Long before Hillary Clinton called millions of Americans a “basket of deplorables,” her top campaign advisers and liberal allies openly mocked Catholics, Southerners and a host of other groups, according to newly released emails that offer a stunning window into the vitriol inside the Clinton world less than a month before Election Day.
The emails, published by WikiLeaks after a hack of Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta’s private account, also show Clinton campaign officials and Democratic leaders disparaging supporters of Sen. Bernard Sanders as “self-righteous” whiners, calling Hispanic party leaders such as Bill Richardson “needy Latinos,” labeling CNN anchor Jake Tapper “a d—k” and even lambasting longtime Clinton ally Sidney Blumenthal.
The sheer number of insults in the email trove has left the Clinton campaign, along with outside organizations such as the Center for American Progress that were routinely involved in the brutal bad-mouthing, unable or unwilling to respond. Instead, they have blamed the hack on Russia and have refused to even confirm that the emails are genuine, though they also haven’t denied their authenticity.
The Clinton campaign’s biggest problem may be its assault on Catholics. Prominent Catholic organizations called on Clinton campaign spokeswoman Jennifer Palmieri to resign after the surfacing of messages showing her making fun of the faith. The campaign of Republican nominee Donald Trump seized on the opportunity to appeal to religious voters.
“We call on Hillary Clinton to apologize and to fire the staff who have engaged in this vicious anti-Catholic bigotry. All of this shows who these people are at the core,” Trump campaign manager Kellyanne Conway told reporters on a conference call. “The American people need to know who they are and their very radical agenda that will be an assault on Catholics and all people of faith and good will.”
The messages in question are part of an April 2011 email discussion between Ms. Palmieri and John Halpin, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, which Mr. Podesta founded.
Mr. Podesta received each message but apparently did not respond.
In the exchange, Mr. Halpin mocks media mogul Rupert Murdoch for raising his children in the Catholic faith and said the most “powerful elements” in the conservative movement are all Catholic.
“It’s an amazing bastardization of the faith. They must be attracted to the systematic thought and severely backwards gender relations and must be totally unaware of Christian democracy,” Mr. Halpin said.
“I imagine they think it is the most socially acceptable politically conservative religion. Their rich friends wouldn’t understand if they become evangelicals,” Ms. Palmieri responded.
“Excellent point,” Mr. Halpin wrote back. “They can throw around ‘Thomistic’ thought and ‘subsidiarity’ and sound sophisticated because no one knows what the hell they’re talking about.”
The advocacy group CatholicVote.org called on the Clinton campaign to fire Ms. Palmieri.
“Hillary Clinton has already called half of her opponents’ supporters ‘a basket of deplorables’ and ‘irredeemable,’ and now it comes out that her campaign spokeswoman dismissively question[ed] the sincerity of Catholic Americans’ faith,” said Brian Burch, the group’s president. “Had Palmieri spoken this way about other groups, she [would be] dismissed. Palmieri must resign immediately or be fired.”
House Speaker Paul D. Ryan, a Wisconsin Republican who is Catholic, also blasted the Clinton campaign.
“If anything, these statements reveal the Clinton campaign’s hostile attitude toward people of faith in general,” Mr. Ryan said in a statement. “All Americans of faith should take a long, hard look at this and decide if these are the values we want to be represented in our next president. If Hillary Clinton continues to employ people with biased and bigoted views, it’s clear where her priorities are.”
Mr. Podesta and other officials have kept mum about the content of the emails and instead redirected attention toward Moscow, claiming Russian hackers are responsible for the entire incident as part of a broader effort to swing the Nov. 8 election to Mr. Trump.
The Center for American Progress took a similar tack Wednesday, refusing to defend the incendiary words of its president and other employees.
“We will not comment on or authenticate the contents of the WikiLeaks releases except to say that this appears to be yet another illicit breach by the Russian government designed to influence the United States election, and we wish to have no part in furthering their mission,” a spokesperson for the Center for American Progress told The Washington Times.
Russian President Vladimir Putin addressed the controversy by saying the hacks are being blamed on his country to whip up anti-Moscow hysteria and distract from the substance of the emails.
