Hillary Clinton’s campaign aides are aggressively pushing back against a newly released book that portrays their operation as a dysfunctional knife-fest, insisting that despite its flaws, the campaign was focused and supportive throughout the hard-fought election.
“Shattered: Inside Hillary Clinton’s Doomed Campaign” hit shelves on Tuesday and presents an unflinching autopsy on Clinton’s latest failed White House bid. The authors — political reporters Jonathan Allen and Amie Parnes — write about Clinton confidants angling to get campaign manager Robby Mook fired and longtime aide Huma Abedin unhelpfully targeting people offering constructive criticism.
But Clinton’s top aides say the campaign comprised a group of people who, like their slogan said, were “Stronger Together” — even as they endured a long slog that ended in defeat.
“[T]he overarching narrative paints a picture of a campaign bogged down by infighting which as a result is paralyzed, leading to its own eventual demise,” Clinton deputy communications director Christina Reynolds wrote in a Medium post on Wednesday. “I wanted to speak out because after spending most of the campaign watching some people question the enthusiasm and our supporters, it’s hard to read a depiction of the campaign that paints a dedicated, cohesive team as mercenaries with questionable motives who lacked a loyalty to a candidate described as ‘imperial’ and removed from the campaign. That’s just not the campaign, the staff or the candidate I was in the trenches with for 18 months.”
Reynolds, a Barack Obama campaign veteran and former White House staffer, cast her first day on the Clinton campaign as a welcoming experience. She said she joined the campaign full time because “it was clear from the beginning that this would be a campaign not driven by factions or who had been around the longest.”
“We didn’t waste time settling scores or fighting in the press. When we had bad nights, we tried to find a way forward, rather than publicly placing blame or stabbing each other in the back,” she said. “And when we had good nights, we celebrated together, rather than worrying about who got the credit. Contrary to the ‘mercenary’ description in the book, we knew that there was only one goal, and one night, that mattered.”
Clinton aides rallied behind Reynold’s post, affirming her narrative and sharing tales via Twitter highlighting the Clinton staff as a family who supported one another through the worst of times, including a “tough diagnosis” and a family death.
The aftermath of the election “was a hug-fest” at Clinton headquarters, “not a knife-fight,” Jesse Lehrich, the campaign’s foreign policy spokesman, tweeted Wednesday.
“I don’t recognize the campaign depicted in Shattered,” added Jennifer Palmieri, the campaign’s communications director. “It was tough but we stuck together & all our proud of how hard our candidate fought.”
Clinton deputy press secretary Jesse Ferguson noted that he was part of the campaign from the very beginning, including the drafting of the press release announcing Clinton’s campaign.
“We made mistakes,” he said on Twitter on Wednesday. “We lost. But the depiction in book doesn’t resemble campaign I saw.”
The authors of the book on Thursday vigorously defended their reporting, which included interviews with more than a hundred sources, with the understanding that the comments were on background and wouldn’t be used until after the election.
Allen, a columnist at Roll Call, credited the Clinton campaign for tapping “really smart people.” “But the people didn’t work very well together,” he told conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt.
Clinton, he added, had a combination of people involved from her time as first lady, secretary of state, senator and a 2008 Democratic presidential candidate, in addition to newcomers for 2016.
“They always have trouble kind of making those various entities kind of work and run smoothly. And I think that was a huge problem for her,” Allen said. “We detail the fact that John Podesta and Robby Mook were infighting. There was lots of infighting and, you know, one of them thought the other was passive-aggressive. The other one didn’t trust the other. And so there’s lots of this kind of stuff. That never really seeped out.”
That is, until “Shattered” hit the shelves. “[T]he portrait of the Clinton campaign that emerges from these pages is that of a Titanic-like disaster: an epic fail made up of a series of perverse and often avoidable missteps by an out-of-touch candidate and her strife-ridden staff that turned ‘a winnable race’ into ‘another iceberg-seeking campaign ship,’” Michiko Kakutani wrote in a New York Times review.
For her part, Parnes, a senior White House correspondent at The Hill, argued that she and Allen reported in their book the story that was told to them.
“I think every presidential campaign obviously has a level of drama. This one, I think, was pretty extraordinary,” she told Hewitt. “You know, they can say what they want to say, that it wasn’t the campaign they knew, but, you know, we talked to hundreds of people. This is their story from inside the campaign. This is what they told us. You know, we weren’t talking to outsiders for this book.”