Hillary Clinton given devilish look on latest TIME cover

WASHINGTON  - It was either a curious oversight or an ominous editorial directive, but the cover of TIME's latest issue out Thursday depicts likely 2016 presidential prospect Hillary Clinton apparently sporting devil's horns.

It is not the first time such an image has graced the storied magazine; the position of the "M" in TIME has led to dozens of personalities, including Pope Francis, preacher Billy Graham and Microsoft founder Bill Gates looking as if they too had the satanic features.

A TIME reporter tweeted a link to 33 similar covers over the last several years, including one depicting Clinton's husband, former president Bill Clinton.

But given her miserable week, following revelations Clinton exclusively used a private email account while secretary of state, and that her family foundation received foreign donations, the cover image triggered a flurry of online debate.

"She-Devil 2016: Photoshop lapse? Or subtle editorial statement?" the conservative magazine National Review posted on Twitter.

The cover depicts a silhouetted Hillary, with the headline "The Clinton Way" and a subhead: "They write their own rules. Will it work this time?"

"In this case, the former secretary of state explained, those rules bless her decision to erase some 30,000 emails from the family server despite knowing that the emails had become a subject of intense interest to congressional investigators," according to the cover story.

It goes on to paint America's pre-eminent power couple in perpetual ambition, fuelled by a craving for political glory but hamstrung by financial strain and the "sexually reckless" antics of Bill Clinton.

The latest scandals to haunt the prospective Democratic frontrunner have led analysts and political observers to wonder aloud whether she and her team operate by their own playbook, flouting guidelines that apply to all government personnel.

Clinton, seeking to quell the controversy on Tuesday, held a press conference where she insisted that as top diplomat she sought to use her personal email account on a private server out of "convenience."

But the furor has cast a shadow over what was expected by many to be a well-orchestrated rollout of her presidential campaign as early as next month.