FBI Director Comey Dismantles Right-Wing Media’s Attempt To Scandalize Limited Immunity For Aides In Clinton Email Case
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House Republicans are selectively pushing new information that long-time Clinton aide Cheryl Mills was granted a limited form of immunity in the now-closed FBI investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server during her tenure as secretary of state. Right-wing media have seized on these efforts to falsely claim the immunity was broad and stands as proof of criminal wrongdoing, while ignoring the reasons for why the limited immunity was recommended by both the FBI and Mills’ attorney.
In just two days, broadcast news networks devoted more than three times as much airtime to baselessly scandalizing a flawed Associated Press (AP) report on Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton than covering a story about an illegal donation by Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump. The AP piece examined meetings Clinton took with Clinton Foundation donors as secretary of state, while the Trump story centered on an illegal donation he made to Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi.
In the two days after the AP report was published, the broadcast news networks ABC, CBS, and NBC devoted 19 minutes and 10 seconds to covering the flawed August 23 report -- which dubiously hyped “possible ethics challenges” on behalf of Clinton. The same networks devoted merely six minutes of coverage to Trump’s illegal donation to Pam Bondi in the week following the revelation.
In the report, the AP claimed that “More than half the people outside the government who met with Hillary Clinton while she was secretary of state gave money -- either personally or through companies or groups -- to the Clinton Foundation.” Journalists and media critics widely derided the report for "ignoring well over 1,000 official meetings with foreign leaders and an unknown number of meetings with domestic US officials" Clinton held at the State Department. Some in the media -- including broadcast and cable networks -- nonetheless hyped the report for the “breathtaking” and “disturbing” “optics,” even though the report found “no evidence” of “ethics breaches.” Despite the backlash, the AP issued a statement claiming it was “transparent in how it has reported this story.”
The Washington Post reported on September 1 that the Trump Foundation paid the IRS a penalty after he illegally donated to a campaign group in 2013 for the re-election of Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi. The Post explained that Trump paid the IRS a $2,500 penalty for “violat[ing] tax laws” with his donation. Bondi personally solicited the donation from Trump around the same time her office was considering joining the New York attorney general’s fraud investigation against Trump University. Shortly after Bondi received Trump’s donation, she decided not to join the case. Cable news hosts called the episode “ugly” and “a classic example” of pay-to-play politics.
The Trump Foundation’s donation is also yet another example of Trump’s history of “breaking campaign finance laws” and “evading” legal donation limits, as CNN’s Jeff Zeleny explained. The New York Times wrote that Trump’s donation to Bondi was part of his “decades-long record of shattering political donation limits and circumventing the rules governing contributions and lobbying.”
Media Matters searched Nexis and SnapStream for coverage of Donald Trump's donation to Pam Bondi between September 1, 2016, and September 7, 2016, on CBS, NBC, and ABC's morning, evening, and Sunday news programs using the terms: "Trump AND Bondi." Media Matters searched SnapStream for coverage of the AP report on meetings Clinton took with Clinton Foundation donors between August 24, 2016, and August 25, 2016, on CBS, NBC, and ABC’s morning and evening news programs using the terms: “Clinton OR Clinton Foundation.”
Fox News is hyping congressional Republicans’ attempt to set up more hearings into former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's use of private email, even after the FBI determined there was no basis for charges of wrongdoing. Citing the FBI's recently released report on its concluded investigation, Fox baselessly suggested there is proof that Clinton ordered the improper deletion of work-related emails after she was instructed by Congress to preserve them.
Trump Has Also Mentioned A Secret Plan For ISIS That He’s Withholding In Order To Be "Unpredictable"
After Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump delivered a foreign policy speech in which he promised to “ask the generals to present a plan within 30 days to defeat and destroy ISIS,” the hosts of Fox News’ Outnumbered took “a lot of comfort in the fact that he would say he’d listen to the generals.” But in the past, Trump has said, “I know more about ISIS than the generals do,” and he has claimed that he has a secret plan for defeating ISIS that he is keeping quiet so as to be “unpredictable.”
