Tensions between Hillary Clinton’s and Donald Trump’s campaigns reached a fever pitch Thursday night — when a shouting match broke out between their top aides at a post-election forum on the 2016 presidential campaign.
“If providing a platform for white supremacists makes me a brilliant tactician, I am proud to have lost,” fumed Clinton communications director Jennifer Palmieri, who traded verbal jabs with Trump campaign manager-turned-transition strategist Kellyanne Conway and others during day 2 of the Harvard Institute of Politics’ quadrennial Campaign Managers Conference.
“I would rather lose than win the way you guys did,” she said, noting how the billionaire’s campaign chief executive, Stephen K. Bannon, was an alleged racist, The New York Post is reporting.
Conway fired back, “Do you think I ran a campaign where white supremacists had a platform?”
At which point, Palmieri replied: “You did, Kellyanne. You did.”
“Do you think you could have just had a decent message for white, working-class voters?” Conway asked. “How about, it’s Hillary Clinton, she doesn’t connect with people? How about, they have nothing in common with her? How about, she doesn’t have an economic message?”
Joel Benenson, Clinton’s chief strategist, disagreed — saying it was obvious that Trump’s campaign was run on hate and bigotry.
“There were dog whistles sent out to people,” he said to Conway. “Look at your rallies. He delivered it.”
David Bossie, Trump’s deputy campaign manager, condemned the statement — and boasted about the real estate mogul’s “unique ability to go past the media and speak directly to the American people.”
He went on to praise Bannon as well, calling him a “brilliant strategist” and a “really terrific guy.”
During another exchange, Clinton aide Robby Mook unleashed a tirade about the letters that FBI Director James Comey sent in the days before the election about Clinton’s emails, saying the letters ultimately helped the billionaire win.
He called the email controversy the “most over-reported, overhyped, over-litigated stories in the history of American politics.”
“If I made one mistake, it was legitimizing the way the press covered this storyline,” Mook said.
While the Campaign Managers Conferences have been known to be quite revealing in the past, they typically have remained civil. Conway went on to blame Thursday night’s spat on the fact that the Clinton camp was still sore about losing.
“Guys, I can tell you are angry, but wow,” she said. “You guys are bitter … You’re all bitter.”
Benenson made it clear, though, that while the election is over, the tensions it caused over the past year will likely linger for years to come.
“You guys won, that’s clear,” he said. “But let’s be honest. Don’t act as if you have a popular mandate for your message. The fact of the matter is that more Americans voted for Hillary Clinton than for Donald Trump.”
To which Conway volleyed back, “Hey, guys, we won. You don’t have to respond. He was the better candidate. That’s why he won.”