Jake Tapper of CNN was a moderator of a March 13 Democratic town hall event in which Hillary Clinton appears to have gotten an unfair advantage. As disclosed earlier this week in a WikiLeaks trove of emails relating to Clinton campaign Chairman John Podesta, the Clinton campaign received word from then-CNN contributor Donna Brazile that a death-penalty question was on tap for the event, which took place at Ohio State University. A man named Ricky Jackson, who was exonerated after being sentenced to death, pressed the candidate on her support for the ultimate punishment.
It appears that Clinton may have seen the question coming.
“From time to time I get the questions in advance,” wrote Brazile in the pre-town-hall email. At the time, Brazile was vice chair of the Democratic National Committee in addition to being a CNN contributor. She stopped being a contributor in mid-summer, when she started serving as interim DNC chair.
CNN has insisted that it did not lose custody of the question; reports have suggested that the leak came from Brazile through TVOne, whose Roland Martin co-hosted the debate in cooperation with CNN.
“To find out that someone was unethically helping the Clinton campaign — tipping them off — is just very, very upsetting,” Tapper said in a WMAL radio interview. “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 that I had nothing to do with it. And I know that CNN — we were so closely guarding our documents, they weren’t ever emailed around. I think this was a follow-up question that Roland Martin was going to ask, theoretically . . . We wanted to put [Clinton] in a tough situation: You support the death penalty, here’s someone who was almost killed because of the death penalty — what do you have to say to him?”
Tapper said his understanding was that the question got to Brazile via Martin or someone in his orbit.
Whatever the particulars, it’s incontrovertible that the more organizations that are involved in producing an event, the greater the chances that a leak will occur. “I am sure it will have an impact on partnering with this organization in the future. And I’m sure that it will have an effect on — Donna Brazile is no longer with CNN because she’s head of the DNC right now, but I’m sure it will have an impact on Donna Brazile.”
One more: It should have an impact on CNN itself, which thinks nothing of larding its payroll with political activists whose first loyalties extend to their allies, and not so much to some news organization.