Why does Trump call Hillary Clinton ‘crooked Hillary’?

One of former President Donald Trump’s most enduring rhetorical attacks against Hillary Clinton is derisively referring to her as “Crooked Hillary.” Trump first unveiled this nickname during the contentious 2016 election and continues using it to this day. This article delves into the origins of “Crooked Hillary” and what Trump is implying and trying to achieve through the epithet.

Origins in the 2016 Campaign

  • Trump first used “Crooked Hillary” at a campaign rally in May 2016 after defeating Clinton for the Democratic nomination ([1]).
  • It soon became a fixture of his stump speeches criticizing Clinton as overly secretive and scandal-plagued.
  • “Crooked Hillary” portrayed Clinton as fundamentally corrupt and provided a counter to her branding Trump as “Dangerous Donald.”
  • Trump also encouraged rally crowds in chants of “Lock her up!” strengthening the crooked image.

Reference to Clinton Controversies

Trump wielded “Crooked Hillary” to attack Clinton regarding several ongoing controversies:

  • Criticisms of her use of a private email server as Secretary of State ([2]).
  • Accusations that the Clinton Foundation accepted questionable foreign donations ([3]).
  • Historical scandals like Whitewater and commodity trading profits in Arkansas ([4]).
  • Allegations of “pay for play” access at the State Department ([5]).

Comparison to Nixon

  • Trump compared Clinton to Richard Nixon, another infamous “crook” ([6]).
  • This framed Clinton as similarly abusing power and circumventing rules through deceit.
  • Trump claimed Clinton lacked the ethics and transparency to be president.

Reinforcing Untrustworthy Image

  • “Crooked Hillary” aimed to reinforce Clinton’s high unfavorability and perceptions that she was overly calculating ([7]).
  • By 2016, many voters already viewed Clinton as overly political and defensive about past scandals.
  • The “crooked” epithet played off these existing doubts about her trustworthiness.

Ongoing Use of the Nickname

  • Despite Clinton’s election loss, Trump continues applying the “Crooked Hillary” moniker frequently, keeping it alive for supporters ([8]).
  • He uses it broadly to represent alleged Democratic corruption and “Deep State” efforts against him.
  • The nickname remains a shorthand Trump rally chant to vent disdain for his opponents.


Through relentless use of “Crooked Hillary” during rallies, debates, and tweets, Trump cemented one of his most biting and effective campaign attacks. The epithet encapsulated accusations of Clinton secrecy, chicanery, and dishonesty that reinforced her vulnerabilities as a candidate. It exemplified Trump’s brash rhetorical style while inflicting lasting damage to Clinton’s public image.


  1. Time. “Here’s How Donald Trump Thinks of Hillary Clinton” https://time.com/4394178/donald-trump-hillary-clinton-names/
  2. Politico. “What Clinton said about her email server” https://www.politico.com/story/2015/03/hillary-clinton-email-server-private-116365
  3. The Atlantic. “The Clinton Foundation Is Not a Scandal” https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2016/09/the-clinton-foundation-is-not-a-scandal/499866/
  4. The New York Times. “For Clinton, Scandals Have Always Pushed the Politics Out of the Picture” https://www.nytimes.com/2016/10/30/us/politics/hillary-clinton-scandals.html
  5. The Washington Post. “Emails reveal how foundation donors got access to Clinton and her close aides at State Dept.” https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/emails-reveal-how-foundation-donors-got-access-to-clinton-and-her-close-aides-at-state-dept/2016/08/22/345b5200-6882-11e6-8225-fbb8a6fc65bc_story.html
  6. Politico. “Trump hammers ‘Crooked Hillary’ for questioning election results” https://www.politico.com/story/2018/09/19/trump-hillary-clinton-election-results-828418
  7. Gallup. “Hillary Clinton’s Favorable Rating One of Her Worst” https://news.gallup.com/poll/243242/hillary-clinton-favorable-rating-one-worst.aspx
  8. The Guardian. “Hillary Clinton is a crook, says Donald Trump – campaign live” https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/live/2022/sep/03/donald-trump-joe-biden-us-midterms-campaign-arizona-pennsylvania-live-updates

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