As a term, “pundit” doesn’t register high on the flattery scale. It’s roughly synonymous with “talking head" and other aspects of televised political talkathons — going back to the early days of John McLaughlin and extending into the interminable panel discussions on cable news. Yet here comes Donna Brazile, who just signed a deal to work as a contributor at Fox News, to stand proudly behind this label. “I consider myself a pundit,” she tells Isaac Chotiner during an interview published by NewYorker.com. “I am not a journalist. I am a pundit with a partisan point of view.”
No debate on that point. Brazile is the former Democratic National Committee official who, in October 2016, was busted as emails surfaced by WikiLeaks pointed to her role in tipping off the Hillary Clinton campaign about questions to be asked at CNN campaign events. Shortly thereafter, the news network and Brazile parted ways. In her chat with Chotiner, Brazile spun the situation as follows: “As you probably have heard or read, CNN and I severed our ties back in 2016, after WikiLeaks distributed part of my emails that put me in a very awkward position of not being able to defend what I did to create more debates, town halls, and forums for the Democratic candidates in 2016."
Now that is punditry.
It’s punditry, too, that utterly shapes how Brazile now views the world. The emails that led to her separation from CNN were stolen by hackers and published by WikiLeaks. More than two years later, however, Brazile still has trouble conceding the newsworthiness of her deeds. Instead, she seems intent on blaming the media. In response to Chotiner’s question about whether Fox News is a “sui generis” media outlet, Brazile responds:
Look, you are asking me to condemn Fox without looking at the entire media landscape? You are talking to somebody who saw reporters take bait and food from WikiLeaks and turn it into a front-page story. They built their political narrative on hacked, stolen e-mails. Are you calling the right person? I am saying to you, as a journalist, that I have seen the media itself tear us apart by using material that was stolen. I mean, c’mon. Don’t call me and say, “Donna Brazile, can you now explain to us the Fox business model?” I can’t explain MSNBC, CNN, any cable channel.
As this blog has previously argued, the decision to use those “stolen emails” aligns with a journalistic tradition of publishing stories that are true and newsworthy, regardless of the motives of sources. And just for the record, Fox News — Brazile’s new home base — was among the many, many news organizations that “built their political narrative on hacked, stolen emails.” Which is just one of the many ironies surrounding the glorious partnership between Brazile and Fox News.