Republicans are fuming over Hillary Clinton's 'disgraceful' comments about the VA scandal

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Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton ignited a Republican firestorm last Friday when she downplayed the scandal dogging the Department of Veterans Affairs.

"There have been a number of surveys of veterans, and overall, veterans who do get treated are satisfied with their treatment," Clinton said during an interview with MSNBC's Rachel Maddow.

"Nobody would believe that from the coverage that you see, and the constant berating of the VA that comes from the Republicans, in part in pursuit of this ideological agenda that they have."

Last year, bombshell revelations rocked the Department of Veterans Affairs bureaucracy. Notably, wait-time statistics were manipulated to make it appear that more veterans were receiving care than reality, and some veterans had died while waiting for service.

Ten facts you should know about Hillary Clinton:

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Republicans are fuming over Hillary Clinton's 'disgraceful' comments about the VA scandal

1. She went by her maiden for years after she married Bill in 1975. She went by "Mrs. Bill Clinton" shortly after her husband lost the 1980 Arkansas gubernatorial election in part because voters had questioned their marriage's stability.

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2. She once described herself as a tomboy who wanted to be an astronaut, and wrote to NASA as a 12-year-old about how she could become an astronaut. They sent her a reply, clarifying that NASA didn't accept women in their astronaut program.

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3. She coined the term "vast right-wing conspiracy" to explain the intense scrutiny her husband faced when news of his affair with Monica Lewinsky first emerged, though she later said in a statement that she had been misled by her husband about the affair.

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3. She was the student speaker picked to give the commencement speech at Wellesley, and received a standing ovation.

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5. Her parents were Republicans, and she herself served as the president of the Young Republicans club at Wellesley. 

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6. In 1974, she was one of only three women out of 43 lawyers who worked on the inquiry into whether President Nixon would be impeached.

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7. She named her daughter Chelsea after Joni Mitchell's song "Chelsea Morning."

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9. She was the first first lady to hold a postgraduate degree (though every first lady since has held one), and up until her husband was elected president, her salary had been higher than his.

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9. She says she met Bill Clinton at the Yale law library when she approached him and said, "Look if you're going to keep staring at me, and I'm going to keep staring back, I think we should at least know each other. I'm Hillary Rodham. What's your name?"

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10. Her mother told her that she had been named after Sir Edmund Hillary, who was the first man to to climb Everest, despite the fact that he had done so five years after she was born. A spokesperson for Clinton has said that this was a "sweet family story her mother shared to inspire greatness in her daughter, to great results I might add."

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Clinton, the Democratic presidential front-runner, agreed that it was a "real scandal," but told Maddow that "it's not been as widespread as it has been made out to be."

Those comments became a fierce campaign issue this week.

"Hillary Clinton's remarks downplaying the significance of the scandal in which veterans died awaiting care at VA hospitals in Phoenix and across our nation while corrupt bureaucrats collected bonuses are disgraceful, and show a total lack of appreciation for the crisis facing veterans' health care today," Sen. John McCain (R-Arizona) said in a Monday statement.

"Hillary denying the VA has a problem is an insult to our vets. We need to make fixing the VA a priority and I plan to do just that," presidential candidate and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R) tweeted Tuesday.

And in a Wednesday morning conference call organized by the Republican National Committee, McCain and Rep. Jeff Miller (R-Florida) fumed at Clinton for her "very offensive" interview comments. McCain, a veteran and the Republican Party's 2008 presidential nominee, and Miller chair their chambers' respective committees on veterans affairs.

"I don't know what Hillary Clinton's view of what 'widespread' is, but facts are stubborn things," McCain said, detailing all of the problems revealed by the scandal.

McCain again called Clinton's comments "disgraceful" and called for her to apologize to all veterans.

Later in the call, McCain was asked if he thought Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont), Clinton's chief primary rival, would do a better job than Clinton in the White House on veterans' issues. While he said he didn't want to show "favoritism" toward any Democratic candidate, McCain went on to tout Sanders' record as the head of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee.

"I will say that Bernie Sanders worked very hard when he was chair of the veterans' affairs committee," McCain said. "We were able to come together and pass legislation that was nearly unanimous. So he does have a record of advocacy for our veterans."

He added: "To my knowledge, I know of no activity that Hillary Clinton, legislative or otherwise, was engaged in during her time as United States senator."

Clinton's campaign did not respond to a request for comment from Business Insider on the criticism.

Additional reporting by Brett LoGiurato.

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