How the Clinton Campaign Plays the Press

In the summer of 2015, the New York Times was covering Hillary Clinton’s email scandal, to the dismay of her presidential campaign. So Neera Tanden, who heads the Center for American Progress, an arm of the Democratic Party, made some suggestions to her former boss, John Podesta, who by then was running the Clinton presidential campaign. This is from the latest batch of Wikileaks emails:

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Several observations. First, the email’s subject heading is “Howard’s advice.” This is the only email with that subject line, and it doesn’t indicate who Howard is, but I think it is Howard Wolfson.

Second, Tanden recites an anecdote about Michael Bloomberg, when he was Mayor of New York. Unhappy with the Times’s coverage of him, he complained to “Pinch” Sulzburger. Bloomberg and his staff believed that his meeting with Sulzburger changed the newspaper’s coverage, and also “aired the issues in the newsroom.” So the Clinton team takes it for granted that the vaunted separation between management (Sulzburger) and the Times news room is a myth.

Third, Tanden thinks Sulzburger is a “wuss,” because he wouldn’t do more than pass on Bloomberg’s complaint. A proper newspaper owner, she apparently thinks, would more strongly direct the tenor of his paper’s coverage.

Fourth, Tanden thinks Hillary should be the one to call Sulzburger to complain about the Times’s coverage of the email scandal. Did Hillary make the call? We don’t know.

Fifth, the casual cynicism with which Tanden recommends using “brown and women pundits” to “shame the times and others on social media” is stunning. Why “brown and women” pundits would shame the Times–for publishing accurate news stories on a topic of great public interest–more effectively than others is not clear, but that is how these people think. We know, too, what pundits Tanden had in mind: Joan Walsh (National Affairs Correspondent for The Nation and MSNBC political analyst), Matthew Yglesias (co-founder of Vox.com), Mike Allen (chief political reporter for Politico), Perry Bacon (senior political reporter at NBC News) and Greg Sargent (Washington Post online columnist). Once again, she cynically assumes that these purported journalists will be happy to do the Clinton campaign’s bidding on social media.

Was she right? It would be interesting to check the Twitter accounts and other writings of these journalists/pundits during the summer of 2015 to see whether they took up the cudgels against the Times on behalf of Hillary Clinton.

Tanden concludes by noting that she “pushed p i r to do this a yr ago.” That would be Philippe Reines, another Clinton campaign aide.

It’s an interesting strategy: enlisting journalists to “shame” other journalists into not reporting the news.

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