Many bemoan the revolving door in government/media circles. For a while you’re a politician; then you get a job as a lobbyist, retaining your politicians’ access; then you’re a candidate again. One day you’re a journalist; the next you’re a communications director for a candidate or elected official; the next you’re a TV or radio analyst. Full disclosure: I was a journalist for close to 30 years and a consultant for the last 15 years. The door didn’t keep swinging. Going back and forth blurs the lines and provides the basis for conflict of interest, or, at a minimum, the appearance of a conflict of interest.
Most journalists I know wouldn’t dream of contributing to a candidate they were covering or even that candidate’s pet interest. It just doesn’t look right. And ABC’s George Stephanopoulos knows that. I interviewed him when he worked on the 1988 Presidential campaign of Mike Dukakis, but years before he had cut his political teeth as chief of staff for Cleveland Congressman Ed Feighan. In 1992, he worked in Bill Clinton’s Presidential campaign and became one of the fiercely loyal inner-circle members of the Clinton administration. At the beginning of the second term, he left and wrote a book (“All Too Human“) that was not especially flattering to the President.
While his post-Clinton media career has soared, and he is now chief anchor of ABC News, he apparently has spent the last four years making up to the Clintons and reestablishing his bona fides as a Clinton supporter. He has donated at least $75,000 to the Clinton Foundation (admittedly a paltry amount compared to the gifts by foreign potentates) and has worked collaboratively with the Clinton Global Initiative, several times being a “featured attendee” and panel moderator at the Clintons’ annual meeting. He is identified on the Clinton Foundation website as a “notable” media member of the organization, a murky mix of good works charity, cash cow for the Clinton family lifestyle and stalking horse for the Hillary Clinton candidacy. As a discussion on CNN’s Reliable Sources said of the Clinton Foundation, “it is sometimes hard to tell where the good works end and where the politics begin.” That’s putting it mildly.
Given that, it is appalling that so many media stars like Christiane Amanpour, Tom Friedman, Fareed Zakharia, Judy Woodruff, Matt Lauer, Anderson Cooper and even Tom Brokaw (don’t know if he became involved before or after his retirement) are also listed as media members. All of this has been exposed by investigative journalist and former Bush speech writer Peter Schweizer, whom Stephanopoulos aggressively and one-sidedly interviewed on ABC after Schweizer’s book – Clinton Cash: The Untold Story Of How And Why Foreign Governments And Businesses Helped Make Bill And Hillary Rich – about the Clinton Foundation finances was recently published.
The blame game is two-sided. Schweizer himself is reported by the liberal MediaMatters to have close ties to moneyed interests behind Senator Ted Cruz’s presidential campaign, limiting any claim Schweizer could make of objectivity in reporting on the Clintons. MediaMatters.org also points out more than 20 errors of fact in Schweizer’s reporting, a few of which he says will be addressed in the next edition. The fact remains, however, that Schweizer raised some legitimate concerns, which Stephanopoulos ignored in his interview.
Notwithstanding the flaws in Schweizer’s book, the criticism of Stephanopoulos’ involvement with the Clintons still holds. And, Brian Williams-like, the anchor, who had apparently never told his bosses, has apologized to them and to the public on yesterday morning’s This Week with George Stephanopoulos.
Can you imagine anyone who would stand for Stephanopoulos’ moderating a Presidential debate in 2016 as he did in the 2012 election? Or covering either national nominating convention? His integrity is a big question mark.
When Bill (“I never had sexual relations with that woman”) Clinton on August 17, 1998 finally, after his grand jury testimony, admitted his inappropriate relationship with Monica Lewinsky, he said, ” It constituted a critical lapse in judgment and a personal failure on my part for which I am solely and completely responsible.” Might not Stephanopoulos say the same thing? And might not the networks and other news outlets figure out a better way to set and enforce ethical standards for their employees to salvage whatever shreds of media credibility remain to be saved?
I welcome your comments in the section below.