Morning Joe Panel Blasts Clinton For Not Releasing Transcripts of Speeches at Financial Firms

February 19, 2016

The panel on MSNBC's Morning Joe criticized Hillary Clinton on Friday for refusing to release transcripts of speeches she made to large financial firms in exchange for millions of dollars.

Morning Joe first played a clip from Thursday night's CNN Democratic town hall where an audience member asked Clinton about releasing the transcripts of paid speeches to companies like Goldman Sachs.

"Why are you hesitant to release transcripts or audio [or] video recordings of those meetings in order to be transparent with the American people regarding the promises and assurances that you have made to the big banks," the audience member asked.

"Well, let me say this," Clinton responded. "I am happy to release anything I have when everybody else does the same. Because every other candidate in this race has given speeches to private groups, including Senator [Bernie] Sanders."

The Morning Joe panel took issue with Clinton's answer.

"From the very first moment she was asked that question, I knew she was on that hedge cliff when she was like, ‘Yeah, we'll think about it,’ and so now we've gone from [that] to ‘Well, I will if everyone else will,’’ said Michael Steele, former chairman of the Republican National Committee. "But everyone else doesn't have the problem you have with the American people."

Co-host Mika Brzezinski added that "everyone else who made $225,000 in an hour's time should release those as well," referencing the large sums of money Clinton made from these speeches. "What candidate has that?"

Clinton and her husband, Bill, have made about $250,000 per speech since leaving the White House. The two have taken in roughly $125,000,000 in speaking fees since leaving the White House.

Many of the financial firms Hillary Clinton spoke to have ties to Wall Street, and the Democratic frontrunner has faced particular scrutiny for receiving $675,000 from Goldman Sachs for three speeches.

Brzezinski described how the Sanders campaign, trying to draw a contrast with Clinton, took the transcript issue to Twitter, posting a link to the website which shows a clock indicating how long Clinton has been "looking into" releasing her transcripts since making the statement at a debate in New Hampshire two weeks ago.

The Sanders campaign also posted a link to a speech the Vermont Senator gave to CSPAN's Book TV in 2011 with the statement: "Don't worry. The $500 payout was given to charity."

"I think that those speeches, unfortunately for her, are going to come out, but they're not going to come out being released by her," Brzezinski said. "And I think there are going to be some things in those speeches that are going to create huge problems for her."

Co-host Joe Scarborough added that "the Clintons don't operate that way. The Clintons never release. It's always dragged out of them kicking and screaming, and it has been happening for 30 years."

Columnist Mike Barnicle agreed with Scarborough, saying the issue "adds to the level of exhaustion that’s out there about the Clintons for 20, 25, 30 years. It exhausts people."

Katty Kay described the speaking fees as "self-inflicted wounds" for Clinton. "The need to make even more money when you've already made over $100 million. That's very hard for people to understand. And why do that when you knew you were going to run for president? Why not just say no?"

The Washington Post's Eugene Robinson said Clinton has to make a calculation of whether the content of the transcripts is damaging and shows her support for the financial industry in a Democratic primary that has focused largely on attacking and taxing Wall Street to address income inequality.

Robinson added that Clinton herself arranged for the transcripts to be made.

"It actually apparently is damaging based on all the reporting that has come out since then," Scarborough said. "It was clubby, she apologized for Goldman Sachs. So it's a problem."

Sanders, a self-declared socialist who honeymooned in the Soviet Union and supported the communist Sandinista government in Nicaragua, has attacked Clinton for her closeness with corporations and investment firms and for being hypocritical by using harsh rhetoric against the financial industry while taking so much money from it.

Sanders has promised to break up the country's largest banks and restore the Glass-Steagall barrier between investment and commercial banking. He has also called America's economic system a rigged one that favors the wealthy at the expense of the working class.

Both candidates face off in the Nevada Democratic caucus on Saturday, where they are virtually tied in the polls.

Clinton is hoping to regain momentum after a narrow win in the Iowa caucus and a blowout, 20-point loss to Sanders in the New Hampshire primary.