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Iconic hand over mouth photo more to do with allergic cough than Osama killing reaction: Clinton

May 6, 2011 - Rome

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has said she had "no idea" what she was looking at when a photographer snapped the now iconic image of her holding her hand over her mouth while watching the Navy Seals complete their mission to kill Al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden.

She now suspects that her expressive demeanor in the photograph taken in the White House Situation Room may have had less to do with national security than one might think.BS News quoted her as saying in Rome, Italy: "I am somewhat sheepishly concerned that it was my preventing one of my early spring allergic coughs."

She added: "So, it may have no great meaning whatsoever."

The arresting photograph was taken by White House photographer Pete Souza while Obama and his national security team monitored the tense military operation that resulted in bin Laden's death.

It depicts Clinton staring intently ahead, her hand covering her mouth.

A number of top photo editors cited Clinton's expression as the most powerful element of the photograph.

Kira Pollack, Time's director of photography, said: "The reaction of her hand over her face. Her eyes. Clearly, she's reacting to something she's watching."

"To me, the whole image is about Hillary," Pollack added.

Scott Hall, director of photography at Newsweek, ascribed much of the picture's mystique to Clinton's expression.

He said: "The mystery of what's happening off camera is captured wholly in the expression on Hillary's face."

Clinton, however, said: "Those were 38 of the most intense minutes of the raid. I have no idea what any of us were looking at that particular millisecond when the picture was taken."


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