Donna Brazile

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Donna Brazile
Donna Brazile 1.JPG
Chair of the Democratic National Committee
In office
July 28, 2016 – February 25, 2017
Preceded by Debbie Wasserman Schultz
Succeeded by Tom Perez
In office
April 5, 2011 – May 4, 2011
Preceded by Tim Kaine
Succeeded by Debbie Wasserman Schultz
Personal details
Born Donna Lease Brazile
(1959-12-15) December 15, 1959 (age 57)
New Orleans, Louisiana, U.S.
Political party Democratic
Education Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge (BA)
Website Official website

Donna Lease Brazile[1] (/brəˈzɪl/; born December 15, 1959[2]) is an American author and political analyst. She is a member of the Democratic Party, briefly serving as the interim chairperson for the Democratic National Committee in spring 2011, and assumed that role again in July 2016.

She was the first African American to direct a major presidential campaign, acting as campaign manager for Al Gore in 2000. She has also worked on several presidential campaigns for Democratic candidates, including Jesse Jackson and Walter MondaleGeraldine Ferraro in 1984, and for Dick Gephardt in the 1988 Democratic primary.

Early life

Brazile was born in New Orleans, Louisiana, the daughter of Jean Marie (Brown) and Lionel Joseph Brazile,[1][3][4] the third of nine children. Her family's surname was "Braswell" several generations back.[1] Brazile became interested in politics at the age of nine when a local candidate for office promised to build a neighborhood playground. She participated in a TRIO Upward Bound program while in high school. Brazile earned a bachelor's degree in political science from Louisiana State University in 1981, and was a fellow at the Institute of Politics at Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government. After graduating from Louisiana State University, Brazile worked for several advocacy groups in Washington, D.C., and was allegedly instrumental in the successful campaign to make Martin Luther King, Jr.'s birthday a federal holiday.[5]

Brazile volunteered for the Jimmy CarterWalter Mondale presidential campaigns in 1976 and 1980 as a teenager.[5]

Political strategist

Brazile has worked on several presidential campaigns for Democratic candidates, including Jesse Jackson in 1984, Walter Mondale–Geraldine Ferraro in 1984, and Richard Gephardt in the 1988 Democratic primary.

After Gephardt lost the primary in 1988, Brazile served as deputy field director of the Michael Dukakis general election campaign.[6] On October 20, 1988, she made headlines by telling a group of reporters that George H. W. Bush needed to "fess up" about unsubstantiated rumors of an extramarital affair.

Said Brazile, "The American people have every right to know if Barbara Bush will share that bed with him in the White House."[7][8] The Dukakis campaign immediately disavowed her remarks and Dukakis fired her from his campaign staff shortly after the story broke.[6][9] Four years later, the same issue, the relationship of George H.W. Bush and Jennifer Fitzgerald, would be briefly rehashed during the 1992 campaign against Bill Clinton, who had his own extramarital affair rumors.

In the 1990s, Brazile served as chief of staff and press secretary to Congressional Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton of the District of Columbia, where she helped guide the District's budget and local legislation on Capitol Hill. She also served as an advisor for Bill Clinton's campaign for the presidency in 1992 and for re-election in 1996.

In 1999, Brazile was appointed deputy campaign manager and was later promoted to campaign manager of the 2000 presidential campaign of Vice-President Al Gore, becoming the first African-American woman to manage a major party presidential campaign.

After the Hurricane Katrina disaster, Brazile was appointed as a member of the board of directors of the Louisiana Recovery Authority by Kathleen Blanco from 2005 to 2009. Brazile donated her papers to the Louisiana and Lower Mississippi Valley Collections in the Louisiana State University Libraries Special Collections, located in Hill Memorial Library.[10]

Democratic National Committee service

After the post-election fight over votes in the 2000 United States presidential election in Florida, Brazile was appointed chair of the Democratic National Committee's Voting Rights Institute.

2008 presidential election

In the 2008 election, she served as a superdelegate for her work for Bill Clinton and Al Gore.[citation needed]

As a delegate for the Democratic National Convention, Brazile consistently refrained from declaring her preferred Democratic presidential candidate. In an interview with political satirist Stephen Colbert, Brazile stated, "Look, I'm a woman, so I like Hillary. I'm black; I like Obama. But I'm also grumpy, so I like John McCain."[11][12]

The 2008 Democratic presidential primaries in Florida and Michigan initially caused the delegates from these two states to be disqualified from being seated at the Democratic Convention due to the states moving their primaries against DNC Party rules.[13][14] Brazile stated, "We need to send a message that you can't defy the rules," adding, "I have pissed off just about every state in my career."[15]

At the Rules Committee meeting to decide on the final allocations for these states she was quoted: "My momma taught me to play by the rules and respect those rules. My mother taught me, and I'm sure your mother taught you, that when you decide to change the rules, middle of the game, end of the game, that is referred to as cheating." [16]

She was strongly critical of the Stupak-Pitts Amendment, which places limits on taxpayer-funded abortions in the context of the November 2009 Affordable Health Care for America Act.[17]

2012 presidential election

For several weeks in the spring of 2011, she served as interim chair of the Democratic National Committee. As vice-chair of the DNC, she led the organization during the transition between outgoing chair Tim Kaine, who resigned to run for the U.S. Senate, and his successor, Florida Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who was not permitted to ascend to the post until at least fifteen days after being nominated on April 5, 2011.[18] Following Wasserman Schultz' installation as DNC chair, Brazile returned to her post as vice-chair.

