Donna Brazile describes her new book about the 2016 presidential election as “dripping with a little hot sauce,” but she seems to have suddenly lost her appetite for heat.
Appearing on MSNBC's “Morning Joe” on Wednesday, the former interim chair of the Democratic National Committee walked back her written claim that the party's primary contest was “rigged” in Hillary Clinton's favor. In fact, Brazile went so far as to say that she didn't really write any such thing and that her book only appears to allege that the primary was rigged “if you read the excerpt without the context.”
Brazile made a similar argument last week when she accused President Trump of misrepresenting her words. She posted a tweet with the hashtag #NeverSaidHillaryRiggedElection.
Yet Brazile's accusation in “Hacks,” released on Tuesday, is quite clear.
“I had promised Bernie [Sanders] when I took the position of interim chair of the DNC that I would get to the bottom of whether or not Hillary's team had rigged the party process in her favor so that only she could win the nomination,” Brazile writes, setting the scene for a September 2016 phone call with Sanders. “From the moment I walked in the door of the DNC a month earlier I had my suspicions, based on the leaked emails. But who knew if some emails might have been forged? I needed to have solid proof and so did Bernie.”
Brazile summarizes some of her conclusions in the ensuing paragraph. She credits Clinton for resolving the DNC's debt but asserts that Clinton “expected to wield control of its operation” in return.
Then Brazile writes this: “By September 7, the day I was making this call to Bernie, I had found my proof and what I had found broke my heart.”
The “proof” Brazile claims to have found is obviously the “proof” of rigging that she had promised to seek on Sanders's behalf. There's just no other way to read what Brazile wrote.
Willie Geist pressed Brazile on this point during the “Morning Joe” interview:
GEIST: You said you came back and called Bernie after you found your proof. Proof of?
BRAZILE: Cancer. That there was cancer.
GEIST: But you said proof of it being rigged in the piece, no?
BRAZILE: I said — no.
It is certainly true that Brazile, in her book, also refers to Clinton's influence over the DNC as a “cancer,” but the passage in question states that Brazile sought and found “proof” that “Hillary's team had rigged the party process in her favor so that only she could win the nomination.”
What Brazile said Wednesday was dramatically different from what she wrote in the book.
“The process was not rigged,” Brazile told Geist.
GEIST: Was it a fair fight, yes or no?
BRAZILE: I believe it was a fair fight because ultimately the voters decided.
As the “Morning Joe” interview went on, Brazile found herself defending, rather than criticizing, Clinton.
BRAZILE: Was it a fair fight, in terms of the New York primary on April 19 or the Pennsylvania primary?
MIKA BRZEZINSKI: No.
BRAZILE: Yes. I mean, what could she gain? She couldn't rig the primary.
Although she won't admit it, Brazile seems to feel a twinge of regret for making such a strong accusation — one that could undermine voters' confidence in her party. She is now trying to make the more nuanced argument that Clinton exerted too much power but did win the nomination fairly.