“They started this hysteria, saying that this [hacking] is in Russia’s interests. But this has nothing to do with Russia’s interests,” Mr. Putin said Wednesday. “It’s basically a way of manipulating public opinion, but for some reason nobody discusses that. They only talk about who did it.”
As for the substance itself, the email cache makes clear that Catholics were just one target of the Clinton campaign.
In another brief exchange, Mr. Podesta and Center for American Progress President Neera Tanden slammed Southerners and the Miss America Pageant.
“Do you think it’s weird that of the 15 finalists in Miss America, 10 came from the 11 states of the CSA?” Mr. Podesta asked, referring to the Confederate States of America.
“Not at all I would imagine the only people who watch it are from the confederacy and by now they know that so they’ve rigged the thing in their honor,” Ms. Tanden responded in a September 2015 message.
In another email, Mr. Podesta asked why CNN’s Mr. Tapper is “such a d—k,” one of a number of examples of Clinton allies verbally assaulting reporters — though other messages show close coordination with influential reporters.
Mr. Podesta also had choice words for Mr. Blumenthal, proving that even fellow Clinton allies weren’t immune.
In yet another exchange between Ms. Tanden and Mr. Podesta, the two traded criticisms of Mr. Blumenthal.
Ms. Tanden complained that Mrs. Clinton was not doing well on the campaign trail, saying “that excitement thing you were worried about does seem to be a problem.”
She then complained about Mr. Blumenthal finding his way back into the news, clearly touching a nerve with Mr. Podesta.
“It always amazes me that people like Sid either completely lack self awareness or self respect. Maybe both. Will you promise to shoot me if I ever end up like that?” Mr. Podesta responded in the May 2015 chain.
Although Hispanics have been key to Mrs. Clinton’s voting coalition, they, too, were demeaned by Clinton campaign officials. In an August 2015 message to other Clinton aides with the subject line “Needy Latinos and 1 easy call,” Mr. Podesta lays out a strategy for getting former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, former Energy Secretary Federico Pena and other leading Hispanic Democrats on board with Mrs. Clinton’s presidential bid.
Mr. Podesta also referred to Mr. Richardson as “a d—k” but said it would be valuable to have him as a surrogate.
Perhaps least surprisingly, the emails prove once again that the Clinton campaign had little respect for Mr. Sanders’ supporters. Messages show clear coordination between Clinton aides and supposedly neutral officials such as the Democratic National Committee, including Donna Brazile, now the interim chairwoman.
Party leaders also worked with the Clinton campaign to trick Sanders backers into believing they had won concessions from the Democratic establishment.
In a March 20 message, former party official Mark Alan Siegel is seen offering a plan to reduce the role of Democratic superdelegates in future elections. Although the proposal was sold to Sanders voters as an attempt to make the presidential nominating process more of a grass-roots endeavor, the email raises serious questions about whether the entire effort was just a smokescreen to assuage angry progressives.
“I’ve lived through many national conventions and have found that it’s critical that all delegates, especially those representing losing candidates, emerge from the convention feeling that they have won something, achieved something tangible,” Mr. Siegel wrote in the message to former Clinton chief of staff Tamera Luzzatto. “I think this is terribly important especially with people like Bernie’s sometimes self-righteous ideologues. We want them to go home happy and enthusiastic in working their asses off for Hillary.”
Mr. Siegel went on to explain that by reducing the role of superdelegates in the future, Sanders supporters could claim a victory that would have no impact on the Clinton campaign’s victory in this cycle.
“Here’s my idea. Bernie and his people have been bitching about super delegates and the huge percentage that have come out for Hillary. … Why not throw Bernie a bone and reduce the super delegates in the future” to only elected Democrats? he wrote. “So if we ‘give’ Bernie this in the Convention’s rules committee, his people will think they’ve ‘won’ something from the Party Establishment. And it functionally doesn’t make any difference anyway. They win. We don’t lose. Everyone is happy.”
The 716 voting superdelegates in the Democratic primary overwhelmingly supported Mrs. Clinton, drawing charges from Mr. Sanders and his backers that the entire process was unfair.
⦁ Stephen Dinan, David Sherfinski and Andrew Blake contributed to this report.