This shift is both the latest of Donald Trump’s flip-flopping, “patently uninformed,” and “literally insane” foreign policy proposals and the most recent example of Fox News jumping to defend them. From the September 9 edition of Fox News’ Outnumbered:
CHARLES HURT: The most important point on there is the first one, where he says that immediately after taking office, Mr. Trump will ask his generals to present a plan within 30 days to defeat and destroy ISIS. What he’s doing there, and I think that he did a very good job of this, is he’s saying that he’s going to trust his generals to go after ISIS in a very forceful way. Donald Trump has impeccable timing. He is very lucky in this respect. And that is that Hillary Clinton is running for Barack Obama's third term and as such he gets to run against her resumé, he gets to run against everything that’s going wrong in the world today. And as long as he stays there and just says, “I’m going to listen to my generals,” as long as he says that, he is going to beat her when it comes to military, foreign policy, and all that stuff.
HARRIS FAULKNER (CO-HOST): Well it’s interesting too because you start there, that’s exactly where President Obama has had so much criticism, the questions about whether he listens to the people who are the experts militarily. What are your thoughts?
MEGHAN MCCAIN (CO-HOST): My first thought was the best line was when he was talking about Hillary Clinton showing how vulnerable we are when it comes to cyberterrorism. Every foreign policy expert I’ve spoken to says this is the final frontier, this is what’s coming next. This woman has shown first and foremost that if you don’t follow the rules you can literally put our national security at risk and give our secrets to our enemies. So I thought that was very vulnerable -- or very powerful, excuse me. He wasn’t talking exactly about how we’re going to pay for everything, so I would like a little more policy specifics when it comes to that. But I think this is actually a really strong speech. A lot of us have been asking for him to start showcasing what he’s going to do, and I take a lot of comfort in the fact that he would say he’d listen to the generals in the first 30 days.
Adding to a cavalcade of campaign condemnations, a string of major newspaper editorial boards in recent weeks stepped forward to announce that, in the name of avoiding even the appearance of a conflict of interest, Bill and Hillary Clinton needed to shut down their successful Clinton Foundation.
Conceding that recent news reports hadn’t proven any actual wrongdoing or lawbreaking with the foundation and its connection the State Department when Clinton was secretary of state, editorials from Washington Post, Boston Globe, and USA Today, among others, were nonetheless adamant: Shut it down.
Columnists at Slate, New York and The Wall Street Journal also jumped in, as did an array of TV talkers anxious to add their voices to the media choir demanding a global charity be shut down because the optics didn’t look quite right. And several outlets insisted that waiting until after the election for foundation action wasn’t “good enough.”
Everyone, it seemed, was in heated agreement.
On and on the editorials went, patiently explaining to Clinton what she needed to do to eliminate budding concerns within the Beltway press; how she had to shutter her landmark charity in order to please the optics police.
Reading the proclamations, it was clear to readers that even the appearance of impropriety when it comes to politicians and charitable foundations must be met with swift, pro-active and even drastic action.
So what explains the deafening editorial board silence about the Donald J. Trump Foundation in the wake of the shocking news report that in 2013 it sent an illegal $25,000 donation to a political group supporting Florida’s attorney general, Pam Bondi? At a time, her office was considering opening a fraud investigation into Trump University and widespread allegations the company had cheated students. After the group supporting Bondi received the large Trump check, which she reportedly personally solicited, her office announced it wasn’t going to investigate Trump University.
Where’s the collective demand that the Trump Foundation be shut down because of conflicts?
Not only does the payoff reek of a quid pro quo arrangement, but the generous Foundation donation was also against the law because as a registered non-profit organization, the Trump Foundation isn’t allowed to make political contributions. It appears the Foundation may have taken steps to cover up the donation by by listing the recipient of the funds as a Kansas-based charity in tax forms, according to the Washington Post report. After the $25,000 check was brought to light earlier this year, Trump’s organization paid a $2,500 fine to the IRS.
Given the hyper attention paid to the Clinton Foundation, and the relentless media search for wrongdoing, the Trump revelations are astounding: They seem to represent precisely the type of naked misdeed the press has been trying to uncover with regards to Clinton. But instead, the foundation’s wrongdoing is attached to the Republican nominee and the campaign press reaction has been muted, to say the least.
On the Sunday morning talk shows this week, the story was occasionally referenced by guests, but CBS’s Face The Nation host John Dickerson was the only host to bring up the Trump/Bondi controversy.
Meanwhile, according to a search of CNN transcripts via Nexis, “Trump Foundation” was mentioned in one on-air report on the all-news channel between Monday, August 29, through Monday, September 5. By contrast, “Clinton Foundation” was mentioned in dozens of CNN reports during that same time period.
