A post-election discussion featuring aides to Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton turned into a shouting match at Harvard University Thursday, with Clinton aides blaming white supremacy for Trump’s victory while Trump’s aides ridiculed them back as a group of sore losers.
For every election since 1972, Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government has held a campaign debriefing featuring both Republican and Democratic campaign operatives, along with many journalists. Typically, the discussions are civil, but this time around the wounds from a grueling, sharply negative campaign were clearly still open and the mood raw. During a round-table discussion between top members of the Clinton and Trump campaigns, moderators struggled to keep participants on-point as they constantly attacked and bickered with one another.
Members of Trump’s campaign team were understandably celebratory, and weren’t shy about giving credit to campaign CEO Steve Bannon, previously the head of news outlet Breitbart. Any credit attributed to Bannon infuriated Clinton communications director Jennifer Palmieri, who choked up multiple times during the session and bluntly accused the campaign of winning with racism.
“If providing a platform for white supremacists makes me a brilliant tactician, I am proud to have lost,” she said, according to The Washington Post. “I would rather lose than win the way you guys did.”
Trump campaign manager Kellyanne Conway was outraged by Palmieri’s implication.
“Are you gonna look me in the face and say I ran a campaign that was a platform for white supremacists?” she asked.
“You did, Kellyanne, you did,” responded Palmieri.
“Are you kidding me?” Conway replied.
Bannon himself wasn’t in attendance at the event, having withdrawn at the last minute. In the aftermath, that appears to have been an astute decision.
Clinton campaign manager Robby Mook emphasized that despite her defeat, Clinton won the popular vote by some 2.5 million votes, showing she was overall the better candidate. That just provoked scorn from Trump’s team, which accused him of downplaying Clinton’s failures.
“Oh, God, you guys,” said Trump deputy campaign chair David Bossie, according to ABC News.
“Hey guys, we won -– there’s no need to respond,” Conway added. “He was the better candidate -– he won.”
Many Clinton aides argued, though, that Trump’s victory was simply thanks to timing, with FBI Director James Comey’s letting reopening the investigation into Clinton’s email server plaaying a decisive role.
“If the election had been three days later, we would have won,” Palmieri said. Palmieri also lashed out at the media, accusing them of being biased toward Trump by constantly covering his campaign, while only covering Clinton when Trump was attacking her.
Mook agreed that Comey was the decisive “headwind” for Clinton but also suggested that overconfidence in Clinton’s chances caused young voters to stay home or cast protest votes for third party candidates, rather than focusing on stopping Trump. He also complained about Russian “intervention” in the election in the form of leaked Wikileaks emails, which he said gave the Clinton campaign a “low-grade fever” throughout the race.
Conway repeatedly seized the chance to attribute the Clinton team’s hostility to anger over the result.
“You guys are bitter. We are being very gracious. You’re bitter,” she said.
Listen to the whole round-table here:
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