Political candidates must be aware of past events that could come back to haunt them, but a recent protest shows how it can bring a politician to her
On Wednesday night, two “Black Lives Matter” activists attended a private fundraiser for Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton, where activist Ashley
Williams confronted Clinton with a sign that displayed the candidate’s past statements about gang members.
that Williams referred to statements Clinton made in 1996 during her husband’s presidential re-election campaign. They referred to stricter policing of
"We need to take these people on. They are often connected to big drug cartels. They are not just gangs of kids anymore. They are often the kinds of kids
that are called 'super-predators,'" then-first lady Hillary Clinton said, according to a C-SPAN video. "No conscience, no empathy. We can talk about why
then ended up that way, but first we have to bring them to heel."
Williams asked Clinton to apologize to black people for “mass incarceration,” declaring, “I’m not a ‘super predator,’ Hillary Clinton.” The incident was
filmed and later put up on YouTube:
On Thursday, the news went viral as Twitter users jumped on Williams’ hashtag, #WhichHillary, to question the candidate on inconsistencies in her political
By Thursday afternoon, #WhichHillary was trending on Twitter for several hours, and Clinton told
reporter Jonathan Capehart
that she “shouldn’t have used those words”:
In that speech, I was talking about the impact violent crime and vicious drug cartels were having on communities across the country and the particular
danger they posed to children and families. Looking back, I shouldn’t have used those words, and I wouldn’t use them today.
My life’s work has been about lifting up children and young people who’ve been let down by the system or by society. Kids who never got the chance they
deserved. And unfortunately today, there are way too many of those kids, especially in African-American communities. We haven’t done right by them. We need
to. We need to end the school to prison pipeline and replace it with a cradle-to-college pipeline.
As an advocate, as first lady, as senator, I was a champion for children. And my campaign for president is about breaking down the barriers that stand in
the way of all kids, so every one of them can live up to their God-given potential.
Wired reporter Issie Lapowsky
said incidents like #WhichHillary—which garnered 88,000 tweets by 1 p.m. Eastern time—show a “new reality” for political candidates and their
The hashtag reflects a new reality for political campaigns. Even if Sanders has vowed not to go negative, his followers online haven’t taken the same oath.
Social media gives them the microphone to do it. For Clinton, the timing couldn’t be worse, as both she and Sanders have been working to court black voters
in the lead up to the South Carolina primary.
reporter Janell Ross
also highlighted the affect of technology and social media on political PR, saying the protest wouldn’t have picked up steam if “this weren’t the age of
the cellphone camera”:
Williams’s short-lived protest probably would have faded into the large and voluminous annals of unrecorded campaign trail “hecklers” if this weren’t the
age of the cellphone video camera and a whole host of people who seem almost constantly prepared to point, shoot and share. Williams was, after all,
ultimately removed by the Secret Service.
But alas, the video is out there. People are talking and writing about it. And on Thursday, Clinton decided to offer an apology for using that
“super-predator” and “brought to heel” language. In the 1990s both were part of a relatively popular but now largely discredited theory about rising youth
The protest comes at a crucial time for Clinton’s campaign, as South Carolina holds its Democratic caucus on Saturday, Feb. 27.
Whether it affects Clinton’s chances in the state— a recent CNN and ORC poll showed that 65 percent of black
voters plan to support Clinton on Saturday—it is a crisis to which Clinton was forced to respond.
RELATED: Keep your cool in a crisis with these tips.
It also serves as a reminder that seemingly small comments—or decades-old addresses—can preempt crisis communications in a day and age when people can more
easily amplify their protests and criticism. For political communicators, it adds more pressure to carefully craft questions—and answers: