Hacked emails cast doubt on party unity
Optimism fades as emails suggest DNC played favourites
PHILADELPHIA — On the heels of a tumultuous Republican convention, Hillary Clinton hopes her gathering in Philadelphia will show off a forward-looking Democratic party united behind her steady leadership. But to do that, she must overcome lingering bitterness among supporters of defeated rival Bernie Sanders and a political mess and last-minute leadership shakeup of the party’s own making.
The Democratic National Convention was set to kick off Monday as a week of optimistic celebration with high-powered elected officials and celebrities reintroducing Clinton to a general election audience. But the effort was complicated by the publication of 19,000 hacked emails on the website WikiLeaks, suggesting the Democratic National Committee had played favourites for Clinton during the primary.
The chair of the Democratic National Committee, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, announced abruptly Sunday that she would step down at week’s end. Sanders had called earlier Sunday for her departure.
Wasserman Schultz has been a lightning rod throughout the presidential campaign for criticism from the party’s more liberal wing, with Sanders repeatedly accusing the national party of favouring Clinton despite officially being neutral.
“I’m not shocked, but I’m disappointed,” Sanders said of the hacked emails, one of which questioned whether his religious beliefs could be used against him, on ABC’s “This Week.”
Clinton and President Barack Obama each released statements praising Wasserman Schultz’s leadership.
“There’s simply no one better at taking the fight to the Republicans than Debbie,” Clinton said.
The self-inflicted wounds could hamper the Clinton campaign’s effort to portray the convention in a different light from the just-concluded Republican gathering in Cleveland. Donald Trump accepted the GOP nomination, but party divisions flared when his chief rival, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, refused to endorse the billionaire businessman.
Trump appeared to relish in the Democratic chaos, writing, “The Dems Convention is cracking up.”
Sanders will address the convention Monday night, and Obama will speak on Wednesday night.