It’s all too rare when Washington’s underbelly is exposed.
For instance, when a journalist’s feelings get hurt and a major political campaign has to apologize for one of its own.
Here in the latest email dump we have ex-FNCer Greta van Susteren issuing a formal complaint in July, 2015 to the Clinton campaign about something longtime Clinton aide Philippe Reines said about her.
He called the TV anchor “malleable.”
To be certain, Reines has said a lot worse. Remember when he told the late BuzzFeed reporter Michael Hastings to “fuck off” and called him an “unmitigated asshole”?
But it’s understandable that Greta’s interpretation is that Reines thinks she’s an easy interview. Greta seems to really like Clinton & Co., and was irritated that Reines’s lack of respect could possibly tar her reputation.
Clinton’s traveling press secretary Nick Merrill — the one who called NYT‘s Amy Chozick an “idiot” — bent himself into a pretzel to try to appease Greta. On display in this email batch is the “affable” guy Politico was talking about.
No word on if it worked.
The funniest line in Merrill’s email is when he tells Greta that he’d argue that Clinton’s performance suffers when he’s up against a lesser intellect. [Cue up the laughter.] To be clear, this is not to say Greta is lacking in intelligence. But the idea that Clinton fares better when she doesn’t have an idiot interviewing her is a brilliantly ridiculous argument.
Van Susteren’s email to Nick Merrill:
Dear Nick, Please convey this message below directly to the Secretary. If you don’t intend to do so, please let me know and I will try other avenues to get this email to her.
Dear Madam Secretary,
I have always been respectful and probing. Philipe in an email to you
– which is now being published in many news organizations – referred
to me as “malleable.” Of course this is insulting to me as a
journalist but I can take insults. However, I don’t think it fair
when my interviews have always been respectful and probing and fair
Philipe mistakes respectful and probing and fair for “malleable.” I
would very much like to interview you now about this and get this
cleared up for my reputation. This would be fair – just as I have
been fair. Best, Greta Van Susteren
Merrill’s reply to Van Susteren:
I’m moving Capricia to bcc and adding Jennifer here.
First, let me start by saying that in my many years working for HRC, I
have rarely heard her or staff more consistently convey respect for a
journalist than for you. While at State when you joined us on the
road and during our extensive conversations leading up to the book
tour. Your interviews with HRC haven’t been because you’re easy on
her, in fact I’d argue she suffers in performance when she’s up
against a lesser intellect. You challenge her, and do so on
substance, you’re tough, lawyerly, and fair. And that’s why you are
someone she likes personally and respects professionally.
So while I’m not going to get into a game of dictionary here, that has
been my experience, and while that single email from years ago is
unfortunate, it’s not representative of anyone’s view.
Having said all of that, I think we all understand that this
transpiring was not helpful to you in the least, and I’m very sorry
I think I could make a reasonable argument for why putting HRC out
with you right now would not be to anyone’s benefit, but the truth is
that we are simply not there yet. It doesn’t mean we aren’t thinking
things through more broadly, but the focus of the campaign as it
ramped up and in the short period since the launch has been to engage
voters in the early states, first and foremost, and raise money.
We’ve started to do some local interviews here and there, but that’s
I’ve included Jennifer here to make sure you know that everyone is
fully aware of what happened and your reaching out to us about it.
Happy to talk about this more at your convenience, and I hope we can
continue to maintain your working relationship with us, and with HRC.