Benenson Downplays Tense Exchange With Trump's Staff at Harvard Forum

December 5, 2016

Hillary Clinton’s former chief strategist Joel Benenson downplayed the intense exchange last week at a forum between members of President-elect Donald Trump and Clinton's campaign staffs during an appearance Monday on MSNBC.

Senior staff from both the Clinton and Trump campaigns attended a post-election forum at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government last week. Benenson, Clinton's former communications director Jennifer Palmieri, and Trump's campaign manager Kellyanne Conway were some of the most notable members present, as well as Clinton's campaign chief Robby Mook. The event lasted over two hours and had some heated exchanges.

MSNBC host Steve Kornacki asked about the tense exchanges before Benenson interrupted and downplayed the heated moments.

"I think there's a lot being made out of that. There were a couple of heated moments there. Remember, we were there talking for two and a half hours. It was obvious that was going to be the news because there were about ten minutes out of two hours where there was some sharp exchanges," Benenson said.

He defended the Clinton staff, saying that a bulk of the conversation was cordial with both sides discussing their experiences at various stages of the campaign.

During the event, Palmieri accused Conway and the Trump campaign of legitimizing racism, the Washington Free Beacon previously reported.

Palmieri accused Conway and the Trump campaign of legitimizing racism during their election run, the Washington Post reported. During the forum, an event sponsored by Harvard's Kennedy School of Government during which top staffers from both sides sit across from each other, Palmieri also attacked Trump's campaign chief executive, Stephen Bannon, and accused him of spreading racist views when he was in charge of Breitbart News.

"I would rather lose than win the way you guys did," Palmieri said.

Conway insisted that this was not true. After more accusations from the Clinton campaign over racism, Conway asked if they thought she would be associated with a racist campaign.

"Do you think I ran a campaign where white supremacists had a platform?" Conway asked. "You're going to look me in the face and tell me that?"

"It did," Palmieri said. "Kellyanne, it did. It did."