Hillary Clinton Defends High-Dollar Speaking Fees

Clinton: "We came out of the White House not only dead broke, but in debt."

ByABC News
June 9, 2014, 6:44 AM

June 9, 2014 -- Hillary Clinton defended the millions of dollars she and her husband, former President Bill Clinton, have earned giving paid speeches since leaving public office in an exclusive interview with ABC's Diane Sawyer ahead of Tuesday's release of her new memoir, "Hard Choices."

"We came out of the White House not only dead broke, but in debt," Clinton told Sawyer, referring to the hefty legal fees incurred during their White House years. "We had no money when we got there, and we struggled to, you know, piece together the resources for mortgages, for houses, for Chelsea's education. You know, it was not easy."

She added, "Bill has worked really hard -- and it's been amazing to me -- he's worked very hard. First of all, we had to pay off all our debts, which was, you know, he had to make double the money because of obviously taxes and then pay off the debts and get us houses and take care of family members."

Much more of the interview with Hillary Clinton and ABC's Diane Sawyer will air during a one-hour ABC News primetime special tonight at 9 p.m. ET. ABC's Robin Roberts will follow up with Clinton's first live interview Tuesday, June 10, on "Good Morning America."

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Hillary Clinton's individual speaking fees reportedly average $200,000 per appearance.

"Let me put it this way," Clinton told Sawyer. "I thought making speeches for money was a much better thing than getting connected with any one group or company as so many people who leave public life do."

Since leaving the State Department, Clinton has spoken before a wide-variety of businesses and trade groups -- from corporations like Goldman Sachs, to a scrap recycling conference in Las Vegas, to a group of Silicon Valley technology leaders. However, not all of the speaking appearances have been paid. For example, earlier this year, Clinton waived her fees and travel expenses to address the United Methodist Women Conference in Kentucky.

"I happen to have given lots of free speeches," Clinton added in the interview, which took place at her Washington, DC home.