Keep in mind, the constant media churning about Clinton “optics” revolve around a global charity that represents a textbook example of how to build a modern-day foundation for giving. “If Hillary Clinton wasn’t running for president, the Clinton Foundation would be seen as one of the great humanitarian charities of our generation,” Daniel Borochoff of Charity Watch recently told CNN. (The foundation receives exceptional marks from watchdog organizations.)
The Clinton Foundation's sterling reputation has now been tarnished, in part because the press has decided to go all in with the GOP’s smear campaign against the charity. It’s decided to overhype trivial revelations about Foundation contacts and meetings that took place years ago.
But when the Trump Foundation is found to have illegally donated to a state attorney general who was contemplating fraud charges against a Trump company? Suddenly the referees on newspaper editorial boards fall silent.
Wall Street Journal Scandalizes Hillary Clinton's Attendance At Her Husband's Birthday Party
A new report from The Wall Street Journal provides an excellent example of the media’s tendency to suggest malfeasance around events related to Hillary Clinton and the Clinton Foundation, even when they have found no evidence to support that impression. Based on documents and spin from a right-wing organization, the story actually scandalizes Clinton’s attendance at her husband’s birthday party.
Publication bias -- the tendency to publish stories regardless of whether they prove the premise the reporters set out to investigate -- is one of the most pernicious aspects of press coverage of Hillary Clinton and the Clinton Foundation. As Vox’s Matt Yglesias has put it, “Journalists need to admit when we’ve struck out” in order to avoid providing readers “a distorted picture of reality simply because everyone is trying to be interesting.”
Here’s a sentence-by-sentence breakdown of how that played out in a September 6 Journal report headlined “Calendar Shows Hillary Clinton Meetings With Foundation Donors.”
Hillary Clinton as secretary of state attended high-profile events and functions where donors to her family’s charitable foundation were in attendance, calendar records show.
The story opens with an over-promise suggesting that it will contain a number of conflicts of interest regarding Clinton and her foundation. As we will see, that does not occur.
Records for a six-month stretch in 2011 show her attending a foundation plenary session in New York in September, when she was interviewed by her daughter, Chelsea.
This isn’t news -- the 2011 interview at the Clinton Global Initiative’s annual meeting was covered at the time by ABC, NBC, CNN, and The Associated Press. None of those outlets suggested there was anything untoward about the appearance. You can watch video of the event here.
Three weeks later, she attended what was billed as a Clinton Foundation dinner in Los Angeles.
The dinner occurred at a concert that “doubled as Bill Clinton’s 65th birthday party,” according to a contemporaneous 2011 Los Angeles Times report.
The following day, she was scheduled to attend a brunch at the home of media billionaire Haim Saban, whose family foundation has given more than $10 million to the Clinton Foundation.
The calendar says she and her husband were to “mix and mingle with guests.”
The Journal’s analysis reduces Saban to nothing more than a Clinton Foundation donor; mentioning Clinton’s attendance at a brunch at Saban’s home makes sense in this article only under that frame. In reality, Saban has known and supported the Clintons since Bill Clinton’s 1992 presidential campaign. Drawing a line from the Clinton Foundation donation to the brunch appearance is nonsensical.
The records were provided by Citizens United, a conservative group that obtained them through a public-records lawsuit against the State Department. David Bossie, president of Citizens United, said last week he would take a leave of absence to join the Trump campaign.
This is an acknowledgment that the contents of this article are based on documents provided by a right-wing organization that has been attacking the Clintons for decades. Journalists are less likely to continue to receive access to such documents if they report that the documents show nothing shady occurred (one might call that a bit of a journalistic quid pro quo).
Mrs. Clinton has faced questions about the family foundation and whether donors received access to her top deputies at the State Department. In an interview to air Tuesday on ABC, Mrs. Clinton said, “What I made a decision based on was what was good for the United States, what was good for our values, our interests, and our security.”
Douglas Brinkley, a presidential historian and history professor at Rice University, said that “a lot of politics is perception” and that the Clinton Foundation’s “endless tangle of relationships” have amounted to a drag on her candidacy.
These paragraphs put the article’s supposed revelations in the context of “questions” Clinton has faced about purported play-to-play surrounding the foundation, notwithstanding the article’s failure to identify such a case.
