The former US secretary of state made the comments on Sunday night at the Southbank Centre’s Royal Festival Hall whilst promoting a new book she has written with her daughter Chelsea.
The Book Of Gutsy Women: Favourite Stories Of Courage And Resilience focuses on the women who have inspired the mother and daughter, and features Thunberg, whose solitary climate strike outside the Swedish parliament in 2018 left them “so moved”.
“It’s been fascinating to watch how scared a lot of grown up male leaders are of this young 16-year-old girl who speaks up about the threat of climate change,” she said.
Clinton added that a young woman speaking her opinions still had the power to “rattle” the “ancient DNA” that still perpetuates throughout society.
“It is maddening to think how much that still operates,” she said.
“You could probably take some of the people who have been so critical of her [Greta] on social media and in other settings, attach them to a lie detector and say ‘don’t you think that’s a bit sexist’”.
Chelsea said that people in the US are attacking Thunberg because they cannot attack the science surrounding climate change.
“More broadly, her [Thunberg’s] real clarity and fearlessness and just being so unbowed and relentlessly focused on the future I think is incredibly threatening to a lot of people,” she said.
The panel discussion was chaired by historian Mary Beard, who also appears in the book alongside Billie Jean King, Malala Yousafzai and Florence Nightingale.
Clinton also shared her concerns for the future of politics in both the US and UK, stating that she had “always admired Britain”.
“I am, as a great admirer, concerned because I can’t make sense of what is happening.
In a swipe at President Trump, Clinton added: “We have a president who admires dictators and takes their help and does all kinds of crazy stuff.
“We need you to be the sane member of this partnership going forward,” she said.