Chelsea Clinton on Public Health, Podcasts, and the One Emoji Hillary Overuses


Like a lot of us stuck inside during quarantine, Chelsea Clinton had a fleeting thought: I should start a podcast. Unlike many of us, she actually did it. The 41-year-old mother of two and global health advocate is the host of In Fact, a new iHeartRadio podcast that bills itself as a look into “the world of public health through shared stories.” Each week, Clinton invites guests—from politicians to celebrities to activists—to talk about crises like addiction and climate change.

“I love podcasts so much I think, in part, because I grew up listening to NPR with my mom,” Clinton tells “I could probably listen to 12 straight hours of podcasts, and I saw an opportunity in this space to have a broader conversation about public health. I don’t want people to think public health is just synonymous with COVID.”

Below, Clinton on tackling the biggest challenges of our time on In Fact—plus her mom’s “sweet” reaction after listening to episode one (spoiler: it includes a lot of heart eye emojis).

I listen to podcasts when I run, and I run lot. Since the start of the pandemic, I’ve been consuming so much COVID-related podcast content, that I knew there had to be an opportunity to have a broader public health conversations in the same format. I thought, “I can do that.”

[Laughs] I hope it’s clear to anyone who listens to my parents how multidimensional they are. They get framed as these very serious people, which they are. But they’re also very funny. What I hope emerges from listening to them is a fuller understanding of who they are. That’s true for any podcast host. It’s important to ensure that your voice reflects your emotions, because you can’t see someone’s face like if you were watching a debate or a speech. Since I know my parents so well, I can hear when my mom is throwing her arms up in the air. I can’t see her, obviously, but I know she’s doing it. I try to emulate her in that way, to be my full self in my podcast. I think thats what draws in listeners.

Unfortunately our episode was already recorded when the news broke. But Alexis and I do go deep into how so often reproductive rights, especially in the U.S., are situated in personal choice, in privacy rights, and in human rights. All of those frames are important. What are the implications if women don’t have agency over our reproductive lives? What are the implications if women are forced into carrying to term a child that they do not want to have? What are the implications for our medical workforce if they are forced to ignore what they know to be best practices rooted in science and evidence and guidance from their own professional associations? What are the effects and consequences of stripping away the professional agency of healthcare professionals?

[I’d love to have] Dr. Fauci or Dr. Gottlieb, the former commissioner of the FDA. He tried really hard to be a good science communicator, putting himself out there to be in traditionally Republican spaces in a way that is hugely important, since we know Republican men are currently the demographic in our country least likely to want to get a COVID vaccine. There are so many other conversations I hope to have, whether it’s around the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, or the importance of having transparent communication when we live in a world of sound bites. I’d love to have more conversations about how to communicate clearly and consistently about public health. I’d also love to explore how we plan to help children who have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic.

This is going to be disappointingly obvious. Presuming I have listened to NPR and the BBC in the morning, I consume In the Bubble, Dr. Osterholm’s The Osterholm Update, and The Economist’s new podcast about the COVID vaccines. Admittedly, those displaced my pre-COVID podcasts, like the History of Rome, which is bookmarked for when we are, hopefully, out of this moment.

So many of the podcasts I listen to are team hosted, which I hadn’t realized until you asked me this question. My friend Dr. Céline Gounder co-hosted a podcast with Ron Klain before he left to join the Biden White House. She’s now the sole host of the podcast EPIDEMIC. Fairly early on in the pandemic, she was doing something that I’m now trying to do in my own small way, which is to bring to light the real risks that the anti-vaccine movement poses to widespread COVID vaccine adoption. She still doesn’t get enough credit for calling out the Trump administration to take COVID seriously. Which, they did not. I’m thankful the Biden administration is now looking at this real public health threat, not only with regards to COVID, but more broadly at the anti-vaccine movement.

I got a really nice text from her this morning. It was very sweet, and full of exclamation points and emojis and hearts. She’s very proud of me. She loves the podcast, and can’t wait for the next one. She’s very into emojis right now, which I think is a mom thing. [Her favorite is] probably the little smiley face with the heart eyes.

This interview has been lightly edited and condensed for clarity.

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