How was this ever going to end well? An election post-mortem forum erupted into a shouting match as top strategists of Hillary Clinton’s campaign accused their Republican counterparts of fueling and legitimizing racism to elect Donald Trump. Clinton communications director Jennifer Palmieri exclaimed "I would rather lose than win the way you guys did," to which Kellyanne Conway, Trump’s campaign manager, fumed "I can tell you are angry, but wow... Will you ever accept the election results?" And it went down-hill from there...
As NBC News reports, a Harvard panel that traditionally writes the first draft of presidential campaign history devolved into a shouting match between Trump and Clinton aides on Thursday in a raw, emotional display echoing the divisive campaign.
Jennifer Palmieri, who was Hillary Clinton's communications director, zeroed in on Steve Bannon, the incoming chief strategist for President-elect Donald Trump who once ran the web site Breitbart.
"If providing a platform for white supremacists makes me a brilliant tactician, I am proud to have lost," said Palmieri, one of six Clinton aides who sat across tables from top Trump campaign staff at a forum moderated by three journalists, NBC News' Andrea Mitchell among them. "I would rather lose than win the way you guys did."
Kellyanne Conway, who managed Trump's campaign, was visibly angry and indignantly interrupted. "Do you think I ran a campaign where white supremacists had a platform?"
"You did, Kellyanne. You did," Palmieri said, as other Clinton aides chimed in in the affirmative. With only two microphones allowed to be open at any given time, the shouting match was so heated it became difficult to follow.
"Do you think you could have just had a decent message for white, working-class voters? How about, it's Hillary Clinton, she doesn't connect with people? How about, they have nothing in common with her? How about, she doesn't have an economic message?" Conway said.
"There were dog whistles," said Clinton strategist Joel Benenson at one point.
Said Conway: "Guys, I can tell you are angry, but wow. Hashtag he's your president...will you ever accept the election results? Will you tell your protesters that he's their president, too?"
Exposing a somewhat stunning level of cognitive dissonance, seemingly blaming the media, The Washington Post reports that Clinton’s campaign aides insisted, again and again, that their candidate had been held to a different standard than the other contenders — as evidenced by the controversy over her use of a private email server while secretary of state.
Palmieri said that many political journalists had a personal dislike for the Democratic nominee and predicted that the email issue will go down in history as “the most grossly overrated, over-covered and most destructive story in all of presidential politics.”
“If I made one mistake, it was legitimizing the way the press covered this story line,” Palmieri said.
Mook added that Trump deftly used his rally speeches to “switch up the news cycle.”
“The media by and large was not covering what Hillary Clinton was choosing to say,” Mook said. “They were treating her like the likely winner, and they were constantly trying to unearth secrets and expose.”
For instance, Mook posited that the media did not scrutinize Trump’s refusal to release his tax returns as intensively as the issue of Clinton’s private email server.
Conway retorted: “Oh, my God, that question was vomited to me every day on TV.”
Joel Benenson, Clinton’s chief strategist, meanwhile, served notice that the election may be over but that the battles it spawned are not.
“You guys won, that’s clear,” Benenson said. “But let’s be honest. Don’t act as if you have a popular mandate for your message. The fact of the matter is that more Americans voted for Hillary Clinton than for Donald Trump.”
At which point Conway turned to her side and said: “Hey, guys, we won. You don’t have to respond. He was the better candidate. That’s why he won.”