WikiLeaks’ latest release of Hillary Clinton campaign Chairman John Podesta’s emails reveals that Clinton was furnished with a question from Flint resident Lee Anne Walters a day before the debate held in the Michigan city that is still enduring the effects of its lead-in-water catastrophe. The location of the March 6 Democratic primary debate between Bernie Sanders and Clinton was selected to make the most political hay out of the Flint crisis.
The emails in question were from then-CNN consultant Donna Brazile, now acting chair of the Democratic National Committee. Brazile sent an email to Podesta, and Jennifer Palmieri, Clinton’s director of communications, with the subject line, “One of the questions directed to HRC tomorrow is from a woman with a rash.” The body of the message said, “Her family has lead poison and she will ask what, if anything, will Hillary do as president to help the ppl of Flint.”
After reports emerged in the media yesterday that Clinton had been fed her question in advance, Walters responded on her Facebook account: “This is disgusting and appalling!!! This should be an automatic disqualification! You think she would have answered it better at the very least!”
A March 12 email from Brazile brought to light that her practice of feeding questions in advance to Clinton was not a fluke. The subject line, “Re: From time to time I get the questions in advance,” headed a message in which she referred to questions submitted by Roland Martin, anchor for cable network TVOne, who co-hosted a March 13 Town Hall meeting in Columbus, Ohio featuring Clinton and Sanders.
One of the questions appeared almost verbatim in Brazile’s email to Podesta as it was asked the following day on the televised event. When Brazile was questioned by Megyn Kelly from Fox News about her email to the Clinton campaign, she stonewalled: “As a Christian woman, I understand persecution, but I will not sit here and be persecuted.” She said, “Podesta’s emails were stolen,” and accused Kelly of being “like a thief that wants to bring into the night the things that you found in the gutter.”
Ironically, Brazile actually owes her elevation from vice chair of the DNC to acting chairperson to a previous WikiLeaks release, which exposed the actions of DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz in favoring the Clinton campaign at the expense of challenger Bernie Sanders. Wasserman Schultz was forced to resign on the eve of the Democratic National Convention, and Brazile was promoted to take her place.
Brazile resigned from CNN on October 14, just two days after the release of the Podesta emails by WikiLeaks. CNN spokesperson Lauren Pratapas said that Brazile had suspended her work with CNN last summer after becoming the DNC chairwoman. Pratapas told the Wall Street Journal, “CNN never gave Brazile access to any questions, prep material, attendee list, background information or meetings in advance of a town hall or debate. We are completely uncomfortable with what we have learned about her interactions with the Clinton campaign while she was a CNN contributor.”
A measure of the cynical efforts of the Democratic Party operatives can be seen in a February 19 email to Podesta from campaign strategist Gina Glantz. It had the subject line “From afar – it is not the message; it is the perception of passion.”
Not surprisingly, what is more important to the politicians is not the content of their promises—which will be forgotten as soon as the election is over, but creating the illusion that they care: “I believe the real issue is the perception of passion—hers and her supporters. And it seems like that will just get worse after Nevada. The Bernie phenomenon comes largely from simplistic appeal of his message and from the size of his crowds. I see your work on undermining the former—all things to all people without consequences message.. . I thought the trip to Flint was brilliant. Getting ahead of him around ‘caring’ can be repeated.”
At the Flint debate itself, Walters asked both candidates, “After my family, the city of Flint, and the children in DC were poisoned by lead, will you make a personal promise to me right now that, as president, in your first 100 days in office, you will make it a requirement that all public water systems must remove all lead service lines throughout the entire United States, and notification made to the—the citizens that have said service lines?”
Clinton responded, “We will commit to a priority to change the water systems and we will commit within five years to remove lead from everywhere,” referring to all lead sources, including paint and dust.
The Huffington Post reported Walters’ reaction the day after the debate: “I hated Clinton’s answer. To tell a Flint resident that we’ll handle this in five years is no different than what the city was telling us and what the state was telling us.”