It was inevitable that former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton would be asked about her email controversy during the first Democratic presidential debate on Oct. 13. The presidential candidate weathered the line of questioning from host Anderson Cooper and was even helped out by her closest competitor, Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont (video below).
Clinton has been receiving a barrage of criticism for her use of a private email server while she was Secretary of State. Forty-five minutes into the first Democratic presidential debate, Clinton was asked about the scandal. On the Las Vegas debate stage, Clinton was composed as Cooper asked her about her ability to handle a crisis when her campaign has been dogged by the email controversy.
“I’ve taken responsibility for it,” Clinton said. “I did say it was a mistake. I have been as transparent as I know to be, turning over 55,000 pages of my e-mails, asking that they be made public.”
Clinton then pivoted to attack the congressional committee that is investigating her emails, calling it a “partisan vehicle.” House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy has openly bragged that the congressional investigations has hurt Clinton’s political clout, Time reports. Following his comments, he dropped his bid for Republican House Speaker.
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Cooper was not done. He brought up that President Barack Obama himself had said that the emails were an important issue and asked Clinton if she was being flippant about a legitimate controversy.
“I never said it wasn’t legitimate,” Clinton responded. "I have said that I have answered all the questions … I’m still standing.”
Sanders, standing at the podium beside Clinton, surprised viewers everywhere by coming to his political rival’s defense.
“Let me say something that may not be great politics, but I think the secretary is right,” Sanders chimed in. “The American people are sick and tired of hearing about your damn emails.”
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Sanders’ declaration was met with wild applause from the audience, and he and Clinton shared a handshake.
After such a positive reception to Sanders’ dismissal of the email scandal, former Rhode Island governor Lincoln Chafee was playing to a disinterested room when he then offered a critical assessment of Clinton’s email scandal.
“There’s an issue of American credibility out there,” Chafee said. “So any time someone is running to be our leader, and a world leader … credibility is an issue out there with the world.”
When Cooper asked Clinton whether she wanted to respond to Chafee’s critique, the front-runner for the Democratic presidential nomination smiled wide as she shook her head.
“No," she said.