Hillary Clinton doesn’t believe she or her campaign made any significant mistakes in the 2016 election. But speaking at the Code Conference on Wednesday, she had a long list of others she blames for her defeat.
She points the finger at Russia, fake news, the sorry state of the Democratic Party, sexism, and the media that covered the email scandal “like Pearl Harbor,” among others.
The Russian government
At the top of the list is the Russian government, which she believes orchestrated a vast campaign of fake news to discredit her candidacy.
“If you look at Facebook, the vast majority of the news items posted were fake,” Clinton told Kara Swisher and Walt Mossberg, editors of the Vox Media site Recode, which sponsors the conference. “They were connected to — as we now know — the 1,000 Russian agents who were involved in delivering those messages. They were connected to the bots that are just out of control.”
It’s not actually clear that “we now know” any of this. There was a lot of fake news swirling around Facebook in the closing weeks of the campaign, but I haven’t seen any evidence that it was the “vast majority.” The claim that there were 1,000 Russian agents spreading fake news comes from a March statement by Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA), but he described these as unconfirmed reports, not proven facts.
Clinton also notes that WikiLeaks released Clinton adviser John Podesta’s stolen emails — widely believed to have come from Russian hackers — within hours of the release of Donald Trump’s “grab ’em by the pussy” Access Hollywood tape.
Clinton speculated that the Trump campaign may have coordinated with the Russians to make sure the leaked information had maximum impact, arguing that it would have taken guidance from domestic political operatives to make sure the Russians released stolen documents at times when they would have the most effect.
Clinton rejected the suggestion that giving six-figure speeches to Goldman Sachs and other special interest groups had hurt her candidacy.
She insinuated that the issue was tailored unfairly around gender: "Men got paid for the speeches they made, and I got paid for the speeches I made. It was used, I thought it was unfairly used, and all of that, but it was part of the background music."
She also downplayed the decision in general:
“I gave speeches to many, many groups,” she said. “I never thought that anybody would throw out my entire career of standing up and speaking out and voting against and voting in favor of what I thought were good policies because I made a couple of speeches.”
Clinton blames the media for covering her email scandal — which she dubbed “the biggest nothingburger ever” — “like it was Pearl Harbor.”
She said she was hobbled by the sorry state of the Democratic Party at the time she won the nomination.
“I get the nomination, and I inherit nothing from the Democratic Party,” Clinton said. “It was bankrupt. It was on the verge of insolvency. Its data was mediocre to poor, nonexistent, wrong. I had to inject money into the DNC to keep it going.”
Democrats, she said, “are not good historically at building institutions, and we've got to get a lot better.” She added that “that includes content,” arguing that the media had not done a good job of explaining how Barack Obama had saved the economy from a major depression in 2009.
“I also think I was the victim of a very broad assumption that we were going to win,” Clinton said. “I was swimming against a historic tide. It's very difficult to succeed a two-term president of your own party.”