Clinton launches book tour, rolls back 'dead broke' claim

NEW YORK - Hillary Clinton launched her much-anticipated book tour Tuesday and tried to smooth over a flap over her earlier remark that she and her husband Bill were "dead broke" when they left the White House.

Hundreds of fans of the former secretary of state, many wearing shirts that said "Hillary Rocks," lined up as early as 5am in New York, where Clinton was due to make her first public signings of her memoir, "Hard Choices." The appearance kicks off a whirlwind few weeks of events that many describe as a dry run for a prospective 2016 presidential campaign.

But first the Democrat took to the airwaves, in a one-hour special Monday night on ABC in which she said the Clintons left the White House "not only dead broke, but in debt." "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 said.

After the comments drew charges of elitism and insensitivity to the plight of ordinary Americans, she followed up with a live Tuesday morning interview on ABC's "Good Morning America." "Let me clarify that I fully appreciate how hard life is for so many Americans today," Clinton said on the morning show.

"We worked hard for everything we got in our lives - and we have continued to work hard," she added.

"And we have been blessed in the last 14 years." But she stressed that the Clintons were $12 million in debt after eight years in the White House, mostly due to high legal fees incurred by Bill Clinton in his impeachment defense linked to his affair with intern Monica Lewinsky.

"For me, it's just a reality what we faced when he got out of the White House, meant we had to keep working really hard," she said.

Bill Clinton wrote a best-selling memoir after his presidency for which he received a multi-million-dollar advance, and he earned a fortune in speaking fees. Hillary Clinton earned a reported $8 million advance for her 2003 memoir, "Living History," and even more for her current book.

Hillary Clinton is also in the midst of a lucrative speaking circuit in which she earns an estimated US$200,000 (S$249,916) per speech.