* Democratic Party consultant and campaign manager
* Fellow at the Institute of Politics at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government
Born in New Orleans on December 15, 1959, Donna Brazile earned a bachelor’s degree in industrial psychology from Louisiana State University in 1981. She subsequently worked for a number of advocacy and lobbyist groups in Washington, D.C., including the National Student Education Fund and the Community for Creative Non-Violence.
Brazile played a prominent role in the management of every Democratic presidential campaign from 1976-2000. These included the White House bids of Jimmy Carter (1976 & 1980 volunteer); Jesse Jackson (1984 Southern field director and deputy campaign manager); Walter Mondale (1984 campaign worker); Richard Gephardt (1988 field director); Michael Dukakis (1988 field director); Bill Clinton (1992 senior advisor on black turnout, & 1996 Washington DC campaign director); and Al Gore (2000 campaign manager). Also during the ’90s, Brazile served as a consultant to the Democratic National Committee (1990-99), and as press secretary/chief-of-staff to Washington, DC delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton (1991-99).
During her tenure with Gore’s campaign, Brazile charged that Republicans had no real respect for African Americans; that instead of doing something to substantively help the black community, they were content to merely exploit a handful of select black conservatives whose token presence was designed to conceal the party’s underlying bigotry: “The Republicans bring out Colin Powell and J.C. Watts because they have no program, no policy…. They’d rather take pictures with black children than feed them.” In November 1999, The Washington Post quoted Brazile saying that “a black female in America is the most invisible object in the world,” and that she would not allow the “white boys” to win. “[I]t’s an attitude,” she added. “A white-boy attitude is ‘I must exclude, denigrate and leave behind.’”
After the 2000 presidential election controversy in Florida, Brazile was appointed chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee’s Voting Rights Institute. She alleged that Republicans routinely sought to keep minorities away from the polls through the use of voter-suppression and intimidation tactics, a charge she has reiterated many times since then.
When the community organization ACORN was mired in a massive voter-registration-fraud scandal in 2008, Brazile downplayed it as “no more than a few canvassers trying to meet their quota and make easy money by cheating the system.” By contrast, Brazile views Republican efforts to pass Voter ID laws as the schemes of “extremist governors or legislatures” who “are willing to violate people’s civil rights in order to win elections.”
In the 2008 presidential election, Brazile served as a Democratic Party superdelegate.
In a September 2011 appearance on CNN, Brazile denounced conservative broadcaster Glenn Beck for having recently criticized Congressional Black Caucus member Andre Carson‘s vulgar derisions of the Tea Party movement. “[F]or Glenn Beck to somehow or another tell people of color or any Americans about racism, about blackness, about our founding fathers,” said Brazile, “I’m sorry, walk a day, walk a mile, but don’t tell me anything when Glenn Beck also insulted the president … of the United States.” (The latter was a reference to Beck’s 2009 claim that Barack Obama harbored “a deep-seated hatred for white people or the white culture.”)
A steadfast belief in the ubiquity of white racism continued to inform Brazile’s view of Obama’s critics thereafter. In 2013, for instance, Brazile said that “two ‘scandals’—the IRS tax-exempt inquiries and the Department of Justice’s tapping of reporters’ phones—have become lynch parties.” “And the congressional investigation of Benghazi may become a scandal in itself,” she added, calling for “an end to partisan sideshows or media witch hunts.”
In a June 2014 appearance on CNN, Brazile took issue with Republicans who had criticized President Obama’s recent decision to trade five captive Islamic terrorist leaders in exchange for former American soldier Robert Bergdahl, who five years earlier, while professing contempt for his own “disgusting” homeland, had deserted the Army and ended up in the custody of the Taliban. “That’s all they do,” said Brazile. “… all they do is focus their vitriol, their rage, against this president.”
In July 2014, Brazile claimed that many Americans reflexively “want to destroy [Obama’s] presidency” because of their intransigent “vitriol”—rooted in “that old-school way of thinking about race and opportunity” that was so prevalent in “the past of this country.”
