Will Hillary Clinton’s Post at Lieberman-Blackfacing Blog Backfire?

Assume for a moment that you were the frontrunner for the Democrat presidential nomination in 2008, and that one of your competitors had recently created a bit of a brouhaha for having hired a couple of liberal bloggers with "tainted" records.

Would you want to post an article at a website that got itself in some trouble of its own last year when it featured an offensive, Photoshopped picture of Sen. Joe Lieberman (D-Connecticut) in blackface?

Well, on Tuesday, Hillary Clinton (D-NY) posted an article at Firedoglake, the very website guilty of publishing the offensive picture of Lieberman as reported by NewsBusters.

The Washington Post's Mary Ann Akers reported that some Democrats are quite concerned this decision could come back to haunt the junior senator from New York (h/t Glenn Reynolds and Beltway Blogroll):

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's (D-N.Y.) first guest blog posting (that is, on a blog other than her own) is raising a few eyebrows in Democratic political circles.

Not because of what Clinton wrote, but because of where she chose to post it.

On Tuesday, paying tribute to the observance of Equal Pay Day, Clinton chose to blog about pay equity on firedoglake.com -- the smart, edgy and saucy progressive blog run by women. It's the online home for Jane Hamsher, producer of the 1994 cult classic film "Natural Born Killers" and author of a bestselling, tell-all book "Killer Instinct" on the making of the controversial movie.

The article continued:

In Democratic political circles, though, Hamsher is better known as the author of a racially offensive attack against Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.). The incident occurred last summer when Lieberman still officially carried a "D" after his name but was running an ultimately unsuccessful primary race against Ned Lamont.

Hamsher, who was supporting Lamont in the race, posted a doctored photo of Lieberman in black face on HuffingtonPost.com (Read The Washington Post's coverage here). Hamsher wound up apologizing (to "anyone who was genuinely offended") and taking down the photo.

And continued (emphasis added):

A day after Clinton's post appeared on firedoglake.com, Democratic activists in various corners privately questioned the wisdom of the Clinton campaign in choosing to write for a blog associated with Hamsher. "It's potentially problematic," said one Hillary backer, who asked for anonymity to speak freely about the issue. "The topic [equal pay for women] is OK, but you have to wonder why she picked firedoglake.com?"

Apparently, some are not pleased with this decision:

One Democratic strategist who was happy to speak publicly was Dan Gerstein, a former Lieberman spokesman who now runs his own political communications firm.

Gerstein said he understands the Clinton camp wanting to reach out to lots of potential voters, especially women. But given that Clinton, "under the microscope to a much higher degree of scrutiny," Gerstein said, "I don't think this was necessarily a good idea for her."

He suggested that Clinton's decision was particularly politically dangerous in light of the senator's vocal criticism of Don Imus after the shock jock's racially demeaning comments about the Rutgers women's basketball players.

Clinton could have chosen a blogger with "less baggage," Gerstein said. "Just as pure strategy, why would you want to take a risk and invite scorn and controversy and an accusation of hypocrisy when you don't have to?"

In fact, this seems even more obvious given the controversy that hit the John Edwards campaign in February when he hired Andrea Marcotte and Melissa McEwan.

Regardless of how the media sugar-coated the issue at the time, presidential candidates are indeed measured by the company they keep. As such, this decision by Clinton seems to be the kind of rookie mistake one wouldn't expect from her and her former president touting entourage.

This is especially true given the limited upside of such a post versus the downside of the guilt by association. After all, depending on who you believe, Firedoglake only gets between 80,000 and 100,000 reads per day.

Is that worth the risk, or the number of strategists scratching their heads?

Maybe Danny at Beltway Blogroll said it best (emphasis added): "Even so, the Clinton-Firedoglake connection revives questions about whether direct interaction with the top liberal bloggers poses a greater risk to Democratic candidates than potential benefit -- and also whether bloggers are letting themselves be co-opted by campaigns."

I quite agree, Danny.

Noel Sheppard
Noel Sheppard
Noel Sheppard, Associate Editor of NewsBusters, passed away in March of 2014.