Brian Williams Interviews Hillary; Jokes About ‘How Much Sleep Have You Budgeted for Tonight?’

While Hillary Clinton has not agreed to interviews with recordable Fox News journalists (and two-time debate moderators) Bret Baier, Megyn Kelly or Chris Wallace, the Democratic presidential candidate called in to MSNBC on Sunday night for an interview with disgraced former NBC Nightly News anchor and current MSNBC breaking news anchor Brian Williams

Needless to say, Williams and co-moderator Rachel Maddow allowed Clinton to emerge unscathed with only one mention of her e-mail scandal plus the final question wondering “[h]ow optimistic” about Iowa and New Hampshire she is and if she’s “budgeted” enough sleep “for tonight into tomorrow.”

Williams began the interview on a light note by bringing up the help she’s had on the campaign trail from her family and if that’s a sign of the close race between her and Bernie Sanders:

I know you are traveling as a family right now in this past 24 hours with your husband, your daughter, your granddaughter, and son-in-law in tow. Do you think all of them are surprised to be in Iowa at this point of the campaign, meaning, was this always planned to be there en masse?

He followed up with another question about Sanders and something former adviser and supporter Patti Solis Doyle stated about her opponent: 

[A] surrogate of yours, Pattie Doyle, said today that every day Senator Sanders is, quote, “inching closer and closer to being an everyday politician.” Surrogates rarely speak without permission of the boss. Is that your position on your competition? 

The occasional MSNBC host gave way to Maddow for three questions of relatively larger substance after a softball about whether or not she was “take[n] by surprise” that Sanders told CNN’s Jake Tapper that her e-mail scandal has become a “serious” matter.

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However, Williams received the chance to offer the final question and he ended by lobbing a softball half-heartedly asking about the amount of sleeps she plans to get over the next few days:

[O]ne final question and that is, compared to a lot of others, you do have a well-financed campaign. You're doing your own polling as opposed to waiting for newspapers to come out with theirs. How optimistic are you? How much sleep have you budgeted for tonight into tomorrow? After all, facing a tough one in New Hampshire where you're battling a neighboring senator? 

Never at a loss for words, Williams remarked to Last Word host Lawrence O’Donnell moments after the interview ended that being involved in a campaign as a candidate, staffer or media member “is incredible and it’s a harrowing time”:

Lawrence, one of the coolest things about you is you have written 16 episodes of The West Wing, but not even the best Hollywood writer can get quite right the level of ragged exhaustion when you are inside a campaign, when you're the candidate, when you are the body man or woman, when you're in the media covering a campaign, it is incredible and it's a harrowing time. 

The transcript of the questions to Hillary Clinton from Brian Williams and Rachel Maddow (plus Williams’s initial comment afterward) on MSNBC’s pre-Iowa caucus special on January 31 can be found below.

MSNBC’s The Place for Politics 2016
January 31, 2016
9:29 p.m. Eastern

BRIAN WILLIAMS: And I’m now told former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has been able to join us by telephone after landing in Des Moines. Madame Secretary, thank you very much for being with us. I know you are traveling as a family right now in this past 24 hours with your husband, your daughter, your granddaughter, and son-in-law in tow. Do you think all of them are surprised to be in Iowa at this point of the campaign, meaning, was this always planned to be there en masse?

(....)

WILLIAMS: Madame Secretary, a surrogate of yours, Pattie Doyle, said today that every day Senator Sanders is, quote, “inching closer and closer to being an everyday politician.” Surrogates rarely speak without permission of the boss. Is that your position on your competition? 

(....)

WILLIAMS: On the Democratic side though, were you surprised today after — after his comment at the debate about your e-mails that was welcomed by the Democratic Party, he changed today to calling it a “serious matter.” Did that take you by surprise? 

(....)

RACHEL MADDOW: Madame Secretary, it's Rachel Maddow here. Thank you very much for talking with us. I have a question about your other opponent. We've had some reports that your campaign supporters are planning to cross over at some caucuses to join Martin O'Malley's supporters basically as a tactical move to keep O'Malley's campaign viable, to deny Martin O'Malley supporters the chance to defect to Bernie Sanders. Is that part of your plan? Are you encouraging that?

(....)

MADDOW: Let me ask you about one very specific Iowa policy issue where Senator Sanders has taken a stand, he's running ads on it, he's campaigned on it and I just don't know your position on it and that's this planned Bakken crude oil pipeline that's been proposed for running through Iowa. It's got a lot of people on the Democratic side of the aisle sort of up in arms. Senator Sanders strongly against it. Do you have a position on that pipeline? 

(....)

MADDOW: Secretary Clinton, Bernie Sanders's campaign has announced late today that they raised a huge amount of money last month. They raised $20 million in one month. Is he raising more money than you are at this point? And are you raising enough money to still win and still have gas in the tank for the general election if this goes a very long time in terms of this fight for the nomination? 

(....)

WILLIAMS: Madame Secretary, before we unleash you on the forces inside the gym at Lincoln High School, one final question and that is, compared to a lot of others, you do have a well-financed campaign. You're doing your own polling as opposed to waiting for newspapers to come out with theirs. How optimistic are you? How much sleep have you budgeted for tonight into tomorrow? After all, facing a tough one in New Hampshire where you're battling a neighboring senator? 

(....)

WILLIAMS: Lawrence, one of the coolest things about you is you have written 16 episodes of The West Wing, but not even the best Hollywood writer can get quite right the level of ragged exhaustion when you are inside a campaign, when you're the candidate, when you are the body man or woman, when you're in the media covering a campaign, it is incredible and it's a harrowing time. 

Curtis Houck
Curtis Houck
Curtis Houck is the Managing Editor of NewsBusters for the Media Research Center