2016 presidential election

Brazile campaigns for Hillary Clinton at Nashua Community College in New Hampshire, October 7, 2016.

Following the release by Wikileaks of a collection of emails indicating that Debbie Wasserman Schultz and other members of the DNC staff showed inappropriate bias against the presidential campaign of Senator Bernie Sanders in favor of Hillary Clinton's campaign,[19] Wasserman Schultz resigned her position as chairperson of the Democratic National Committee on July 24, 2016, at the start of the 2016 Democratic National Convention, and Brazile became interim chairperson of the DNC.[20][73][21] She also shared debate questions with Hillary Clinton that she obtained through her position at CNN. CNN terminated her after news of this broke. On March 17, 2017, she admitted to sending the email with the questions and said "sending those emails was a mistake I will forever regret".[22][23] Brazile previously denied she sent the email with the questions to Hillary Clinton's campaign.[24]

Brazile was responsible for "a plan to spend money to drive up inner-city turnout in places like Chicago and New Orleans — even though neither Illinois nor Louisiana was remotely competitive — because of fear that Clinton would win the Electoral College vote but lose the popular vote". The Clinton campaign "refused requests to reallocate resources to places like Michigan because they did not want to risk the public relations nightmare that would come along with losing the popular vote" as they were confident of handily winning the Electoral College.[25]


A WikiLeaks email dump revealed that Brazile sent an email message on March 5, 2016, to John Podesta and Jennifer Palmieri with the title: "One of the questions directed to HRC tomorrow is from a woman with a rash." The message continued, "her family has lead poison and she will ask what, if anything, will Hillary do as president to help the ppl of Flint."[26]

At the next event in Flint, Clinton was delivered a similar question from audience member Mikki Wade, whose family was affected by the poisoned water.[27]

On October 11, 2016, a WikiLeaks email dump included an email Brazile sent on March 12 to Clinton communications director Jennifer Palmieri with the subject header: "From time to time I get questions in advance."[28] In the email, Brazile discussed her concern about Clinton's ability to field a question regarding the death penalty, and in a CNN town hall debate the following day, Clinton received a similar question about the death penalty.[26][29] According to tech blog Errata Security, the email in question was verified using an everyday verification program and the DKIM system.[30] Brazile at first denied receiving or furnishing the Clinton campaign with any town hall questions, and dismissed the Wikileaks organization as "sad ass whipper leakers [trying] to destroy [her] groove".[31] Jake Tapper, a former colleague of Brazile's at CNN, provided his perspective on the possibility of a leak of a question to a Presidential candidate, calling it "very, very upsetting" and added that "journalistically, it's horrifying". Brazile, however, said that her conscience was "very clear".[32][33] She later commented: "If I had to do it all over again, I would know a hell of a lot more about cybersecurity."[34]

In a talk at the College of Journalism and Mass Communications on the University of Nebraska-Lincoln campus on October 12, Brazile condemned the leaks, which intelligence officials said came from Russia,[35] were to "manipulate an election, disrupt or discredit or destroy our democracy" and ultimately try to "produce an outcome more favorable to them and their interests," Brazile said.[36]

On October 31, 2016, The New York Times reported: "CNN has severed ties with the Democratic strategist Donna Brazile, after hacked emails from WikiLeaks showed that she shared questions for CNN-sponsored candidate events in advance with friends on Hillary Clinton's campaign."[37] CNN said it had accepted her formal resignation on October 14, adding: "We are completely uncomfortable with what we have learned about her interactions with the Clinton campaign while she was a CNN contributor."[38]

On November 1, 2016, an internal call about the collusion was initiated by CNN President Jeff Zucker. Zucker informed his staff that, while the instances have been fully investigated and the perpetrators dealt with, the perception that campaigns could receive questions in advance "hurts all of us," adding that, "I have no tolerance for her behavior or that kind of behavior," going on to describe former network commentator Brazile's interactions with the Clinton campaign as "unethical" and "disgusting."[39]

On March 17, 2017, Brazile admitted to forwarding debate questions to Clinton's campaign during the 2016 Democratic primary, while she was Vice Chair of the DNC and working as a CNN commentator.[22][40][41] In an essay she wrote for TIME magazine she said, "Then in October, a subsequent release of emails revealed that among the many things I did in my role as a Democratic operative and D.N.C. Vice Chair prior to assuming the interim D.N.C. Chair position was to share potential town hall topics with the Clinton campaign." Brazile went on to explain: "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." She has yet to say why she did it, only that she regrets it.[41]

