Hillary Clinton joked about her use of a private email account as secretary of state and her reputation for secrecy to a room full of reporters Monday night.
“But I am well aware that some of you may be a little surprised to see me here tonight,” Clinton said during a keynote address at the Toner Prize presentation for journalists in Washington D.C. “You know, my relationship with the press has been at times — shall we say — complicated.”
The Toner event is expected to be Clinton’s last public shindig before she announces her 2016 presidential bid.
“I am all about new beginnings. A new grandchild. Another new hairstyle. A new email account. Why not a new relationship with the press?” Clinton joked, referring to the recent controversy over her private email use as well as her long-standing frosty relationship with reporters.
“So here goes,” she said, “no more secrecy, no more zone of privacy. After all what good did that do me?”
“If you look under your chairs you’ll find a simple non-disclosure agreement,” Clinton quipped. “My attorneys drew it up. Old habits … last.”
Clinton’s email jokes are her second public remarks on the controversy since it erupted earlier this month. The only other time she addressed the emails was in a 20-minute press conference two weeks ago.
Though she was required to archive her official government emails with the State Department, it was only in December, two years after leaving her job at the agency, that Clinton finally turned over those records. By keeping them in her possession, and stored on a private server registered to her Chappaqua, N.Y. home, Clinton was able to avoid providing them in response to records requests from reporters and inquiries from congressional panels.
Clinton’s keynote for the Toner Prize event, which is held annually to honor Robin Toner, a New York Times political reporter who died unexpectedly in 2008, is ironic given her secrecy and her failure so far to answer looming questions about whether her email set-up was secure or whether she handled classified documents.
The prize, which this year went to Washington Post reporter Dan Balz, is “designed to keep alive the flame of quality, fact-based political journalism.”
Clinton praised the legacy of Toner and said that she favors the type journalism she practiced — the kind that “informs debates on evidence rather than ideology.”
Clinton also said that she respected Toner because she “really liked to delve into the substance of issues.”
Clinton decried that important public debates occur largely in “an evidence-free zone.”
“We rely even more on reporters to try to get us out of the echo chambers we inhabit,” she said. “It’s pretty clear that you know that I believe we need more Robin Toners. More reporters who can cut through the noise and get to the truth that matters.”