Hillary Clinton says she tried to join the Marines when she moved to Arkansas in 1975
"He looks at me and goes, 'Um, how old are you?'" Clinton said on Tuesday.
As the U.S. Marine Corps turns 240 years old this week, Hillary Clinton dusted off an old story that has previously been met with skepticism: When the Yale-educated lawyer moved to Arkansas in 1975, she says she tried to join the Marines.
She laughed Tuesday, the day before Veterans Day, as she recalled being turned away by a recruiter.
“He looks at me and goes, ‘Um, how old are you,’” Clinton said at an event in New Hampshire. “And I said, ‘Well I am 26, I will be 27.’ And he goes, ‘Well, that is kind of old for us.’ And then he says to me, and this is what gets me, ‘Maybe the dogs will take you,’ meaning the Army.”
It’s an open question whether the Marines would turn a woman away, especially someone who had an accomplished background like Clinton.
According to the Women Marines Association, The Marine Corps Women’s Reserve was established in 1943 and female reservists were deployed to Korean in 1950. And by 1975, according to the association, the Marine Corps allowed women to serve in all occupational fields except infantry, artillery, armor and pilot/air crew.
Clinton made the comments a breakfast with voters at a forum called the “Candidate Café,” sponsored by WMUR-TV. It was not open to other reporters, but a clip of the event was posted on the station’s website.
A Clinton spokesman declined to comment to CNN about further details on the incident.
Clinton has repeated her Marine anecdote a few times over the years, dating back to at least 1994 when she was first lady. Each time, critics on the right have raised questions about why a fervently anti-war college student – who worked on the anti-war presidential campaigns of Eugene McCarthy and George McGovern – and just moved to Arkansas to marry Bill Clinton, would have tried to join the military.
Clinton’s telling of the story comes as Right-leaning blogs are highlighting it in the wake of the scrutiny Republican candidate Ben Carson is facing for saying he was offered a full scholarship to West Point despite the school having no record of the encounter. Carson described the offer in his 1990 book, “Gifted Hands,” but on Friday clarified that he was extended an informal offer or “nomination” to attend West Point.
That story followed a CNN report last week that nine friends, classmates and neighbors who grew up with Carson could not confirm accounts of a childhood of violence, including an attempted stabbing and punching a classmate in the face with his hand wrapped around a lock.
A New York Times report from 1994 recalls how Clinton told the story during a lunch on Capitol Hill honoring military veterans. The then-first lady told a similar story: A Marine recruiter rejected her for being too old and suggested she try and join the Army.
“You’re too old, you can’t see and you’re a woman,” Clinton reportedly said, a nod to the coke bottle glasses she used to wear.
“It was not a very encouraging conversation,” Clinton added. “I decided maybe I’ll look for another way to serve my country.”
At the time, according to the Times report, Clinton’s spokesman chalked the story up to the first lady “exploring all her options.”
“I’m never surprised when Mrs. Clinton is doing something service oriented,” Neal Lattimore told the paper. “She was just taking in all her options, saying ‘This is where I am in my life, this is what fits into my life right now.’”
Bill Clinton, too, has used a similar story about his wife’s desire to join the military.
The former president told an audience in Columbus, Indiana during the 2008 election that his then girlfriend “went down and tried to join the Army and they said ‘Your eyes are so bad, nobody will take you.’”