In January 2016, Brazile tweeted enthusiastically: “Under President Obama, the economy has experienced a record 70 straight months of private-sector job growth. Over 14 million jobs!” Exactly one month later, she sent a private email to Hillary Clinton presidential campaign chairman John Podesta in which she candidly expressed concern about how poorly the U.S. economy was doing: “I think people are more in despair about how things are — yes new jobs but they are low wage jobs. HOUSING is a huge issue. Most people pay half of what they make to rent.” The contents of Brazile’s email were made public by WikiLeaks in October 2016.
In July 2016, Brazile was named as an interim replacement for then-DNC chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who resigned from that post because of a scandal involving leaked emails which proved that Schultz and other party officials had conspired to sabotage the campaign of Senator Bernie Sanders, who was battling Hillary Clinton for the Democratic presidential nomination.
On October 11, 2016, WikiLeaks released a hacked DNC email that Brazile had sent to John Podesta (Hillary Clinton‘s 2016 presidential campaign chairman) and Jennifer Palmieri (the Clinton campaign’s director of communications), at a time when she (Brazile) was serving as a frequent political commentator for CNN. The email was dated March 12, 2016 — the day before a Democratic primary debate hosted by CNN — and the Subject heading read: “From time to time, I get the [debate] questions in advance.” In the body of the email, Brazile wrote: “Here’s one that worries me about HRC” (Hillary Rodham Clinton), and then proceeded to spell out a question that Clinton would be asked about the death penalty. The next day at the debate, CNN’s Roland Martin asked Clinton that question, virtually word for word. In a subsequent correspondence that was part of the same email chain, Brazile told Palmieri: “I’ll send some more” (debate questions).
When Brazile in October 2016 was asked about the debate question referenced above, and about the email released by Wikileaks, she replied: “I never had access to questions and would never have shared them with the candidates if I did.” CNN media reporter Brian Stelter subsequently contacted Roland Martin, and the latter admitted that he had in fact shared some debate questions, in advance of the debate, with his staffers as well as others at CNN.
Brazile also claimed that the aforementioned leaked email likely had been “doctored by Russian sources,” but Domain Keys Identified Mail, or DKIM — an email security system that can independently authenticate the contents and sender of an email — confirmed that Brazile had in fact sent that email message to Podesta.
On October 31, 2016, another email dump by Wikileaks showed yet another debate question that Brazile had leaked to Podesta and Palmieri.
On October 31, 2016 — just hours after the latest revelations about Brazile had been made public — CNN announced that because it was “completely uncomfortable” with what Brazile had done, the network had accepted her resignation as a contributor seventeen days earlier, on October 14. During a November 1, 2016 editorial meeting, CNN president Jeff Zucker described Brazile’s interactions with the Clinton campaign as “unethical” and “disgusting.”
In March 2017, Brazile acknowledged that she had in fact leaked debate questions to Democrats via email: “My job was to make all our Democratic candidates look good, and I worked closely with both campaigns to make that happen. But sending those emails was a mistake I will forever regret.”
On March 18, 2019, Brazile became a contributor for Fox News.
In a Fox News opinion-editorial published on February 5, 2020, Brazile wrote that President Trump’s inevitable acquittal in the upcoming Senate impeachment trial would be a “sad day” for democracy:
“The impeachment trial of President Trump will soon be history, and the outcome will go down as a sad day for our democracy. Although the evidence of President Trump’s unlawful and impeachable acts is overwhelming and growing, the Republican-controlled Senate is certain to fall short Wednesday of the two-thirds vote needed to convict him on two articles of impeachment adopted by the House…. House Democrats did the right thing in impeaching Trump. Impeachment was necessary, even if removal was always unlikely. As House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said: “We have pulled back a veil of behavior totally unacceptable to our founders, and that the public will see this with a clearer eye.”
On March 3, 2020, Brazile appeared on Fox News along with Republican National Committee (RNC) chairwoman Ronna McDaniel, who claimed that the DNC was once again rigging the Democratic primary against Bernie Sanders,. Said an angry Brazile in response:
“First of all, I want to talk to my Republicans. First of all, stay the hell out of our race. Stay the hell out of our race. I get sick and tired … of listening to Republicans tell me and the Democrats about our process…. And for [Republican] people to use Russian talking points [to] sow division among Americans, that is stupid. So Ronna, go to hell…. This notion that somehow or another, Democrats are out there trying to put hurdles or roadblocks before one candidate, that’s stupid. I know what’s going on. They are scared of Democrats coming together to defeat Donald Trump. They need to be focusing on what we’re focusing on in the Democratic Party and that is preventing foreign interference in our election. Stop using Russian talking points, Madame Chairwoman, period. Stop using it.”
