Former Hillary Clinton communications director Jennifer Palmieri said former President Obama “looked kind of like a jackass” when he appeared on actor Zach Galifianakis’ web show “Between Two Ferns” in 2014.
Palmieri made the comments while speaking at a Yale University event on Thursday about the 2016 presidential horserace and the current political landscape. The comment was one of several blunt remarks Palmieri made, including referring to ISIS beheadings as a “manufactured press story.”
“I’ve obviously thought about the election quite a bit,” Palmieri sighed. “If I had to sum up the election in a single sentence, and even if Hillary had won it would be a significant problem, it would be that the country is divided between people who think we should be engaged in the world and those who do not.”
A longtime veteran of the Democratic Party, Palmieri first served as Deputy White House Press Secretary under the Clinton Administration, later joining John Edwards’ 2004 campaign as National Press Secretary. From 2013-2015, Palmieri worked as Communications Director for the Obama White House, resigning to serve Hillary Clinton’s campaign under the same title.
“We did Zach Galifianakis’ ‘Between Two Ferns’ to get people interested in healthcare,” said Palmieri, referencing the actor’s sketch-comedy web-series that separately hosted both Obama and Clinton. “[Hillary Clinton] did the deadpan face even better than Obama. The first cut of Obama, he looked a little too real; he looked kind of like a jackass.”
“[With Obama] we had to meet people where they are,” continued Palmieri when discussing the differences between working for the Obama administration and Clinton’s campaign. “There were the obvious crazy things happening like the website melting down, Ukraine, and the horrible ISIS beheadings; these sort of manufactured press stories that hopefully you all have forgotten about.”
“With Hillary, all I wanted to achieve was the person that she actually is to break through. And we had a very different charge than any other presidential candidate. With any other presidential candidate, it’s about how they’re going to solve a problem. No one doubted Hillary’s ability to get a job; they wanted to know why she wanted it.”
Attributing Clinton’s loss to “sexism” and the “irrational hatred that hangs around her,” Palmieri dismissed criticism towards the campaign’s management as “distracting.”
“Everyday I saw something that showed Donald Trump would be president,” she said.
Palmieri admitted that she foresaw a Trump win in September, although the campaign faced considerable difficulties well before then.
“The hardest stuff was beating back the FBI investigation in July 2015,” said Palmieri. “We were fighting with the New York Times until four in the morning; they refused to change the headline.”
Reflecting on the most difficult day of the campaign, Palmieri said October 7th: the day the Access Hollywood tape was leaked.
“First, we were doing debate prep. Then, the Director of National Intelligence put out a letter saying, remarkably, that Russia had directed the hacks and even named the entities: DC Leaks and Wikileaks. We were like, ‘Oh my God, finally! Now I can finally get the press to pay attention to us and Russia as an issue,'” she said. “We were all excited and then someone said, ‘So there’s this Access Hollywood tape…’ And then literally 20 minutes later the first Wikileaks email is linked to John Podesta.”
Before taking questions from the audience, Palmieri offered up a final remark.
“When I started the Clinton campaign, I thought I was a great person to do the campaign. That’s why I left the Obama White House: I have a lot of crisis experience, I can manage a story well and direct a narrative a certain way. I could do none of those things in the 2016 election.”
Davis Richardson is a writer whose work has appeared in Vice, Nylon Magazine, and Capitol File. Follow him on Twitter @davisoliverr