The latest batch of leaked documents released by WikiLeaks included an email exchange within Hillary Clinton’s camp regarding the controversy of using a private server to handle confidential information. In an attempt to downplay the matter, the Democratic presidential candidate’s staff members tried to resort to using humor.
Similar to the emails revealed by WikiLeaks in the previous days, the documents came from the account of John Podesta, Clinton’s campaign chairman. In early 2015, back when Secretary of State’s email controversy was starting to blow up, several of her staff members tried to diffuse the situation through various strategies.
One of these included insisting that Clinton did not use a private email server to handle documents that were marked confidential.
“This line – ‘This process of looking backwards to see if something should have been classified at the time is fine’ – is problematic,” press secretary Brian Fallon wrote in an email to Clinton’s communications director Jennifer Palmieri according to Fox News.
“We should not think it is fine to find something that ‘should have been classified at the time,’” he added. “Our position is that no such material exists, else it could be said she mishandled classified info.”
Aside from establishing their general position on the matter, Clinton’s staff members also tried bury the issue through jokes and comedy. As press aide Nick Merrill noted in another email, addressing the controversy early on by publicly joking about could immediately diffuse its long-term effect on Clinton’s campaign.
One of the ways that they planned to do this was through a previous event hosted by political commentator and comedian Larry Wilmore. According to their plan, the host would cue in Clinton to the stage with the line, “I should tell you, I just emailed [Hillary Rodham Clinton] (I hear she’s a big emailer), and asked if she’d join as well.”
As noted by Miller, the goal of this tactic was to “cauterize” the issue before it gets worse for Clinton’s campaign.