Jake Tapper told me earlier this morning that the news that his former CNN colleague, Donna Brazile, obtained questions in advance of a CNN Town Hall event and then forwarded them to the Clinton Campaign was “very troubling” and “horrifying.”
The interview took place on WMAL in Washington DC along with my broadcast partner, Brian Wilson. We discussed multiple aspects of the WikiLeaks release of John Podesta emails. Here are th key quotes from Tapper regarding Brazile and how she even got hold of questions in advance of the debate style broadcast that Tapper co-moderated:
It’s a very, very troubling… look, I have tremendous regard for Donna Brazile. She’s a good person and a nice person and I like her a lot but whatever took place here… and I know I had nothing to do with it… and I know CNN, we were so closely guarding our documents… they weren’t emailed around.
My understanding is the email to Donna came from either Roland Martin or someone around Roland Martin.
It’s horrifying. Journalistically it’s horrifying and I’m sure it will have an impact on partnering with this organization in the future and I’m sure it will have and effect on… Donna Brazile is no longer with CNN because she’s with the DNC right now, but I’m sure it will have some impact on Donna Brazille.
People at CNN take this very, very seriously and to have somebody who does not take it seriously and to have us partner with that person and then they do something completely unethical and share it with Donna Brazile who then shares it with the Clinton campaign… it’s horrifying and very, very upsetting and I can’t condemn it any more than… I condemn it in no uncertain terms, it’s awful.
As a refresher, John Sexton told you earlier this week about how an email in the treasure trove of WikiLeaks files showed Brazile (then a CNN contributor and board member of the DNC) giving Team Clinton a heads up on a question she worried about on behalf of Hillary:
Brazile received an acknowledgement from Clinton campaign bigwig Jennifer Palmieri a few hours later.
What’s significant about this email is that the very next day, March 13, 2016, Hillary Clinton appeared at a town hall event in Ohio hosted by CNN’s Jake Tapper and TVOne’s Roland Martin. During that town hall Hillary Clinton was indeed asked about the death penalty using some of the exact same language used in the question Brazile had forwarded. You can see it yourself in the video below at 1:03:30 but here’s how the question was framed by Roland Martin during the town hall.
Sexton made note in his post of town hall co-host Roland Martin’s non-denial that he may have shared this information with Brazile in advance of the broadcast. This seems to mesh with Tapper’s assumptions that it was Martin or his team that caused the breach.
Yesterday, Politico obtained a second email (not connected to WikiLeaks) that shows the Roland Martin submitting a question with the exact wording Brazile used in her heads-up email for Clinton:
The email obtained by POLITICO was written by town hall co-moderator Roland Martin on the day of the town hall to CNN producers. But it shows him using word for word the language of a question that Brazile appeared to have sent to the Clinton campaign a day earlier. That email, from Brazile to the campaign, was included in yesterday’s release of hacked emails by Wikileaks of Clinton campaign chair John Podesta.
Politico also received a statement from Martin which comes much closer to denying any involvement in the Brazile reach:
“As far as consultation, I don’t believe I did. I know I asked all of my social media followers for their input on what they wanted me to ask. I did the same for the Hillary Clinton town hall we did in South Carolina in 2014. And I know that I called Rep. Clyburn to lock down language on his 10-20-30 amendment. That is an issue I’ve pushed for several years. I also know I called other members of Congress to ask them specific questions about their various bills and their status. All of that informed my questions. That’s called research,” Martin wrote.
Tapper’s indignation over the incident along with Martin’s insistence that his team was not involved certainly presents a challenge for CNN. If the network is to continue hosting debates and town hall events that play a key roll in the American democratic process, they should institute a full internal audit of their practices and an investigation of this specific incident.