President Clinton: 'Dead broke' comments were 'factually true'

DENVER — Former President Bill ClintonWilliam (Bill) Jefferson ClintonWith Ryan out, let’s blow up the process for selecting the next Speaker When Barbara Bush praised Bill Clinton, and Clinton praised the man she loved Meet the Democratic sleeper candidate gunning for Senate in Nebraska MORE on Tuesday defended his wife Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonGeorge HW Bush wears 'book socks' to Barbara Bush's funeral to honor her passion for literacy Obamas, Clintons to attend funeral of Barbara Bush Hillary Clinton to fundraise in DC for public charter high school MORE's recent comments on wealth, saying she is “not out of touch.”

In a discussion with NBC's David Gregory as part of the Clinton Global Initiative, the former president backed up his wife's remarks about being “dead broke” when the couple left the White House. 

“It is factually true that we were several million dollars in debt,” Clinton said, as Hillary Clinton and his daughter Chelsea looked on. The former president argued that the reporters asking his wife the questions “should put this in some sort of context.”

He said Hillary Clinton had in the past offered legal assistance for poor people and fought for paid leave for pregnant mothers in the 1970s. And he explained that he and the former secretary of State go to their local grocery store on the weekends and talk to regular people. 

The Clintons have sought to do damage control over Hillary Clinton’s “dead broke” comment as the former first lady, New York senator and secretary of State prepares for a possible 2016 White House bid.

The "dead broke" comments opened Clinton up to attacks from Republicans who said they showed she is out of touch with average Americans. Both Clintons have made millions from book deals and can earn hundreds of thousands of dollars for a single speech.

The comments also unnerved some Democrats, who see Clinton as the front-runner for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2016 but worry she might repeat missteps made in 2008 that led to then-Sen. Barack Obama surpassing her. 

Last weekend, Hillary Clinton inadvertently highlighted her finances again, when she told The Guardian that, “unlike the truly well off,” she and her husband “pay ordinary income tax” and their wealth only came “through the dint of hard work.”

Asked if Americans resented politicians of means in general, Bill Clinton replied, “I don't think most Americans resent somebody else doing well. They resent that they're not getting a fair deal. They want the bottom to grow. They want the middle to grow.

“You just have to be transparent and tell people the truth,” he said. 

Gregory asked Clinton if the general debate on the Clintons' wealth was unfair. 

“No,” the former president replied, adding, “I might understand it differently than you do.

“Someone is always trying to change the subject,” he said.