Interim Democratic Party chair Donna Brazile talks with audience members before the vice-presidential debate on Oct. 4, 2016. (Pool photo by Joe Raedle via Associated Press)

PHOENIX — Donna Brazile, the outgoing interim chair of the Democratic National Committee, kicked off a series of “future forums,” which will select her replacement, by apologizing for the party's 2016 defeats.

“I'm not going to sugarcoat it: We failed,” Brazile said. “We made some serious mistakes and some strategic errors. We got cocky about our invincible blue wall, and then we saw it crumble because of just a few thousand votes in Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin.”

Brazile was elevated to interim chair after the release of emails stolen from the DNC effectively forced Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) from the role. Wasserman Schultz, who was then facing a stiff primary challenge for her South Florida congressional seat, became a villain for supporters of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who blamed her for a late-skewing and limited schedule of primary debates.

But the well-liked Brazile came under fire from another set of stolen emails, including two she'd sent to Hillary Clinton's campaign chairman, John Podesta, informing him that CNN — where she was a political analyst — had shared possible primary debate and forum questions with her. That ended her time at CNN.

In her Phoenix remarks, Brazile defended the DNC employees who had spent the second half of 2016 being exposed by hacks.

“Let me just say how proud I am of the DNC and all the staffers who lived through that,” Brazile said. “They were attacked and harassed every day — often attacked by the people who should know better.”

Brazile also condemned the online conspiracy theory that Seth Rich, a young DNC staffer who was fatally shot last July in Northwest Washington, had been killed in a DNC coverup.

Russian hackers, she said, had ended up enlisting the media in a campaign of sabotage.

“We failed under extraordinary circumstances,” she said. “If you are an American, you are a victim of a hostile attack, a murderous dictator who wanted to affect the election. They hired an army of trolls to spread lies and distract from the real issues.”

After Brazile left the stage, Gov. Jay Inslee (D-Wash.) gave a pep talk for western Democrats, whose gains in 2016 had stood apart from a Republican tide.

“We are frustrated that Siberia's favorite candidate is going to the White House,” said Inslee, in a reference to the alleged attempts by Russia to influence the election.