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Lynne Abraham can relate to Hillary Clinton: 'The same thing happened to me'

The candidate was a woman of a certain age in a hard-fought campaign, and when she fainted in public, the pundits - mostly men - were unrelenting.

Lynne Abraham collapsed on stage at the first mayoral debate in April 2015.
Lynne Abraham collapsed on stage at the first mayoral debate in April 2015.Read moreScreen grab: NBC10

The candidate was a woman of a certain age in a hard-fought campaign, and when she fainted in public, the pundits - mostly men - were unrelenting.

No, not Hillary Clinton.

We're talking about Philadelphia's storied "one tough cookie" - Lynne M. Abraham, the former district attorney who fainted under the lights during the first televised mayoral debate in April 2015.

"I was watching and saw it and said, 'Hey, the same thing happened to me!' " Abraham said Monday, referring to the TV coverage of Clinton, 68, appearing to collapse as she got into a car at the Sept. 11 memorial service Sunday in New York.

Abraham was then 74, running for the Democratic mayoral nomination against City Councilman Jim Kenney, state Sen. Anthony H. Williams, and three other candidates. Seven minutes into the hour-long Kimmel Center debate televised by NBC10, Abraham hit the floor.

"I was standing on the stage a half-hour before the time of the debate under the hot lights and with all these people crowding in, and then the lights went out - literally," Abraham recalled in a phone interview from her office at the Center City law firm of Archer & Greiner.

Abraham regained consciousness offstage and said she wanted to continue the debate, but by then the Fire Department had dispatched a medical team that wanted her to see a doctor first.

Now, Abraham said, she understands what happened. She was in campaign mode: up at 4 a.m. preparing position papers and then off to a day of appearances followed by the debate. She had very little to eat and even less to drink and was dehydrated.

And though Abraham acknowledged reports that Clinton was fighting a case of pneumonia, she said she has no doubt that the physical demands of campaigning played a role in what happened to the former secretary of state.

Abraham also has become a collector of anecdotes about people who have publicly fainted.

She cited last September's collapse of Harald Krueger, the 49-year-old CEO of BMW, who passed out five minutes into a televised news conference at the Frankfurt Auto Show at which he was to unveil BMW's new hybrid vehicle.

Krueger attributed the faint to nonstop international travel and no rest before the news conference.

Still, the media were not kind. "Did he run out of batteries?" asked the headline on DailyMail.co.uk, the website of the British newspaper.

Abraham said her fainting during a televised debate "didn't help me at all" among voters or political commentators.

Part of the reaction to her - and Clinton - was plain sexism, Abraham said.

"This kind of thing happens to the young and old, to males and females, to young men on a golf course," Abraham added.

As with Clinton, Abraham's critics asked her to release her medical records.

"And I told them to take a hike," Abraham said.

She conceded that her response likely would not work for Clinton, who she said "is campaigning for a much more momentous office than those of us who ran for mayor."

As for the impact on Clinton's standing in the polls, Abraham said she thinks Clinton can recover.

"Assuming that it is pneumonia, she should go home and take her medicine and rest up a few days," Abraham said. "Then you go out, drink lots of water, and keep on truckin'."

jslobodzian@phillynews.com

215-854-2985@joeslobo

www.philly.com/crimeandpunishment