The 2016 primary debate season has showcased a great deal of tension between politicians and the high-profile TV talents who sit before them and pose questions. There was the unforgettable clash between Donald Trump and Fox News’s Megyn Kelly back in August. There was Sen. Ted Cruz’s denunciation of his CNBC debate moderators in October, a riff that turned into an all-out pile-on against CNBC. And there were the serial complaints from GOP candidates, particularly Ben Carson, that they didn’t get enough time to speak at these events.
To that collection, add a pointed tete-a-tete during Wednesday night’s Democratic debate between Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton, hosted by Univision and the Washington Post. After disclosing that his daughter, Paola Ramos, worked for the Clinton campaign, moderator Jorge Ramos got right down to the business of declaring that this connection wouldn’t mellow his approach to the former secretary of state.
A whopper of a multi-pronged question about Clinton’s email use ensued: Ramos charged her with issuing one set of email rules for herself and another for the “rest of the State Department.” He asked who “specifically” gave her the permission to use a homebrew server for her work emails. And this one: “Would you drop out of the race if you get indicted?”
In her response, Clinton issued an immediate and full-throated endorsement of talking-pointsism. “Well, Jorge, there’s a lot of questions in there, and I’m going to give the same answer I’ve been giving for many months.” Just what we reporters want to hear.
True to her pledge, Clinton plowed through the point that she didn’t send any material marked classified at the time and that this whole issue concerns the retroactive classification of stuff that she was communicating. As she talked about over-classification, Ramos barged in, repeating his question about who authorized the setup.
“There was no permission to be asked,” quipped Clinton.
Ramos repeated his question about how she’d respond to an indictment. “Oh, for goodness — and it’s not going to happen. I’m not even answering that question,” responded the former secretary of state.
That was enough for Ramos, who turned to Sanders with a question about his position on Clinton’s emails.
The email grilling from Ramos was a touch more fierce than the treatment that Clinton sustained on Monday night at the hands of Bret Baier at a Fox News town hall event. “I’ve heard others say that neither you nor your lawyers had been apprised that you are a target of the investigation. Is that true?” asked Baier.
“Absolutely true,” responded Clinton.
“Have you or your lawyers been apprised that any members of your current or former staff are targets of the investigation?” pushed Baier.
“Absolutely not,” responded Clinton.
Baier also tried to sting her by pointing out what he saw as a discrepancy between recent revelations and a long-ago statement by Clinton on the emails. “So can we say definitively that that statement is not accurate?” asked Baier.
“No, you can’t,” responded Clinton.
It won’t take long to fact-check Clinton’s utter certainty on this matter: The FBI’s probe into Clinton’s email practices “could conclude by early May,” according to the New York Times.