Politics

Clinton Campaign Worried Bill Seemed ‘Out of Touch’ on Trail

Leaked emails showed spokesman wondering about Clinton anecdote on student loans

AP

A spokesman for Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign worried that Bill Clinton would be perceived as "out of touch" when he first appeared on the campaign trail to support his wife.

Hacked emails released by WikiLeaks show that Josh Schwerin, the national spokesman for Hillary for America, flagged a comment that Clinton made during his first solo campaign appearance that he thought would be used to cast him as "out of touch."

"WJC just told an anecdote about somebody making $110k per year with student loans as an example of someone who would struggle," Schwerin wrote to several high-level campaign staffers on January 4, 2016. "Could see that being used to say he’s out of touch."

The average American makes about $45,000 annually, according to 2014 data from the Social Security Administration.

The message was included in an email chain devoted to providing updates about Clinton’s campaign appearances that day.

Clinton made his first solo appearance of the 2016 presidential election on January 4, campaigning for his wife in New Hampshire. He appeared at a rally in Nashua and a second event in Exeter as Hillary Clinton campaigned in Iowa.

Tina Flournoy, a longtime Clinton insider, pushed back on Schwerin’s suggestion, writing, "Or it’s so bad that even if you make $110k you struggle … imagine how it is for those making less."

"Thanks for flagging, Josh," responded Jennifer Palmieri, the Clinton campaign’s director of communications. "Think it is fine."

Hillary Clinton was widely scrutinized for claiming two years ago that she and her husband were "dead broke" when they left the White House, a statement that critics pointed to as evidence that the former secretary of state was out of touch with regular Americans.

The Clintons made more than $150 million delivering paid speeches between 2001 and the launch of Hillary’s presidential campaign in 2015.

Other messages included in the Jan. 4 chain offer more positive assessments of the former president’s performance on the trail.

Angel Urena, Bill Clinton’s press secretary, commented that Clinton "touched everyone" in the room during an event at the Puritan Backroom in Manchester.

"I know you all are shocked, but WJC touched everyone in the dining room, including: the mother and grandmother of a USSS agent, whom were genuinely surprised to see him here; and a woman who is celebrating her 92nd birthday today," Urena wrote. "I’d note that she’s met a couple of Presidents now and wasn’t shy about telling folks here that WJC is amongst her favorites. Most folks he saw articulated that they’re voting for HRC and the press ate a lot of it up."

It is not clear from the email whether Clinton literally or figuratively touched everyone in the room.

The chain was included in a batch of emails released by Wikileaks on Wednesday. The website, which has been linked to the Russian government, has been periodically releasing troves of hacked emails from Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta in recent days.

WikiLeaks also published messages recovered from a hack of the Democratic National Committee earlier this year. The U.S. intelligence community has formally accused Russia of carrying out that hack.

The Clinton campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment.