Brazile Revelations Must Be Carefully Evaluated

Donna Brazile, the former interim chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee, made waves last week by publishing an excerpt of her new book Hacks: The Inside Story of the Break-ins and Breakdowns That Put Donald Trump in the White House. Brazile asserts that her book tells some “hard truths.” The book, published Tuesday, Nov. 7, makes a number of explosive claims about Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign.

Among those claims is that the DNC made an unethical, but legal, agreement with the Clinton campaign, stipulating that Clinton would be given near-complete control of the party in exchange for fundraising and financial support. The agreement was signed by Amy Dacey, former CEO of the DNC, and Robby Mook, Clinton’s campaign manager.

More than 300 former Clinton staffers signed an open letter pushing back against the book’s claims. While the letter does not explicitly deny the existence of a fundraising agreement between Clinton’s campaign and the DNC, it does assert that the staffers “do not recognize the campaign [Brazile] portrays in the book.” The letter’s signees further sought to discredit Brazile by claiming she bought into rumors about Clinton’s health circulated by Russia and the far-right.

In assessing whether Brazile’s claims are credible, it is important to consider her history. Many factors suggest that Brazile should not be trusted. During the Democratic primary, she received debate questions from CNN in advance and forwarded them to Clinton, a decision which was clearly unethical. It is commonly understood that the contestants of presidential debates will not — and should not — have access to the questions beforehand, especially if one candidate is given access and others are not.

Brazile initially denied these accusations, stating to journalist. Megyn Kelly that the allegation was “totally false.” Finally, on March 17, 2017, Brazile admitted in a TIME essay that she shared debate questions with Clinton, and expressed regret for doing so.

The fact that Brazile has been dishonest and has engaged in unethical behavior in the past does not immediately discredit all of her book’s assertions. It does, however, mean that her claims must be taken with a grain of salt.

It is also important to consider that Brazile has already walked back some of the claims in her book. In Hacks, Brazile describes microaggressions by Robby Mook as being motivated by gender bias. However, when she later appeared on Tucker Carlson’s show, she denied that Mook displayed any sexist behavior, instead asserting that he had been “condescending and dismissive.”

In a different interview, Brazile withdrew some of her claims regarding the DNC and the Democratic nomination being rigged for Clinton. On ABC’s “This Week”, she claimed “there was no evidence” that the nomination was rigged in favor of Clinton. This statement was made in direct contradiction to statements in her book, in which she reveals that she sought to find evidence that the nomination was rigged and was then able to find the smoking gun in the form of the fundraising agreement between Hillary For America and the Hillary Victory Fund.

Ultimately, the claims levied by Brazile may be true, but the fact that she has engaged in dishonest behavior in the past and ended up walking back those claims indicates that further investigation is needed before accepting the conclusions that she offers in her book. Controversies regarding the 2016 election will likely be rehashed for years to come — understanding those controversies will require careful evaluation of the available facts, and digging to uncover what may be under the surface.