WASHINGTON, : US President Bill Clinton (R) listens along with First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton (L) as they celebrate the 1993 Budget in the East Room of the White House 23 April in Washington, DC. Members of Congress joined the Clinton to commerate the 1993 Budget that reduced the deficit.STEPHEN JAFFE/AFP/Getty Images
Pres. Bill Clinton kissing wife Hillary Rodham Clinton during his 2nd term Inaugural Day ceremonies, VP Gore (bkgrd. C) & House Speaker Gingrich (far L). (Photo by Dirck Halstead//Time Life Pictures/Getty Images)
Somber Pres. Bill & Hillary Rodham Clinton planting dogwood tree in front of White House in honor of victims of Oklahoma City federal bldg. terrorist bombing. (Photo by Dirck Halstead//Time Life Pictures/Getty Images)
Hillary Rodham Clinton (C) with (fr. R) Tipper Gore, Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan and Apple Computer's John Sculley as President Bill Clinton addresses a joint session of Congress on economy, February 17, 1993. (Photo by Dirck Halstead/Time Life Pictures/Getty Images)
Pres. Bill & Hillary Rodham Clinton holding hands, waving while walking down Pennsylvania Avenue, secret service in tow, in inaugural parade. (Photo by Steve Liss//Time Life Pictures/Getty Images)
Pres. Bill Clinton, wife Hillary Rodham Clinton (R) & daughter Chelsea looking on, being sworn in to office by Chief Justice Rehnquist. (Photo by Cynthia Johnson//Time Life Pictures/Getty Images)
US Pres. Bill & Hillary Rodham Clinton (C) & Egyptian Pres. Mubarak (R) among mourners at funeral for assassinated PM Yitzhak Rabin. (Photo by Dirck Halstead//Time Life Pictures/Getty Images)
Enthused Pres. Bill & Hillary Rodham Clinton (L) & VP Al & Tipper Gore acknowledging main street-filling crowd at re-election campaign rally. (Photo by Cynthia Johnson//Time Life Pictures/Getty Images)
Newly inaugurated President Bill Clinton twirling Hillary Rodham Clinton at the inaugural ball. (Photo by Robert Sherbow/Time Life Pictures/Getty Images)
Pres. Bill Clinton hugging daughter Chelsea & wife Hillary Rodham during his Inaugural Day swear-in ceremony. (Photo by Dirck Halstead//Time Life Pictures/Getty Images)
Bill and Hillary Clinton at a St Louis campaign rally in 1992, Bill Clinton's final day of campaigning in St Louis, Missouri (Photo by Visions of America/UIG via Getty Images)
Governor Bill Clinton and wife Hillary Clinton at a Texas campaign rally in 1992 on his final day of campaigning in McAllen, Texas (Photo by Visions of America/UIG via Getty Images)
Governor Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton, Governor Ann Richards and Senator Lloyd Bentsen at a Texas campaign rally in 1992 on his final day of campaigning, McAllen, Texas (Photo by Visions of America/UIG via Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, : US President Bill Clinton (R) whispers to First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton (L) in an East Room ceremony 26 October 1999 at the White House in Washington, DC. The Clintons hosted 'The Vogue' reception to coincide with photogapher Annie Leibovitz's exhibition entitled 'Women' opening at the Corocoran Gallery of Art in Washington. STEPHEN JAFFE/AFP/Getty Images
UNITED STATES - JULY 27: President Bill Clinton and First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton share a smile at a meeting on Medicare at the White House. (Photo by Harry Hamburg/NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images)
Pres. Bill Clinton (L) at his 2nd term Inaugural Day swear-in, wife Hillary Rodham Clinton & daughter Chelsea at his side, VP Gore (bkgrd. C) & House Speaker Gingrich (far L). (Photo by Dirck Halstead//Time Life Pictures/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, : US First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton whispers to US President Bill Clinton prior to the arrival of Hungarian President Arpad Goencz on the South Lawn of the White House 08 June 1999 in Washington, DC. Mrs. Clinton is expected to announce her intentions for the US Senate seat in New York later this summer.STEPHEN JAFFE/AFP/Getty Images
WASHINGTON, : US First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton (R) talks with her husband US President Bill Clinton (L) at the North Atlantic Council dinner in a tent on the South Lawn of the White House 24 April 1999 in Washington, DC. STEPHEN JAFFE/AFP/Getty Images
WASHINGTON, : Chinese Prime Minister Zhu Rongji (L) and US President Bill Clinton make remarks during a state dinner as First Lady Hillary smiles 08 April, 1999 at the White House in Washington DC. This is the first time a Chinese prime minister has visited the US in15 years. JOYCE NALTCHAYAN/AFP/Getty Images
President Clinton speaks with Hillary during an event about Social Security and Medicare in the East Room of the White House February 17, 1999. Clinton, joined by Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin and first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton, makes his pitch via satellite today to 41 college campuses in 28 states. (Photo by Mike Holmes)
US President Bill Clinton, (L), First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton and daughter Chelsea, (R), walk to Marine One on the South Lawn of the White House, 30 December, in Washington, DC. The first family is attending the Renaissance Weekend in Hilton Head South Carolina for New Years. TIM SLOAN/AFP/Getty Images
