Hillary Clinton told Deutsche Bank executives in 2014 that they needed to address the public's perception that financiers had "rigged" the economy, according to emails obtained by WikiLeaks.
Some of her campaign staffers wanted to leak the speech to the media to show she was tough on Wall Street, but at least one prominent member of her team feared it would create the opposite effect.
The exchange happened last November as the eventual Democratic nominee found herself locked in a bruising primary battle with Sen. Bernie Sanders, the populist democratic socialist from Vermont. One of Sanders' principal lines of attack was that Clinton was too cozy with Wall Street and therefore unable to relate to average Americans.
As part of a thread of emails between aides, Clinton press secretary Brian Fallon pointed out that The Associated Press was working on a story about the candidate's "image problem" relating to her closeness to Wall Street.
He suggested giving an unnamed media outlet an "exclusive" on the Deutsche Bank remarks, under the agreement that the reporter would say the transcript was "obtained by" that outlet "so it is not confirmed as us selectively providing one transcript while refusing to share others." Fallon's email came as Sanders was demanding that Clinton release transcripts of three 2013 speeches she gave to Goldman Sachs for which she reportedly received $675,000.
The WikiLeaks disclosures are part of a series of hacked emails of John Podesta, Clinton's campaign chair. They have not been verified, but the campaign has neither challenged nor confirmed their authenticity. However, campaign spokesman Glen Caplin told CNBC.com via email that WikiLeaks is doing the bidding or Republican nominee Donald Trump and Russia, which has been tied to the WikiLeaks email dumps.
"When will Donald Trump stop denying the reality given to him by U.S. intelligence and finally condemn Vladmir Putin's interference in our democratic process?" Caplin said.
Clinton gave the Deutsche speech in October 2014, according to an email from Dan Schwerin, her director of speechwriting.
"It's definitely not as tough or pointed as we would write it now, but it's more more than most people would assume she was saying in paid speeches," Schwerin wrote.
Indeed, the remarks were less excoriation and more focused on a cooperative approach to show that Wall Street was interested in reform and sensitive to the needs and fears of Main Street. Schwerin provided a partial transcript of the remarks in an email.
In the speech, Clinton recounted Teddy Roosevelt's "square deal," and said Wall Street needs to adopt a similar tone.
"I think that's a message worth recalling today when so many hardworking American families, and I add European families feel like they're falling further and further behind, while they see, in their view, the playing field becoming more unlevel, and feeling as though it doesn't matter how hard they work because the game is rigged against them," Clinton told the Deutsche Bank executives.
She later added that, "it's no surprise that many Americans feel frustrated, some even angry, as you probably see in news coverage. And a lot of that anger has been directed at the financial industry."
Addressing the public perception of the finance industry, Clinton adopted a tone that was somewhat conciliatory.
"So even if it may not be 100 percent true, if the perception is that somehow the game is rigged, that should be a problem for all of us, and we have to be willing to make that absolutely clear," she said. "And if there are issues, if there's wrongdoing, people have to be held accountable and we have to try to deter future bad behavior, because the public trust is at the core of both a free market economy and a democracy."
A top campaign official, though, worried that the wording might actually make Clinton look insensitive to Main Street concerns.
Mandy Grunwald, senior communications adviser to the Clinton team, referenced a Politico report of a Clinton speech to Goldman Sachs in which she is "described as saying people shouldn't be vilifying Wall Street."
"First, the remarks below make it sound like HRC DOESNT think the game is rigged — only that she recognizes that the public thinks so. They are angry. She isn't," Grunwald wrote, according to the WikiLeaks leak.
"Maybe you think the Deutsche Bank speech takes the sting out of the Goldman report — but I am concerned that the passage below will exacerbate not improve the situation," Grunwald added.
The Clinton campaign did not respond to a CNBC request for comment. It's unclear whether the Deutsche Bank speech transcript ever was released.