Media critic

Democratic National Committee Chair Donna Brazile before the vice-presidential debate on Oct. 4. (Joe Raedle/Reuters via POOL)

WikiLeaks is torturing CNN with a drip-drip-drip series of shots to its bankrupt journalistic model. This is a network that believes in hiring political hacks onto its payroll, with the result being a bunch of emails showing that Donna Brazile, then a CNN contributor, sent several questions to the Hillary Clinton campaign before CNN events. The latest? Another incriminating exemplar in a just-released round of emails pertaining to Clinton campaign Chairman John Podesta. It was sent on March 12 by Brazile under the banner “From time to time I get the questions in advance”:

Those tips washed up in the email of Jennifer Palmieri, the Clinton campaign’s communications director. They supplement an already scandalous amount of question-sharing. Last month, in the first chapter of this story, WikiLeaks released an email in which Brazile shared a death-penalty question for a March 13 town-hall event in Ohio. Then came another WikiLeaks trove that showed Brazile sharing a (rather obvious) question about the water supply in advance of a CNN-hosted debate in Flint, Mich., also in March. Just a few weeks ago, after Brazile’s sharing of the death-penalty question hit the newsstream, Brazile resigned from her contributorship at CNN — a role that had been under suspension since she took over as head of the Democratic National Committee over the summer. However, we media reporters didn’t learn about that resignation until after the second round of revelations — the water thing — surfaced a week ago.

At a rally in Grand Rapids, Mich., Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump accused Democratic rival Hillary Clinton of getting debate questions ahead of time from then-CNN contributor and DNC official Donna Brazile and demanded to know why Clinton didn't report it. (The Washington Post)

Throughout this saga, CNN has sought to defend the integrity of its so-called cone of silence, the practice of tightly guarding the questions for debates and town hall events. The protocol calls for limited personnel with access to the questions and precautions to keep them from getting emailed around. For the town hall event, email traffic suggests that the breach of the death-penalty question was the work of Roland Martin, the TV One host who partnered on the debate with CNN. The network is pointing its finger in that direction over this latest, third episode, involving the union and income-inequality questions. Here’s the network’s statement:

Our investigation turned up a number of questions that Roland sent to CNN – and these two are included, verbatim, with all the same punctuation and capitalization. As we have said all along, Donna was never given anything by CNN. It is clear that these, like the others, were also sent from Roland to Donna.

Oh right, the “investigation.” Last week, CNN Worldwide President Jeff Zucker referred to this probe when asked about the matter in an internal CNN discussion. Upon hearing about this investigation, the Erik Wemple Blog asked CNN about it and requested interviews with CNN executives. CNN referred this blog to an earlier statement and confirmed that an internal review had happened. And that was the extent of it.

Thanks, CNN! Though CNN didn’t want to open up about its internal investigation, WikiLeaks apparently had other plans. Should it have to craft any further statements on this sequence of events, CNN may want to reconsider its approach and orientation. Because right now its strategy boils down to blaming some guy named Roland Martin of TV One for its decision to place a political hack in close-enough proximity to its town hall and debate-preparation proceedings to corrupt the process. This is CNN’s scandal, not Roland Martin’s scandal.