Talk show host Steve Harvey provided Hillary Clinton’s campaign with the exact questions he would ask of Clinton during a February interview, according to an internal campaign memo sent a week before the interview and obtained by the Washington Free Beacon.
"Steve is known to be a host who goes out of his way to make his guests feel comfortable," two of Clinton’s top communications aides wrote in a memo to Clinton a week ahead of her interview. "We coordinated closely with the show’s producers on the script and format of the show."
The memo, sent to Clinton on Feb. 17, 2016, by campaign spokeswoman Karen Finney and communications aide Betsaida Alcantara, was attached to an email posted on the website DCLeaks.com by hackers suspected of acting in concert with the Russian government.
One of the individuals behind the website provided the Free Beacon with a password to access that email and others sent to and from Clinton volunteer Beanca Nicholson, who was doing advance work for a campaign swing through Chicago that included the Harvey interview.
The campaign memo reveals that Clinton’s staff worked with Harvey to craft the structure of the interview, and briefed the Democratic presidential nominee ahead of time on the precise wording of Harvey’s questions.
The questions touched on Clinton’s granddaughter, her preference for deep dish or thin crust pizza, her campaign’s "great start," efforts to bridge America’s racial divide, and her support for gun control policies.
According to the memo, Clinton’s staff saw Harvey’s show as an effective and low-risk way to reach out to female and African American voters. They also noted recent episodes of the show that focused on issues that Clinton had stressed during her campaign.
Clinton’s staff pitched the show on some of those issues, including gun control, and noted that Harvey would not likely force Clinton to go into detail defending her positions.
"Please note that the tone of the show is generally light so even on policy questions, Steve won’t go too deep into details," the memo noted.
The campaign and the show’s producers also agreed ahead of time on the structure of a segment that would explore Clinton’s biography and achievements.
"During this segment Steve will take a trip down memory lane with YOU to talk about the different moments of YOUR life displayed in the photographs below," the memo explained photos of Clinton that Harvey pulled up on screen as she discussed her childhood, education, relationship with her husband, and election to the U.S. Senate.
Clinton feigned surprise throughout the interview. "Oh boy. Oh my goodness," she exclaimed as Harvey displayed a photo of her at 12 years old.
Harvey also filmed segments for a special on the Flint water crisis that would air about four weeks later during the same taping session. Once again, Clinton was briefed ahead of time on the questions that Harvey would ask, including one on her February visit to the Michigan city and on efforts to address crime and joblessness.
Requests for comment sent to Harvey’s personal email address and the address listed on his website were not returned. The Clinton campaign did not return a request for comment.
Update: After publication, a Harvey spokesperson sent the following statement: "As happens with many shows like ours, producers conduct pre-interviews highlighting areas of interest and possible questions. This allows the guests to prepare for their appearance and provides the most informative experience for the viewers."