Hillary Clinton’s campaign struggled to get the candidate to apologize for using a private email server as secretary of state, recently hacked emails reveal.
Clinton’s team tried for weeks to convince her before she finally sat down with ABC News anchor David Muir to say “I’m sorry.” Campaign chairman John Podesta described the apology as very painful for Clinton.
On September 8, 2015, the night the interview aired, Podesta emailed Neera Tanden, a Clinton adviser and the president of the Center for American Progress.
“She ate her spinach,” Podesta said. “Shouldn’t have been this hard, but thanks for weighing in.”
“I was physically sick on the prep call this morning feeling her pain (of course, I was inflicting most of it.)” Podesta said. “I have to say Mandy [Grunwald] was pretty stand up on pushing her too.”
Podesta added that he wished viewers could only see the end of the interview, where Hillary talked about the movie A League of Their Own.
“The ending of this is just so great,” he said. “Can we ever imagine a strategy to just get the last two minutes out without people having to watch 10 minutes of email answers first?”
Clinton said it was a mistake to have a private email server, while still claiming it was “allowed.” The State Department’s inspector general said using a private server was not allowed because of “significant security risks.”
“I do think I could have and should have done a better job answering questions earlier. I really didn’t perhaps appreciate the need to do that,” Clinton told Muir.
“What I had done was allowed, it was above board. But in retrospect, as I look back at it now, even though it was allowed, I should have used two accounts. One for personal, one for work-related emails. That was a mistake. I’m sorry about that. I take responsibility.”
Weeks before the interview, Clinton’s team wrestled with how to get their candidate to apologize because the scandal was causing a “character problem.”
“I know this email thing isn’t on the level,” Tanden wrote to Podesta on August 22. “I’m fully aware of that. But her inability to just do a national interview and communicate genuine feelings of remorse and regret is now, I fear, becoming a character problem (more so than honesty).”
“People hate her arrogant, like her down,” Tanden said. “It’s a sexist context, but I think it’s the truth. I see no downside in her actually just saying, look, I’m sorry. I think it will take so much air out of this.”
Tanden said it is not in Clinton’s nature to be transparent.
“She always sees herself bending to ‘their’ will when she hands over information, etc.,” she said. “But the way she has to bend here is in the remorse. Not the ‘if I had to do it all over again, I wouldn’t do it.’ A real feeling of – this decision I made created a mess and I’m sorry I did that.”
Podesta agreed, and said he and Jen Palmieri, Clinton’s communications director, were “in the same place.”
“Trying to figure out how to get [Hillary] there and best way to execute,” he said.
The emails were hacked from Podesta’s account and posted by Wikileaks. The U.S. director of national intelligence and the secretary of the Department of Homeland Security have accused “Russia’s senior-most officials” of hacking and leaking emails posted to Wikileaks and other sites in order to influence the 2016 election.