Feel the contrition! The day after getting ripped in the media after the Washington Free Beacon discovered that he had contributed $75,000 to the Clinton Foundation and hadn’t disclosed that while defending the organization on air, George Stephanopoulos went on air this morning to address the issue. He wanted viewers to know that he spends his money fighting AIDS, protecting the environment in poor countries, feeds children, and generally is pretty awesome. He’s sorry he hasn’t told you this before, though:
STEPHANOPOULOS:I want to address some news you may have seen about me. Over the last several years, I’ve made substantial donations to dozens of charities, including the Clinton Global Foundation. Those donations were a matter of public record, but I should have made additional disclosures on air when we covered the foundation. And I now believe that directing personal donations to that foundation was a mistake. Even though I made them strictly to support work done to stop the spread of AIDS, help children, and protect the environment in poor countries, I should have gone the extra mile to avoid even the appearance of a conflict. I apologize to all of you for failing to do that.
First, the donations were only a matter of public record in the sense that his name appeared on tax filings from the Clinton Foundation — and as it turns out, not even the exact extent of his donations were clear in those records. Stephanopoulos hadn’t made those donations a matter of public record by any action on his part, nor did he disclose the fact while debating Clinton Cash author Peter Schweizer about the questionable activities at the foundation and potential influence peddling by the Clintons. He didn’t disclose it later the same week when he challenged Bernie Sanders on his criticism of the foundation, either.
Even worse, as Jonathan Adler pointed out at the time of the interview, Stephanopoulos explicitly accused Schweizer of a conflict of interest:
If we are going to consider the potential conflict-of-interest or ideological motivation of a reporter, should not this apply just as much to Stephanopoulos as it does to Schweizer? If the political affiliation or alignment of Schweizer’s former employers or funders is relevant, cannot the same be said of Stephanopoulos? Should not viewers of ABC News’s “This Week” have been reminded that Stephanopoulos spent years working for the Clintons and helping to manage various scandals that arose during Bill Clinton’s campaign and first term in office? (Indeed, at one point, there were allegations Stephanopoulos personally benefited from Clinton-influenced cronyism.)
I don’t object to the content of the interview, but I find it problematic that Stephanopoulos thought it relevant to challenge Schweizer based on the identity of his former employers or funders, but did not disclose his own equal (if not greater) conflict. Older viewers may have recalled this Time magazine cover, but that was over 20 years ago. Many viewers — and voters — have no recollection of Stephanopoulos’s role as Clinton de facto spokesman. Insofar as Schweizer’s book suggests improper behavior by the Clintons, it is pointing a finger at those Stephanopoulos spent several years of his life defending.
Adler wrote this before Stephanopoulos’ ties to the foundation emerged, which presents an even greater and undisclosed conflict of interest for a journalist demanding answers on a subject’s ties.
Erik Wemple notes that Stephanopoulos didn’t bother to disclose his own connections while discussing Clinton Cash with Jon Stewart the day after his Schweizer interview, either:
Stephanopoulos jumped in, “I read the book that this is based on, ‘Clinton Cash,’ and I actually interviewed the author on Sunday,” said the ABC News anchor. “This is a tough one because when you actually look closely at it — [Schweizer] even says, there’s no evidence of any direct action taken on behalf of the donors. But everybody also knows when those donors give that money to President Clinton or someone, they get a picture with him: There’s a hope that that’s going to lead to something and that’s what you have to be careful of.”
Of course, Stephanopoulos was the only one who had no such hopes.
Now today, Stephanopoulos — who’s quick to accuse people like Schweizer of conflicts of interests and ulterior motives — wants to frame this as a question about the donations, rather than the journalistic malpractice of acting as an advocate in coverage without disclosing financial connections to the organization he was defending. He’s the real victim here, just for wanting to stop AIDS and help poor kids! It’s the standard I’m sorry you fail to understand my awesomeness that we see so often in politics.
Brent Bozell says ABC should push Stephanopoulos out of political coverage in 2016:
— Brent Bozell (@BrentBozell) May 15, 2015
Viewers should help ABC make that choice. I’m sure the Hillary Clinton campaign has a more formal role ready for him when he wants it.