President Bill Clinton and wife Hillary see King Hussein and Queen Noor of Jordan off at the White House January 5, 1999 on their way home following six months of cancer treatment for the King at the Mayo Clinic. (photo by Rex Banner)
Pres. Bill & Hillary Rodham Clinton exchanging intimate glance while treading red carpet, awaiting arrival of South Korean Pres. Kim Dae Jung at White House arrival ceremony. (Photo by Cynthia Johnson//Time Life Pictures/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, : US President Bill Clinton (R), First Lady Hillary Clinton (L), and their daughter Chelsea (C) depart 18 August the White House in Washington, DC, with their dog Buddy on their way to a two-week vacation in Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts. LUKE FRAZZA/AFP/Getty Images
DC, UNITED STATES: US President Bill Clinton (L) and First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton (R) walk out of the White House en route to daughter Chelsea's graduation ceremony at Sidwell Friends High School 6 June in Washington. Chelsea is attending Stanford University in California this fall. STEPHEN JAFFE/AFP/Getty Images
Discover More Like This
BACK TO SLIDE
By KEN THOMAS
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Hillary Rodham Clinton's family was "dead broke" and saddled with legal bills when she and her husband left the White House, the former first lady said in an interview that aired Monday at the start of a high-profile book tour that could precede a 2016 presidential campaign.
"We came out of the White House not only dead broke, but in debt," Clinton told ABC News. "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."
The remark evoked charges of elitism long volleyed by both parties during presidential campaigns. Republicans immediately seized on the comment, two years after their presidential nominee, Mitt Romney, was dogged by accusations of being out-of-touch because of his wealth. GOP officials pointed out that Hillary Clinton received an $8 million book advance for her 2003 memoir and said the comments reflected her insulation from the daily problems of average Americans.
"I think she's been out of touch with average people for a long time," said Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus, pointing to Clinton's estimated $200,000-per-speech speaking fees and million-dollar book advances. "Whether she was flat broke or not is not the issue. It's tone deaf to average people."
Clinton's memoir, "Hard Choices," will be released Tuesday, accompanied by interviews with ABC News and other news organizations. She will appear at book events this week in New York, Chicago, Philadelphia and suburban Washington, D.C., and her appearances are already stoking a debate over her record at the State Department and as a one-time presidential candidate, New York senator and first lady.
After leaving the White House, former President Bill Clinton earned a fortune in speaking fees while Hillary Clinton represented New York in the Senate. But the couple departed the White House with large legal bills incurred during investigations into Whitewater and the Monica Lewinsky affair.
Hillary Clinton's Senate financial disclosure forms, filed for 2000, show assets between $781,000 and almost $1.8 million. The forms allow senators to report assets in broad ranges. The same form, however, showed that the Clintons owed between $2.3 million and $10.6 million in legal bills to four firms.
Mrs. Clinton's advance for "Living History," her 2003 memoir, was $8 million. In 2004, the Clintons paid off their legal bills, according to Senate disclosure forms. And by 2009, when Hillary Clinton was preparing to join President Barack Obama's administration as secretary of state, the Clintons' wealth was somewhere between $10 million and $50 million.
Branding an opponent as an elitist has been a common tactic for both parties in presidential campaigns. In 2004, Republican President George W. Bush's advisers sought to portray Democratic rival John Kerry - Clinton's successor as secretary of state - as a wealthy aristocrat. In 2008, Democrats took to the airwaves when Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said in a Politico interview that he was unsure of how many homes he and his wife, Cindy McCain, owned.
In 2012, Romney was forced to repeatedly fend off charges by Democrats that he was clueless about the economic strains of many Americans. During the GOP primary campaign, Romney said he was "not concerned" about the very poor, said he knew what it felt like to worry about being "pink-slipped," and said his wife drove a "couple of Cadillacs."
Clinton's defenders noted the family has been generous to charities and some of Clinton's speeches have been delivered for free or her appearances have raised millions of dollars for philanthropic organizations.
During the 2008 campaign, Mrs. Clinton released tax forms that showed a total of $1.1 million in book proceeds went to charities between 2000 and early 2008. The reports also showed that the Clintons gave away $10 million after departing the White House. Between 2001 and 2006, $6 million of that was to the Clinton Foundation, which the former president established after his presidency.
As Clinton starts her book tour, the back-and-forth demonstrated what could be a preview of the political jousting in the next presidential campaign.
Associated Press writer Philip Elliott contributed to this report.