PoliZette

WikiLeaks: Hillary’s Supporters Bickered Over Church Appearance

So worried about optics are Clinton backers that even appearing in the pews was debated

A Democratic columnist and supporter of Democratic candidate for president Hillary Clinton was so cynical about her image, he feared a speech at her own church for its bicentennial would backfire.

The latest worries were made public on Thursday when WikiLeaks released another batch of emails from campaign chairman John Podesta.

“There is a complete misunderstanding by the campaign of the nature and gravity of her problems, and these things make her problem worse.”

In September 2015, after half a year of negative coverage, Clinton was still engulfed in controversy over her decision to run classified emails through a private server while she was secretary of state from 2009 to 2013.

Clinton used a private email system, in apparent violation of federal law, for official emails while she was secretary of state. By September 2015, she was running for president, but her numbers were soggy against U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, a socialist insurgent from Vermont.

On Sept. 13, 2015, she spoke at the Foundry United Methodist Church, and her speech garnered national coverage from outlets such as the Washington Post. But even the Post referenced Clinton’s problems in the middle of the story: “More than half of Americans say they don’t trust Clinton, according to a Washington Post-ABC News poll. Her campaign has struggled to present her as authentic and relatable.”

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Brent Budowsky, a Democratic columnist at The Hill magazine, agreed in a Sept. 13, 2015, email that the Clinton outing at the church would only make things worse for Hillary.

“When the Clintons suddenly emerge with a televised photo-op at church when her poll numbers are down, and this is broadcast on television news alongside the latest that the Clinton emails may not have been wiped, it does not make television viewers regard [Hillary] as a woman of faith at church, it makes her look like an insincere politician going to church when her poll numbers are down,” Budowsky opined in an email to Podesta and at least one other friend. “And a new television ad about grandma will fare no better than the last television ad about mom.”

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Budowsky continued, “There is a complete misunderstanding by the campaign of the nature and gravity of her problems, and these things make her problem worse, at a time when she is in a very dangerous and precarious position of high and growing distrust. This is a very hard, and possibly impossible, campaign to help. The solutions are clear but the campaign has eyes that do not see and ears that do not hear, to use a phrase the Clintons hopefully heard in church today.”

It was all too much for Podesta, who rebuked Budowsky.

“Give me a break. This is a church that they spent 8 years going to, which Chelsea grew up in, which rallied around them when they needed it, celebrating its bicentennial, and which they were asked to come to,” replied Podesta. “What would be totally cynical and inauthentic would be avoiding it because people and pundits might think it’s political.”

meet the author

Political reporter, LifeZette. Indiana University journalism grad. Boston U. business grad. Former Indiana, Alabama statehouse reporter, Daytona Beach editorial writer.