Brazile writes an email to Clinton’s campaign Communications Director Jennifer Palmieri. It is CCed to Clinton campaign chair John Podesta. Podesta’s email account will later be hacked, resulting in the release of the email by WikiLeaks on October 11, 2016. Brazile is also a CNN and ABC contributor at the time. In July 2016, she will be promoted to the interim head of the Democratic National Committee (DNC).
Brazile tells Palmieri, “From time to time I get the questions in advance. Here’s one that worries me about HRC.” Brazile then includes a question that will be asked at a town hall (a format similar to a debate) between Clinton and her main primary opponent Bernie Sanders, scheduled to occur the following day, on March 13, 2016. CNN anchor Jake Tapper and TV One host Roland Martin are to co-moderate the event.
Brazile’s question reads: “DEATH PENALTY 19 states and the District of Columbia have banned the death penalty. 31 states, including Ohio, still have the death penalty. According to the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, since 1973, 156 people have been on death row and later set free. Since 1976, 1,414 people have been executed in the U.S. That’s 11% of Americans who were sentenced to die, but later exonerated and freed. Should Ohio and the 30 other states join the current list and abolish the death penalty?”
Palmieri responds in the email, “Hi. Yes, it is one she gets asked about. Not everyone likes her answer but can share it.” (Wikileaks, 10/11/2016)
On October 12, 2016, the day after WikiLeaks releases the email, Politico will write about the similarities between the question Brazile wrote and the actual question Roland Martin asked at the town hall. According to the CNN transcript, Martin asked, “Secretary Clinton, since 1976, we have executed 1,414 people in this country. Since 1973, 156 who were convicted have been exonerated from the death row. This gentleman here is one of them. This is Ricky Jackson, wrongfully convicted of murder in 1975, he spent 39 years in prison. He is undecided. Ricky, what is your question?”
Politico will write that Martin initially said in an interview that he did not “share my questions with anybody. Literally. My executive producer wasn’t even aware of what I was going to ask.” In a follow up interview, Martin will say that he did send his questions to CNN via his producer and his TV One team. In a third follow up email, Martin will say he did not believe had had consulted with Brazile ahead of the town hall.
Brazile will deny that she notified the Clinton campaign of the proposed question, despite the clear evidence of the leaked email. “As a longtime political activist with deep ties to our party, I supported all of our candidates for president. I often shared my thoughts with each and every campaign, and any suggestions that indicate otherwise are simply untrue. As it pertains to the CNN Debates, I never had access to questions and would never have shared them with the candidates if I did.” (Politico, 10/11/2016)
Two days after the leak, CNN anchor Jake Tapper will blast Brazile and TV One host Roland Martin for their apparent involvement in leaking the Democratic town hall question to the Clinton campaign: “It’s very, very troubling… whatever took place here, and I know that I had nothing to do with it, and I know that CNN, we were so closely guarding our documents, you couldn’t even, they weren’t ever emailed around. … We wanted to put her in a tough situation. You [Clinton] support the death penalty and here’s somebody who was almost killed by the death penalty, what’s your reaction to him?… To find out that somebody was unethically helping the Clinton campaign and tipping them off, is just very, very upsetting.” (WMAL, 11/13/2016)