University teaching and affiliations

Brazile also served as a lecturer at the University of Maryland, College Park, a fellow at Harvard University's Institute of Politics, and is an Adjunct Professor of Women and Gender Studies at Georgetown University.[42] She is member of the advisory board of the Washington & Lee University Mock Convention.[42]

Commentator, author, and acting

Brazile was a weekly contributor and political commentator on CNN's The Situation Room and appeared on American Morning and its successor, New Day. She regularly appeared on CNN Tonight with Don Lemon, and was a frequent member of Anderson Cooper's guest panel of political experts on CNN's Election Night Coverage. In addition, she is a contributing writer for Ms. Magazine and was a columnist for Roll Call. Brazile is also founder and managing director of Brazile and Associates and a contributor to NPR's Political Corner and ABC News. In 2004, Simon & Schuster published Cooking With Grease, Brazile's memoir of her life and work in politics. However, it was announced that Brazile had agreed mutually with both CNN and ABC to suspend her contracts with the networks in order to serve as interim chair of the DNC.[43] On October 31, 2016, CNN announced that Brazile offered a formal resignation and that they were permanently severing their ties to Brazile as a CNN contributor, due to inappropriate leaks with the Clinton campaign while she worked for the network.[44]

Brazile is a member of Screen Actors Guild‐American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA) and has guest-starred as herself in three episodes of the CBS drama The Good Wife and one episode of the Netflix drama House of Cards.[45]

LGBT advocacy and sexual orientation

In 1999, The New York Times Magazine described Brazile as an LGBT activist who served on the board of the Millennium March on Washington. The magazine said she is "highly protective of her privacy" and called her "openly ambiguous" about her sexual orientation.[46] Brazile is described as "openly lesbian" in the 2002 book Gay and Lesbian Americans and Political Participation: A Reference Handbook.[47]


  1. ^ a b c Gates, Henry Louis, Jr. (Executive producer; Head writer) (January 5, 2016). "The Stories We Tell". Finding Your Roots. Season 3. Episode 1. United States: U.S. Government. PBS. Retrieved October 17, 2016. 
  2. ^ "Donna Brazile: Born for politics". USA Today. McLean, Virginia: Gannett Company. May 23, 2000. Retrieved May 1, 2010. 
  3. ^ PBS Staff (January 7, 2016). "Donna Brazile's Interactive Family Tree". PBS. United States: U.S. Government. Retrieved October 17, 2016. 
  4. ^ KLFY News (July 24, 2016). "New Orleans native Donna Brazile assumes role of DNC interim chair". KLFY News. United States: U.S. Government. Retrieved December 12, 2016. 
  5. ^ a b Harris, Janelle (October 27, 2010). "So What Do You Do, Donna Brazile, Political Commentator and Strategist?". Mediabistro. United States: Prometheus Global Media. Archived from the original on September 21, 2013. Retrieved October 20, 2014. 
  6. ^ a b "National Press Club -- Donna Brazile". May 2, 2001. Retrieved November 10, 2016. [A]s deputy field operator during Michael Dukakis’ presidential bid in 1988, her comments about rumored marital infidelity on the part of GOP candidate George Bush got her fired. 
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  9. ^ Sanders, Joshunda (July 4, 2004). "State's Dems still hope for a bit of suspense / A contested primary is viewed as a plus for party". San Francisco Chronicle. San Francisco: Hearst Corporation. 
  10. ^ Laver, Tara (September 26, 2014). "Political Strategist Donna Brazile donates her papers to LSU". Louisiana State University. Baton Rouge, Louisiana: Blogger. Retrieved October 17, 2016. 
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  30. ^ Shaw, Adam (October 24, 2016). "Tech blogger finds proof DNC chief's emails weren't 'doctored' despite claims". Fox News. Retrieved November 3, 2016. 
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  42. ^ a b "Brazile Takes Over as DNC Chair". Los Angeles Sentinel. August 10, 2016. Retrieved November 10, 2016. Brazile has also served as a lecturer at the University of Maryland, College Park, a fellow at Harvard University's Institute of Politics, and is an Adjunct Professor of Women and Gender Studies at Georgetown University. She is member of the advisory board of the Washington & Lee University Mock Convention. 
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  45. ^ Hale, Mike (October 1, 2014). "Political Cameos on 'The Good Wife'? Donna Brazile Likes Them.". The New York Times. New York City: The New York Times Company. Retrieved February 6, 2015. 
  46. ^ Sullivan, Andrew (December 12, 1999). "Not a Straight Story". The New York Times Magazine. Retrieved November 2, 2016. 
  47. ^ Smith, Raymond A.; Haider-Markel, Donald P. (May 1, 2002). Gay and Lesbian Americans and Political Participation: A Reference Handbook. ABC-CLIO, Incorporated. p. 152. ISBN 9781576072561. Retrieved November 2, 2016. 

External links

Party political offices
Preceded by
Tim Kaine
Chair of the Democratic National Committee

Succeeded by
Debbie Wasserman Schultz
Preceded by
Debbie Wasserman Schultz
Chair of the Democratic National Committee

Succeeded by
Tom Perez
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