Peter Schweizer | USA Today
Fact-driven, fair, aggressive journalism animates American politics. As an investigative journalist, I am accustomed to asking tough questions. When I publish, I expect tough questions in turn,
That’s not what ABC News This Week host and chief anchor George Stephanopoulos delivered when he interviewed me about my new book on the Clinton Foundation last month. There’s a reason. Though Stephanopoulos belatedly disclosed $75,000 in donations to the foundation, he has yet to disclose his much deeper relationship with the Clinton Foundation.
When Stephanopoulos invited me on his Sunday program, I knew that he had worked as a top adviser and campaign manager to President Bill Clinton in the 1990s, but I didn’t know about his donations or his other ties to the foundation founded and overseen by the former president and his wife, potential future president Hillary Clinton.
What I did not expect — what no one expected — was the sort of “hidden hand journalism” that has contributed to America’s news media’s crisis of credibility in particular, and Americans’ distrust of the news media more broadly.
If Stephanopoulos had disclosed his donations to the very foundation I was there to talk about, perhaps it would have put the aggressive posture of his interview with me in context.
But he didn’t.
And even though he has apologized to his viewers for keeping this information from both his audience and his bosses, there is much that Stephanopoulos has yet to disclose to his viewers. Indeed, far from being a passive donor who strokes Clinton Foundation checks from afar, a closer look reveals that Stephanopoulos is an ardent and engaged Clinton Foundation advocate.
For example, in his on air apology for this ethical mess, Stephanopoulos did not disclose that in 2006 he was a featured attendee and panel moderator at the annual meeting of the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI).
Stephanopoulos did not disclose that he was a 2008 panelist at the CGI annual meeting which, once again, featured individuals I report on in the book, such as billionaire Clinton Foundation foreign donor Denis O’Brien.
Stephanopoulos did not disclose that in 2013 and 2014, he and Chelsea Clinton served as CGI contest judges for awards, in part, underwritten by Laureate International Universities — a for-profit education company I report on in the book. Bill Clinton was on its payroll until his recent resignation.
Obviously, Stephanopoulos has favorable feelings toward Hillary and Bill Clinton; he gives their foundation his money and his time. Big-time news media personalities have one thing in very short supply — time. Regular participation in Clinton Foundation events shows a deeper commitment to the Clintons than just the donations.
Perhaps if Stephanopoulos weren’t so close to the subject of my book, he might have asked me about my reporting on Hillary Clinton’s brother, Tony Rodham, serving on the board of a company that scored a coveted and rare gold mining permit in Haiti as the Clintons directed the flow of U.S. Agency for International Development dollars. (As The Washington Post reported, Rodham met those mining executives at a CGI meeting.)
Indeed, Stephanopoulos could have pounded away at all the book’s news. He chose not to. Instead, he made sure to highlight the four months I wrote speeches for President George W. Bush and my long past financial supporters, all while keeping quiet about his deep and longstanding involvement in the Clintons’ foundation, and the three annual checks for $25,000 that he wrote.
What ABC News’ top anchor has done is far different than the “honest mistake” ABC called it in a statement earlier this week.
I asked ABC News about the fact that this information was yet to be disclosed to ABC viewers, and mostly they avoided my questions, releasing a statement that reads in full, “Yes, George made us aware that he was moderating these panels and that is absolutely within our guidelines. We know that he would be listed as a member — as all moderators are. He is in good company of scores of other journalists that have moderated these panels.”
What is certain is that Stephanopoulos’ ethical malpractice and hidden-hand journalism have done further injury to an essential, if beleaguered, institution, one already battling to preserve legitimacy.
That’s news no one can celebrate.
Peter Schweizer is the author of Clinton Cash and president of the Government Accountability Institute.