Like a gas that expands to fill the space available to it, any given scandal in a campaign season — even a small one — can eat up a huge amount of media attention if there’s nothing to distract from it. But the corollary to that truth is that if there is already a major scandal occupying the news cycle, another one that falls into the significant-but-not-huge category may get little attention at all.
That’s undoubtedly what’s happening right now with the most recent dump of hacked emails from WikiLeaks, the international whistleblower organization, that has turned itself into a conduit between Russian computer hackers and the western media. Over several days, WikiLeaks has produced stolen emails, most recently from Hillary Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta, that under normal circumstances would be the subject of relentless discussion by reporters and pundits.
However, with the campaign of Clinton’s opponent Republican Donald Trump trapped in a slow-motion meltdown over charges that the candidate has serially harassed women for decades, the WikiLeaks emails aren’t getting a ton of attention.
While none of the things revealed by the recent batch of emails appears to be particularly damning, there are many that under other circumstances might generate negative voter reaction toward the Democratic nominee.
Here are a few of the more significant ones:
Podesta referred to “needy Latinos” in an email to Clinton
In one exchange, Podesta urged Clinton to reach out to several people in the Latino community, which the campaign is counting on to support her in large numbers. In particular, he suggests she mend fences with former New Mexico governor Bill Richardson, who had a falling out with the Clintons after he supported Barack Obama in 2008 but uses an insulting word to describe him.
“I had heard that you were upset that I encouraged a call between WJC and Richardson to bury the hatchet,” Podesta wrote. “I did that at the request of Jose Villarreal who pushed me and made the point that Richardson is still on TV a lot, especially on Univision and Telemundo and notwithstanding [sic] the fact that he can be a dick, it was worth getting him in a good place.”
Clinton’s press secretary was in contact with the Justice Department
Trump has gone all in on charging that there was some sort of collusion between the Department of Justice and the Clinton administration because of an email exchange between Clinton spokesman Brian Fallon and another staffer in which Fallon says “DOJ folks” had given him a heads up about an upcoming hearing about the release of emails she had sent through a controversial private server while serving as secretary of state. However, all that Fallon received from DOJ was actually publicly available scheduling information. An FBI investigation into Clinton’s use of the private email server would not be launched for several months.
Clinton appears to have been given advance notice of a question at a primary town hall.
Early this year, Donna Brazile, a Democratic National Committee official and a CNN contributor sent an email indicating that she knew of one question the candidates might face during the debate and provided the language on a query about the death penalty. A very similar question was indeed asked of Clinton days later.
The revelation puts further strain on the relationship between Clinton and the supporters of her primary rival, Bernie Sanders. An earlier hack of DNC emails indicated that executives with the supposedly impartial organization were actually supporting Clinton. Brazile, who was a DNC official at the time she sent the email, later took over when the hacked emails forced out then-chair Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz.
Clinton staff criticized Catholics and Evangelicals
The Trump team jumped particularly hard on an email exchange in which Podesta, Jennifer Palmieri, who serves as Clinton’s communications director, and John Halpin of the Center for American Progress briefly discussed religion.
“Many of the most powerful elements of the conservative movement are all Catholic (many converts),” Halpin noted, before suggesting that the appeal of the Roman Catholic faith might be rooted in its “systematic thought and [severely] backward gender relations.”
Palmieri, who is Catholic herself, replied, “I imagine they think it is the most socially acceptable politically conservative religion. Their rich friends wouldn’t understand if they became evangelicals.”
Trump campaign manager Kellyanne Conway hosted an indignant conference call on Wednesday, berating Clinton for “seething with disdain” for people with strong religious convictions. “The hostility toward religious liberty and to beliefs that we hold as Catholics should not go unnoticed or unpunished.”