Donna Brazile spoke at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia in July. Credit Josh Haner/The New York Times
CNN has severed ties with the Democratic strategist Donna Brazile, after hacked emails from WikiLeaks showed that she shared questions for CNN-sponsored candidate events in advance with friends on Hillary Clinton’s campaign.
Ms. Brazile, a veteran political analyst for the network, was already on leave from CNN since becoming interim chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee. On Monday, CNN said it had accepted her formal resignation on Oct. 14.
“We are completely uncomfortable with what we have learned about her interactions with the Clinton campaign while she was a CNN contributor,” Lauren Pratapas, a network spokeswoman, said in a statement.
“CNN never gave Brazile access to any questions, prep material, attendee list, background information or meetings in advance of a town hall or debate,” Ms. Pratapas wrote.
The announcement followed the release of new emails on Monday that included a message from Ms. Brazile on the day before a CNN-sponsored Democratic primary debate in Flint, Mich., in March. Her subject line: “One of the questions directed to HRC tomorrow is from a woman with a rash.”
“Her family has lead poison and she will ask what, if anything, will Hillary do as president to help the ppl of Flint,” Ms. Brazile wrote to John D. Podesta, the Clinton campaign chairman, and Jennifer Palmieri, the candidate’s communications director.
At the debate the next night, two women asked similar questions of Mrs. Clinton and her opponent, Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont.
The episode has cast a harsh spotlight on the cable news practice of paying partisan political operatives to appear as on-air commentators. Like Ms. Brazile, these guests can offer a plugged-in viewpoint on the day’s events, but they often also parrot campaign talking points and, as in this case, create potential ethical conflicts.
CNN has already faced criticism over its hiring of Corey Lewandowski, Donald J. Trump’s former campaign manager, as a paid contributor, even as he remains an informal adviser to the candidate.
Ms. Brazile’s infraction, however, may be more damaging. Her sharing of questions with a candidate would seem to undercut the impartiality of the event and, as a CNN contributor, potentially reflect poorly on the network, which received big ratings, and thus profits, from primary debates and town halls.
In an interview on Monday, Ms. Brazile said she offered her resignation to CNN when emails surfaced earlier in October that showed her telling Ms. Palmieri: “From time to time I get the questions in advance.”
“I didn’t want CNN to get involved in this WikiLeaks controversy,” Ms. Brazile said by telephone. “I didn’t want to put CNN in the middle of what has been a real invasive cyberintrusion.”
Ms. Brazile, who said she has changed her mobile phone number twice because of harassment related to the leaked emails, said CNN “never, never” shared advance questions with her ahead of debates or town hall-style events.
Asked to explain her emails with the Clinton campaign, she said she “seeks as much information as I can possibly get” ahead of a televised program, in part to prepare for her own on-air responses.
“I often talk to everybody before an event,” she said. “I try to learn as much as I can, share as much as I can.”
But Ms. Brazile declined to elaborate on the exchanges in question, saying: “I am not going to verify, deny, confirm or even try to make sense out of stolen emails that were hacked.”
Her departure from CNN quickly became fodder on the campaign trail. Mr. Trump, at a rally in Grand Rapids, Mich., on Monday, seized on Ms. Brazile’s messages to attack Mrs. Clinton and press his case that the news media is biased against him.
“Speaking of draining the swamp, Donna Brazile did it again,” he said. “WikiLeaks today, she gave the questions to a debate to Hillary Clinton. And that was from a couple of weeks ago. Happened again, but this time far worse. She gave the questions to a debate to Hillary Clinton.”
If Mrs. Clinton received questions in advance from Ms. Brazile, Mr. Trump asked, “why didn’t she report it?”
The Clinton campaign has declined to verify the authenticity of the emails.
Ms. Brazile’s discussions with the Clinton campaign first raised concerns earlier in October when emails released by WikiLeaks showed she had contacted Ms. Palmieri to share a question about the death penalty. Ms. Brazile said the question would be asked at a coming CNN town hall.
In the Monday interview, Ms. Brazile said her experience over the last few weeks had been “very invasive.”
“It’s like you get hit three times,” Ms. Brazile said. “You get hit with the hack, with the fact that your information has been stolen, and then you get hit with trying to make sense of the nonsense.”
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