WASHINGTON ― Hillary Clinton’s campaign knew in advance that Clinton might get a question from a Flint, Michigan, resident at a presidential primary debate in March, but she still couldn’t come up with a good answer ― at least according to the Flint resident.
“I hated Hillary Clinton’s answer,” Lee-Anne Walters told The Huffington Post the day after the debate. “It actually made me vomit in my mouth.”
During the debate, which was hosted by CNN, Walters had asked whether Clinton and Bernie Sanders, her rival for the Democratic nomination, would “make it a requirement that all public water systems must remove all lead service lines throughout the entire United States.”
According to an email posted by WikiLeaks on Monday, the Clinton campaign had advance warning they’d get a question from a Flint resident along those lines.
“Her family has lead poison and she will ask what, if anything, will Hillary do as president to help the ppl of Flint,” Donna Brazile wrote in a March 5 email to Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta and spokeswoman Jennifer Palmieri.
“You would think Hillary would have answered the question better given the unfair advantage she had.”
Brazile at the time worked as both a CNN contributor and an official with the Democratic National Committee. She has since stepped down from the CNN position, though the network has denied it leaked any questions to Brazile.
WikiLeaks has been publishing the contents of Podesta’s email account since obtaining them from unnamed sources. U.S. officials have suggested the Podesta hack represents an effort by Russia to interfere in the U.S. election.
Walters disliked Clinton’s answer because it didn’t show urgency on removing lead pipes, which can still be found in thousands of cities across the country. Clinton’s answer also focused on lead paint, which epidemiologists say is a bigger contributor to lead poisoning than water ― but that wasn’t what Walters had asked about.
“We will commit to a priority to change the water systems and we will commit within five years to remove lead from everywhere,” Clinton said.
“If you look at the numbers,” Walters told HuffPost, “most of the grants and funding go to lead paint, so to lump it all together is unacceptable.”
Flint’s water has had high lead levels since the city and state bungled its treatment process after switching the water source in an effort to save money in 2014. Lead is a deadly neurotoxin that can stunt growth and cause brain damage in children.
“You would think Hillary would have answered the question better given the unfair advantage she had,” Walter told HuffPost in an email on Monday.
Walters was a key whistleblower in Flint. She contacted authorities after doctors found high lead levels in one of her sons, setting in motion a series of events that ultimately forced the state to stop denying the city’s water had been contaminated. In September 2015, Flint doctors revealed Flint kids’ blood lead levels had spiked as a result of the water switch.