In May 2020, Brazile was asked to comment on an interview on The Breakfast Club, a radio program popular with black listeners and hosted by a man calling himself Charlamagne tha God, where Democrat presidential candidate Joe Biden had recently told the host: “I tell you, if you have a problem figuring out whether you’re for me or Trump, then you ain’t black.” Said Brazile:
“I’m black from the ground up, but here’s what I do believe. I believe that Joe Biden was incorrect in saying the statement ‘you ain’t black,’ but I also believe that his apology was sufficient. Here we live in a country where thousands of people have died [of coronavirus], and a disproportionate number of them are people of color, African-Americans, communities of color. So I would rather spend more time talking about these disparities that we have seen that have been amplified during this pandemic when speaking about Joe Biden and his record of blackness. This is not just an issue of race, this is an issue of survival right now, and I hope that Joe Biden has learned his lesson and his advisors have also learned their lesson that you just cannot be cavalier in talking about these issues. Stick to the facts. That’s what the radio hosts want him to do, talk about the issues because the issues mattered now more than ever.”
On August 25, 2020, Brazile appeared on Fox News Channel’s Fox & Friends along with conservative commentator Tammy Bruce, who charged that “no Democra[t] has spoken out against the nature of what’s happening in Kenosha, Portland, Seattle, Baltimore, New York, Chicago” — a reference to the massive riots that had erupted in response to the death of George Floyd, a black Wisconsin man who had died three months earlier following a physical encounter with a white police officer. Brazile, accusing Bruce of ignoring the “pains of people who are hurting,” said in response: “This is why the choir sounds like aa note coming from a scratched record. It sounds like I will never be an American in your world, because, after 400 years, my family cannot walk out of this house without fearing violence!” Addressing Ms. Bruce directly, Brazile added: “Tammy, I see it every day. I see the violence, Tammy. Coming from someone who does not live my existence — you do not recognize my existence, Tammy. You do not recognize my existence!” When Bruce said, “It’s a shame,” Brazile shot back: “You are the shameful one. You are the shameful one. You cannot erase my history.”
In a February 1, 2020 appearance on the Fox News Channel program The Five, Brazile falsely intimated that former President Trump had advised people to “drink bleach” as a way of combatting coronavirus infection. Following is a transcript of her exchange with program co-host Greg Gutfeld:
BRAZILE: “And by the way, if Joe Biden goes up there one day and asks people to drink bleach as a way to fighting the pandemic, God knows he’ll be —”
GUTFELD: “That never happened, Donna. You got fed a lie there. That never happened, Donna. You got fed a lie. Never happened. If you are going to say that on the show, you have to have the clip. Never happened.”
BRAZILE: “Well, get the clip because —”
GUTFELD: “Good luck. Get the clip, Donna. Good luck. I will buy you a steak dinner if you find that clip. It never happened. I’m just trying to be honest. If you’re going to bring up something that’s not true, we’ve got to point it out. That’s what we do.”
Brazile is the founder and managing director of Brazile & Associates, a firm that assists corporate clients with “diversity training, earned media strategies, crisis management, and message development.” She also serves as vice chair of voter registration and participation at the Democratic National Committee, and a contributing writer for United Media and Ms. magazine.
Over the years, Brazile has personally contributed money to the political campaigns of such notable Democrats as Corrine Brown, Hillary Clinton, Al Gore, Steny Hoyer, Jesse Jackson, Mary Landrieu, Robert Menendez, Kweisi Mfume, Eleanor Holmes Norton, Barack Obama, Debbie Stabenow, and Bennie Thompson. She has also donated to the Democratic National Committee Services Corporation, EMILY’s List, and the National Organization for Women.
Further Reading: “Donna Brazile” (Blackpast.org, CNN.com).