Clinton rushes to Planned Parenthood's defense amid shutdown talk

Story highlights

  • The Clinton campaign has said it is going to try to showcase the former secretary of state's more spontaneous and charming side
  • Clinton called on House Speaker John Boehner to not shut down the government over Planned Parenthood

Washington (CNN)Hillary Clinton rushed to Planned Parenthood's defense Thursday, warning congressional Republicans against blocking funding for the entire federal government in an effort to stop the flow of dollars to the organization.

"I would hope that the Republicans -- and particularly the Republicans in the House, led by Speaker (John) Boehner -- would not put our country and our economy in peril pursuing some kind of emotionally, politically charged, partisan attack on Planned Parenthood to shut our government down," Clinton told CNN's Wolf Blitzer on "The Situation Room." "I think that would be a very, very unfortunate decision."
    Clinton wouldn't answer when asked whether she has seen the controversial videos of Planned Parenthood officials discussing the use of aborted fetuses for research -- which has fueled a new GOP push to block government dollars from flowing to the organization.
    The former secretary of state was a frequent subject in the Republican presidential debate Wednesday night -- particularly in an attack from Carly Fiorina, the former Hewlett-Packard executive who dared Clinton and President Barack Obama to watch the videos.
    But instead of hitting Fiorina back, Clinton trained her ire on Capitol Hill Republicans.
    "If they want to shut down the legal provision of abortion services, then they've got a bigger problem, because obviously Planned Parenthood does not use federal dollars to do that," Clinton said.

    A prime target

    Clinton was a prime target at the debate hosted by CNN at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library. GOP 2016 hopefuls, including Fiorina, Chris Christie and front-runner Donald Trump, attacked her record as secretary of state as well as her trustworthiness.
    Even before Clinton's interview on Thursday, Clinton's team seized on the candidates' comments, particularly their virulent opposition to Planned Parenthood, the controversial women's health organization that provides cancer screenings, health services and abortions.
    In a written statement to reporters, Clinton said the Republican debate continued the party's "race to the bottom on women's health and women's rights" because "every single candidate on stage has pledged to defund Planned Parenthood if they become president."
    She added, "Repeating false statements doesn't make them true, no matter how many times you do it."
    But Clinton took it a step further Thursday, calling on Boehner to not shut down the government over Planned Parenthood.
    Some Republicans in Congress have pushed for Congress to tie defunding Planned Parenthood to funding the government, thou some House GOP leaders are actively exploring a plan that would target the organization through a stand-alone measure, not tying it to the budget.
    "Speaker Boehner and his colleagues have a job to do, and they should do it," Clinton said. "Here's my message to them: don't attack women's health care. And don't shut down the government."
    Thursday's live interview comes as the Clinton campaign has said it is going to try to showcase the former secretary of state's more spontaneous and charming side, as her early lead in most polls has slid. Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders has even taken the lead in some surveys in the key primary states of Iowa and New Hampshire.
    Wednesday night, Clinton appeared on "The Tonight Show," where she let Jimmy Fallon tug on her hair to prove it was real and participated in a sketch where she was interviewed by "Donald Trump" -- as played by Fallon.
    And last week, Clinton sat down for a series of interviews in which she apologized for the decision to use a private email server while at the State Department -- an effort by her campaign to try to put the lingering, damaging issue behind it.
    The former secretary of state is traveling in New Hampshire on Thursday, where she received the endorsement of the state's governor, Maggie Hassan.

    'Silly season'

    In Thursday's interview, Clinton dismissed the Republican debate, which drew a CNN record 23 million viewers, as political "silly season."
    She chalked up the debate's attacks on her up to "the usual back-and-forth -- political attacks, the kinds of things you say when you're on a debate stage and you really don't have much else to say."
    She blasted the GOP candidates for failing to address student debt, equal pay for women and income inequality.
    "I don't really pay a lot of attention to this kind of rhetoric that heats up the debate stage. They're all trying to vie for more attention from, obviously, the Republican Party," Clinton said.
    Still, Clinton must first clear a Democratic primary field that includes Bernie Sanders, who is polling ahead of Clinton in the key early-voting state of New Hampshire, and could see Vice President Joe Biden jump into the race.
    Her intra-party rivals -- particularly former Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley -- have howled that the Democratic National Committee has restricted the debate calendar to just six events in the 2016 race.
    Clinton told Blitzer that she'd be "happy" to add to that debate calendar -- but, unlike her approach in 2008, when she called for more against Barack Obama, she wouldn't issue her own call for more debates.
    She said she "will certainly show up anywhere the Democratic National Committee tells us to show up," a comment that puts the ball in the hands of DNC Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz.
    "I am ready and willing, no matter what they decide, to show up and be there," Clinton said.