The ongoing WikiLeaks dump of a top Hillary Clinton lieutenant’s emails is shining a light on the cozy and often improper relationship key members of the press had with the Democratic presidential nominee’s campaign.
Advance notice of debate questions, the promise of positive coverage, and even editorial control over stories are among the eyebrow-raising revelations in emails to and from campaign chairman John Podesta.
“We have had her tee up stories for us before and have never been disappointed,” a January 2015 memo said of former Politico and current New York Times reporter Maggie Haberman.
Clinton campaign officials have not denied the authenticity of the emails, but have sought to blame Russia for supplying the hacked correspondence to the hacktivist group WikiLeaks, and have warned that they could be doctored.
In another case, Donna Brazile, then a CNN contributor but now acting head of the Democratic National Committee, emailed members of the Clinton campaign to tip them off about a question that would be asked at Clinton’s debate with Bernie Sanders, her rival for the Democratic presidential nomination.
“From time to time I get the questions in advance,” read the subject line of an alleged email in which Brazile told members of the Clinton campaign to be ready for a question on the death penalty.
In a statement released Tuesday afternoon, Brazile denied leaking questions.
“I often shared my thoughts with each and every campaign, and any suggestions that indicate otherwise are completely untrue,” Brazile said. “I never had access to questions and would never have shared them with the candidates if I did.”
CNBC correspondent and New York Times contributor John Harwood, who served as a moderator in one of the Republican primary debates, emailed Podesta numerous times, on some occasions to request an interview and other times to offer advice.
“Ben Carson could give you real trouble in a general [election],” Harwood wrote in a May 8, 2015, email, before linking to video clips of an interview Harwood did with the former pediatric neurosurgeon.
Another New York Times reporter, Mark Leibovich, emailed Clinton communications director Jennifer Palmieri several chunks of an interview he did with Clinton, and seemingly asked permission for the “option to use the following” portions.
Palmieri offered extensive editing suggestions, including that he cut a reference Clinton made to Sarah Palin and remove Clinton’s quote, “And gay rights has moved much faster than women’s rights or civil rights, which is an interesting phenomenon.”
Palmieri ended one email: “Pleasure doing business!”
In one email thread, Clinton traveling press secretary Nick Merrill joked that CNN Politics Producer Dan Merica and Clinton were “basically courting each other at this point.”
Dan Merica asked her if she was jealous that she didn’t get Christie’s endorsement, to which she responded with a prolonged smile (you could see the gears turning), and then said ‘Dan, I really like you. I really really like you,'” Merrill wrote. “They are basically courting each other at this point.”
A top staffer at The Boston Globe appeared to be conspiring with Clinton’s campaign to maximize her “presence” during her primary race against Sanders in one of the alleged emails. In the email from Marjorie Pritchard, the Globe’s op-ed editor, Podesta is asked if the Clinton campaign was still set to submit an op-ed. Pritchard went on to offer advice about how the campaign could get maximum benefit by syncing up with the Globe’s regular reporting.
“It would be good to get it in on Tuesday, when she is in New Hampshire,” Pritchard wrote. “That would give her a big presence on Tuesday with the piece and on Wednesday with the news story. Please let me know.”
Clinton aide Christina Reynolds is congratulated in a 2008 email for “single handedly” convincing a Washington Post reporter to pursue a story about Cindy McCain, Arizona Sen. John McCain’s wife. Democratic operative Paul Begala wrote back, “This is truly outstanding! Great work!”
Kellyanne Conway, campaign manager for Clinton opponent Donald Trump, said Wednesday on “Fox & Friends” the revelations of secret communications between members of the press and the Clinton campaign undermine the possibility of free and fair elections.
“We feel disappointed,” Conway said. “It is disappointing to read those emails.”