece about what constitutes crimes of this demeanor, so I have more than a passing familiarity professionally and personally of what impeachment is. When Nancy repeatedly held the line, she was absolutely right because we had to build a case and we had to demonstrate as clearly as you could that the behavior threatened the security, the sovereignty, the integrity of our country and, most particularly, our elections. So Schiff’s point that everybody should emphasize is that when you have pattern of behavior that we saw in the 2016 elections once again being engaged in this election, it’s not a retrospective. This is about what could happen in 2020, and I thought the House did a very professional, very careful job with it, and I’ve served with some of the Republicans who are still there in the Senate, and I find it absolutely beyond my understanding why they’re so cowed, so terrified to do what most of them know they should do. 

Given the lessons that you've learned ... what needs to happen for a woman to break that glass ceiling for president?

We’ve had women governors. We’ve had women senators, obviously. I’ve said for many, many years that a presidential system is much harder for woman to win that a parliamentary system. Think about it. There have been numerous women prime ministers, from the U.K., Germany to Israel, India, in complex, diverse democracies like those, and they rose out of a parliamentary system because they could establish credibility in their constituency, serving those whom they’ve represented, and they could establish their credibility with their peers within their party so that they would see the potential within a woman to be the leader of the party, and therefore a potential prime minister. In our system, you have to start from scratch. You have to raise hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars, you don’t get any help from our party and apparatus, which basically just runs a convention when it comes to it, so what you do is have to demonstrate your ability not only to compete in this very contentious and difficult political and press environment, you have to raise the money to run your campaign and it is at the same time required that you sell yourself to your fellow citizens as the head of state and the head of government, because remember, one of the other advantages of a parliamentary system is that the person is the head of government, not the head of state.

But in our system, we combine them both, so if you think about the conditioning that people have towards what a president looks like and how a president acts, I think that we will get there and I’m very hopeful about that. We got further than we ever have before in 2016, but it is a big endeavor, for anyone, man or woman, but given the residual, continuing double standard. It’s very challenging for a woman. We had six women originally in the democratic primary, and we’re down to, I guess, two that are left in major contention, and I think that they’re both really acquitting themselves well, they’re both doing everything they can and have to do to break through. There is a new element to this, and that’s the really vicious online community that goes after women who put their heads above the parapet, and you see this now particularly aimed at Elizabeth Warren, a lot of incredibly vicious attacks aimed at her, so you have all of the usual problems we know about from history, and you have a whole new challenge of social media and what happens to women who speak up and speak out or put themselves out in a public way.

Did you have any reservations about making the documentary?

Well, sure. You sit in that chair and you’ve told the filmmaker that "nothing’s off-limits, you can ask whatever you want," and then she does. … I don’t think I had reservations after I decided I was going to do it, I thought, "OK, we’re going to do it, and we told her we would cooperate," and we did. The challenges, you need to ask [Burstein], because she had to piece this together. I showed up and answered questions for 35 hours, but it was this woman who went out and talked to everybody else. She found footage that I had never seen before or had forgotten — that scene where I’m being burned in effigy because I’m trying to get universal healthcare, I knew there were people who weren’t happy with me, but being burned in effigy?! 

It’s no surprise you’re not a big fan of Bernie Sanders. What would you say to the Bernie fans here and who should they vote for?

People can support whoever they want to vote for, but once we have a nominee, close ranks. My race with Barack Obama was much closer than my race with Bernie Sanders — I actually got more votes than Barack did, but he got more delegates — so as soon as that was clear, within days I dropped out, endorsed him, I did hundreds of events for him, nobody doubted my support for him. And then at the convention, I had hundreds of my delegates who were very anxious to cast their first vote on the ballot for me. They earned it. They’ve worked for it. They’ve been selected to be my delegates, but I went to the floor of that convention and I moved to nominate Barack Obama by acclamation and I think that’s what we should expect from anyone who doesn’t get the nomination.

Do you feel that the damage that’s being done and has been done, is it reparable nationally and internationally, and will it take decades, or will it ever [be repaired]?

I’ve thought a lot about this because I think there’s been considerable damage. I think it is reparable as long as we win this November — and I say that not just as a partisan Democrat who wants to see a Democrat elected, I say it as an American and a former secretary of state. When I became secretary of state, and then president-elect Obama asked me to serve, he said, "Look, the economy is in free-fall, our relations around the world are in a terrible state — I want you to try to pick up and repair where we are diplomatically, because I have to spend all my time focused on getting us out of this ditch, this chasm that we’re in."

When you think back to 2009, we were not in good shape. We had the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, and much of the rest of world had been deeply concerned about the Bush foreign policies, so I know that you can turn it around, and it wasn’t easy. Part of why I believe it’s possible is because I had to travel extensively and do a lot of outreach and reassure allies and all the rest of it. So now we have internal damage that we have to really pay attention to to our institutions, particularly in the role of law and what’s happening to the Justice Department, and the role that the current attorney general is playing should be deeply concerning, it should be to anybody, so we have a lot of domestic problems that the next president should address, but we also have these serious problems around the world because of the way that this president has conducted himself. So I think it's reversible; I can sit here and tell you that if we don’t beat him in November, that we will have a much more difficult time trying to reverse it, and if he gets a second term, which is unnatural to me because of what I think it would mean for our democracy, so let’s make sure we win in 2020.

The interviews with Bill Clinton got extremely emotional. I was wondering, how supportive was he of the documentary process and how willing was he to participate?

Once I decided I was going to do it and it was going to be as we have said — an open opportunity for Nanette to ask anything that she thought was relevant — I asked Bill if he would participate and he agreed, but it was an very emotional experience for him and for me. I was really proud of him for doing it and proud of the real honesty and feeling that he brought to the questions that he addressed, so I was really grateful that he was willing to do it.

How have you found your time in Park City [for the festival]?

It’s been fabulous, I can’t thank all the Sundance people enough for doing this and I wonder what took me so long.