Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders has built his campaign around being an anti-establishment champion while casting Hillary Clinton as a status-quo candidate. Going a step further, a lot of Sanders’ supporters have argued that the traditional news media has rallied behind Clinton. New information has been revealed that might lend some credence to that claim, specifically State Department emails released in response to Judicial Watch’s Freedom of Information Act request that shine new light on the link between establishment media and Clinton’s tenure as Secretary of State.
In a 2008 memo, Jin Chon, who served as a media spokesman for Clinton’s 2008 campaign, sent her an email discussing ways the State Department could use media outlets to help gain public support for legislation and foreign policy goals.
‘The thirst for access from these outlets puts the State Department in a position of strength in negotiating amount of coverage and topics to be discussed. Many will agree to do a written Q&A or restrict questioning to previously approved topics. These outlets can create vital support for official policy or pending legislation among key domestic constituency groups but also create momentum for policy abroad. As the media environment continues to become more and more globally interconnected, it will be critical for the leadership of the State Department to leverage all of these media opportunities to amplify and deliver messages that advance policymaking.’
Given the popularity of U.S. celebrities, it isn’t remotely surprising that the State Department, and other government agencies, would attempt to use them to garner public support for their policies. Traditionally speaking, government officials have often made appearances on Sunday morning news talk shows or given interviews with news anchors. Chon’s memo argues that the government, in this case Clinton and the State Department, would be better served by approaching talk shows such as The View or Oprah. Chon’s reasoning is that the line between hard news and afternoon talk shows has become blurred in recent years.
In Chon and Clinton’s defense, it isn’t as if she is the only politician to turn to specialty media outlets to promote her image and policies. Perhaps the most famous example of this would be President Barack Obama, who appeared on Jon Stewart’s Daily Show several times. He made his first appearance in 2005 when he was still a senator from Illinois and would become the first sitting president to appear on the show. In 2008 and 2012, Obama won the youth vote by strong majorities and part of that could have been due to his willingness to appear on shows like the Daily Show, which have a fairly high rate of millennial viewers.
Chon’s comments are interesting not necessarily for their content, because, on some level, most people probably already know that when a politician or government official speaks, they are usually going to be speaking in a way that advances a particular cause or agenda. The truly interesting thing about these comments are simply how brazen and open they are. It’s clear from the content that these emails were never meant to be released to the public and whether or not Clinton broke the law in regards to her use of a private server, the resulting investigation has yielded some fascinating insight into how government officials speak behind closed doors.
Featured image courtesy of Getty.