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‘Kill the damn duck!’: Ex-DNC head Brazile describes clash over trolling Trump with Donald Duck costumes

Michael Isikoff
Chief Investigative Correspondent
Yahoo News
Hillary Clinton; a protester dressed as Donald Duck outside a rally for presidential candidate Donald Trump in Dimondale, Mich., in 2016; and Donna Brazile; detail, a portion of the cover of Brazile’s new book. (Photo illustration: Yahoo News; photos: Andrew Harnik/AP, Gerald Herbert/AP, Paul Marotta/Getty Images, Hachette Book Group )

Hillary Clinton personally approved a plan to have demonstrators in Donald Duck costumes disrupt campaign rallies for Donald Trump — a stunt that triggered an angry confrontation between then Democratic National Committee chair Donna Brazile and the top lawyer for the Clinton campaign, according to Brazile’s new book, which is being published Tuesday.

Brazile writes that she became enraged at what she considered “the idiocy” of the Clinton Donald Duck project, concluding that it would confirm the Trump campaign’s contention that the Democrats were paying protesters to infiltrate the GOP candidate’s rallies.

She was later told, she writes, that the idea for the Donald Duck impersonators came from Clinton herself, who was assured by a friend that the idea was “a lot funnier” than an alternative proposal to have activists dressed as Uncle Sam trolling the Trump campaign.

Brazile writes that she told one of her top aides “Kill the damn duck!” after she learned that the Clinton campaign and the DNC were “using Donald Duck” at Trump campaign rallies. “Kill the f— ing duck, goddammit!”

The story of the duck dustup is one of the stranger incidents revealed by Brazile in her blistering, tell-all book: “Hacks: The Inside Story of the Break-ins and Breakdowns That Put Donald Trump in the White House.”

In August 2016, a protester in a Donald Duck costume rides an escalator in the Trump Tower in Manhattan, as part of a political stunt to draw attention to the decision by the Republican presidential candidate not to release his tax returns. (Photo: Justin Lane/Epa/REX/Shutterstock)

This was only one example of what Brazile describes as her repeated behind-the-scenes clashes with top officials of the Clinton campaign. They created tensions that, as the Washington Post first reported over the weekend, prompted Brazile at one point to consider starting a process to replace Clinton at the top of the ticket with then Vice President Joe Biden, because she feared that the campaign was not being truthful about the state of the candidate’s health.

It was widely reported in the summer of 2016 that activists dressed in Donald Duck costumes were showing up at Trump campaign rallies and Trump Tower, seeking to draw attention to the GOP candidate’s refusal to release his tax returns.

The issue attracted even more attention when right-wing activist James O’Keefe released an undercover video in which Robert Creamer, head of Democracy Partners, an advocacy group working with the DNC, can be heard attributing the stunt to Clinton.

“It was the candidate, Hillary Clinton, the future president of the United States, who wanted ducks on the ground. So, by God, we will get ducks on the ground,” Creamer says to a colleague in the video. He quickly adds: “Don’t repeat that to anybody.” (The Clinton campaign later acknowledged that Clinton was aware of the stunt but said it was not her idea.)

What was not known at the time was the turmoil it caused among top Democratic Party and Clinton campaign officials. Brazile writes that, aside from her concerns that the stunt would backfire and play into Trump’s hands, she fielded complaints from senior executives at ABC News that their parent company, Disney Corp., objected to the unauthorized use of one of the company’s iconic cartoon symbols and that it could lead to a copyright infringement lawsuit against the Clinton campaign — as well as the cancellation of a Hollywood fundraiser that the chief of Disney was throwing for Clinton.

Brazile writes that she was so upset about the Donald Duck costumes that it brought out a dark side of her personality she calls “Delores.”

“I’m slow to anger, very slow, but once I am angry, get out of Delores’ way,” Brazile writes. She called Marc Elias, the senior lawyer for the Clinton campaign, and told him “that I had heard from ABC and Disney about the duck and he had to kill it.”

“The duck is the intellectual property of Disney,” Brazile told Elias, on her account. “They could sue us, OK? Do you want that story out there? Hillary’s about to go to California to raise money, and she’s going to see Bob Iger, the CEO of Disney, who is holding this fundraiser, and this is coming from him. What do you want to do? Have him cancel the fundraiser? I know you all want that money. So get rid of the f—ing duck!”

An activist self-styled DJ Quacker holds a sign accusing Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump of ducking on the release of his tax forms. He and other protesters gathered in front of the Trump International Hotel on the day it opened in Washington, D.C., in September 2016. (Photo: Jeff Malet/Newscom via ZUMA Press)

“‘Donna, this was Hillary’s decision to use the duck’,” Brazile says Elias responded. She continues: “He explained a close friend had suggested it to Hillary and she thought it was a great idea. Apparently, someone wanted to use Uncle Sam but Hillary’s friend vetoed that, saying a duck was a lot funnier.

“Was he kidding?” Brazile continues. “He was not. What a brilliant decision! Can someone get this message to her? Is she the only one who can kill the damn duck?”

Brazile writes that the message did get through. By noon of that day, Elias had killed the duck protests “once and for all,” and Brazile was able to enjoy her breakfast the next day with executives of the NBA.

Elias did not respond to a request for comment about Brazile’s account. Neither did a spokesman for Hillary Clinton. In response to Brazile’s overall account, more than 100 former Clinton campaign staffers released a letter stating in part: “We do not recognize the campaign she portrays in the book.” The letter does not explicitly address the duck episode.

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