Stephanopoulos gave $50,000 to Clinton Foundation, didn’t disclose during coverage of scandal; ABC News: “Honest mistake”; Update: Other coverage without disclosure from 2013, 2014; Update: Two weeks ago, too
posted at 10:01 am on May 14, 2015 by Ed Morrissey
Remember when George Stephanopoulos declared during an interview with Clinton Cash author Peter Schweizer that the book had found no “smoking gun” against the Clinton Foundation and the Clintons themselves? Guess what Stephanopoulos didn’t declare — his own financial contributions to an organization that Sunlight Foundation official Bill Allison said operates like “a slush fund for the Clintons.” Dylan Byers at Politico discovered a smoking gun aimed at the credibility of Stephanopoulos as a journalist:
ABC News chief anchor George Stephanopoulos has given $50,000 to the Clinton Foundation in recent years, charitable contributions that he did not publicly disclose while reporting on the Clintons or their non-profit organization, the On Media blog has learned.
In both 2013 and 2014, Stephanopoulos made a $25,000 donation to the 501 nonprofit founded by former president Bill Clinton, the Foundation’s records show. Stephanopoulos never disclosed this information to viewers, even when interviewing author Peter Schweizer last month about his book “Clinton Cash,” which alleges that donations to the Foundation may have influenced some of Hillary Clinton’s actions as Secretary of State.
The Free Beacon also had this [update]. Stephanopoulos apologized in a statement, saying that he considered the donations in the public record in the first place:
“I made charitable donations to the Foundation in support of the work they’re doing on global AIDS prevention and deforestation, causes I care about deeply,” he said. “I thought that my contributions were a matter of public record. However, in hindsight, I should have taken the extra step of personally disclosing my donations to my employer and to the viewers on air during the recent news stories about the Foundation. I apologize.”
This apology is not just insufficient, but it magnifies the problem for ABC. First, no one will buy that having one’s name on a tax form buried in a file constitutes full disclosure for a journalist working on a story about an organization to which he has financial ties. It’s absurd. The entire point of journalism is to inform readers and viewers, not to play coy games about issues directly related to credibility.
Second and more important, Stephanopoulos’ statement shows why he never should have conducted the interview with Schweizer in the first place. Stephanopoulos was already suspect, given his connections to the Clinton White House in the 1990s, on any topic that delves into potential scandal in Clintonland. Here he admits that he went into that interview with the predetermined perspective that the foundation operates legitimately as a charity, a point which has come under heavy scrutiny by watchdog groups such as Charity Navigator. The “interview” was little more than a barely veiled attempt at spin control on behalf of the Clinton Foundation and the Clintons themselves, and now we know at least one reason why.
Byers reports that ABC News is standing by Stephanopoulos, but one wonders for how long. What would they do with another reporter who failed to disclose a serious financial relationship between themselves and a story, especially one with the political consequences as this one? Because if they truly don’t think that’s a serious problem, then the smoking gun in this case points not just to the credibility of Stephanopoulos but to ABC News, too.
Update: “Honest mistake,” says ABC News:
#Breaking: ABC News will NOT take punitive action against Stephanopoulos: “We accept his apology. It was an honest mistake."
— Dylan Byers (@DylanByers) May 14, 2015
Honest? Let’s recall the exchange between Stephanopoulos and Schweizer:
STEPHANOPOULOS: As you know, the Clinton campaign says you haven’t produced a shred of evidence that there was any official action as secretary that — that supported the interests of donors.
STEPHANOPOULOS: We’ve done investigative work here at ABC News, found no proof of any kind of direct action. And an independent government ethics expert, Bill Allison, of the Sunline Foundation (ph), wrote this. He said, “There’s no smoking gun, no evidence that she changed the policy based on donations to the foundation.”
No smoking gun.
Is there a smoking gun?
SCHWEIZER: Yes. The smoking gun is in the pattern of behavior. And here’s the analogy I would give you. It’s a little bit like insider trading. I wrote a book on Congressional insider trading a couple of years ago and talked with prosecutors.
Most people that engage in criminal insider trading don’t send an e-mail that says I’ve got inside information, buy this stock.
The way they look at it, they look at a pattern of stock trades. If the person has access to that information and they do a series of well-timed trades, that warrants investigation.
I think the same thing applies here.
By the way, what’s important to note is it was confirmed on Thursday, both by “The New York Times” and “The Wall Street Journal,” that there were multi-million dollar, non-disclosed donations that were made to the Clinton Foundation that were never disclosed by the Clintons.
This is a direct breach of an agreement they signed with the White House.
STEPHANOPOULOS: That — that is an issue for them, but it’s not a criminal — it’s nothing that would warrant a criminal investigation.
Gee, maybe that would have been a good time to add, “Just to be clear, I’ve donated $50,000 to the Clinton Foundation,” for the sake of honesty.
Update: Jeryl Bier notes that Stephanopoulos didn’t disclose his donations in other coverage directly about the Clinton Foundation. For instance, he fronted a 9-minute segment in September 2014 extolling the foundation during an interview with Bill Clinton, and another interview in 2013 in which Stephanopoulos ignored a story in The New Republic raising questions about donations to the Clinton Global Initiative. Are those just “honest mistakes,” too?
Update: I’m not sure if the Free Beacon had it first, so I’ve added a link to their story near the top of the article.
Update: Newsbusters and Twitchy point out that Stephanopoulos failed to disclose his donation when challenging Bernie Sanders on his criticisms of the Clinton Foundation on the May 3rd edition of This Week, too:
STEPHANOPOULOS: You told my colleague John Karl this week that you have some concerns about the money raised by the Clinton Foundation. What are those concerns exactly?
Perhaps one concern is that the media has literally bought into the Clinton slush fund. There is absolutely no excuse for not disclosing his own connections to the foundation while asking this question of Hillary Clinton’s primary opponent.