The calendar shows that on Sept. 16, 2011, Mrs. Clinton convened a summit in San Francisco, where she gave a speech on empowering women. Before the speech, according to her calendar, Mrs. Clinton met with nine executives from Wal-Mart Stores Inc., for which she once served on the board.
A Wal-Mart spokesman declined to comment about the meeting, which included Doug McMillon, now the company’s CEO. The Clinton campaign said the meeting related to a company initiative aimed at boosting women-owned businesses.
In the spring of the next year, Wal-Mart pledged to help women in Latin America with a $1.5 million donation in grants to 55,000 women entrepreneurs through a public-private partnership Mrs. Clinton created at the State Department. Wal-Mart also gave $500,000 for Vital Voices, a charity she co-founded.
Later in 2012, Mrs. Clinton visited India and made an argument to loosen the nation’s restrictions on big-box retailers.
A Clinton representative has said she was advocating on behalf of American companies in general.
As secretary of state, Clinton promoted women-owned businesses abroad, including through public-private partnerships, and advocated for U.S. companies in foreign countries. In other words, she did her job. But the article scandalizes these typical job responsibilities by placing them in the context of “questions” raised about the foundation. Vital Voices is a nonprofit that grew out of a U.S. government program Clinton and then-Secretary of State Madeleine Albright founded in 1997 to “promote the advancement of women as a U.S. foreign policy goal.”
“The idea that attending her husband’s birthday party, being interviewed by her daughter on live TV or meeting with a company announcing a major global initiative to help empower women economically—all of which was covered in the press at the time—is somehow now retroactively scandalous is absurd,” said Josh Schwerin, Clinton campaign spokesman.
The last paragraph of the article is a statement from a Clinton campaign spokesman explaining why the piece’s premise makes no sense and why it shouldn’t have been published.
Media have frequently sought to scandalize Hillary Clinton’s use of a private server as secretary of state by connecting the server to retroactively classified emails she sent or received. But recently released FBI documents regarding the department’s investigation into Clinton’s use of the private server conclusively show that the interagency classification dispute would have occurred regardless of whether she had used a State Department email account and resulted in large part from career State Department officials sending information in good faith that was later deemed classified.
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The New York Times is reporting that the latest emails released by a right-wing anti-Clinton organization “raise new questions” about “whether people tied to the Clinton Foundation received special access at” Hillary Clinton’s State Department. But the information revealed in the article completely debunks that interpretation of events, showing that the people seeking “special access” were actually involved in Bill Clinton’s successful 2009 mission to North Korea that resulted in the freeing of two captive U.S. reporters, and their request for a special passport was never granted.
The Times is credulously reporting on “510 pages of new State Department documents” released by Judicial Watch, a conservative activist group with a history of engaging in dishonest activism, promoting conspiracy theories, and pushing false or misleading narratives that have driven the media narrative on Hillary Clinton’s emails. According to the story’s headline, the “Emails Raise New Questions About Clinton Foundation Ties to State Dept.”
Here’s what the article actually shows:
Douglas J. Band, an adviser to Bill Clinton who also played a role with the Clinton Foundation, reached out to top State Department aide Huma Abedin on July 27, 2009, seeking diplomatic passports for himself and two other people.
The State Department did not issue the passports.
Band sought the passports because he was about to accompany Bill Clinton on a secret trip to North Korea which resulted in the successful release of two U.S. journalists.
At about the same time, Abedin told Hillary Clinton’s scheduler that Bill Clinton wanted her to meet with Andrew Liveris, the chief executive of Dow Chemical, at an event the next night. Judicial Watch suggested that this was because Dow Chemical was a major Clinton Foundation donor.
Liveris was the head of the US-China Business Council and was about to let Bill Clinton use his private plane for the secret trip to North Korea.
So, a top aide to Bill Clinton sought but did not receive diplomatic passports for aides accompanying Clinton on a trip to save American journalists from captivity in a brutal dictatorship, and a corporate executive who was providing the plane for the mission got a few minutes of facetime with the secretary of state.
As The Boston Globe’s Michael Cohen noted, “This is literally a story about how those at the Clinton Foundation DID NOT RECEIVE SPECIAL ACCESS.” It’s hard to see how this is a story about the Clinton Foundation at all. But to the Times, this raises “new questions.”
This is an excellent example of what Vox’s Matt Yglesias has termed the media’s tendency to depict Hillary Clinton as “a uniquely corrupt specimen” due to “editorial decisions by the managers of major news organizations to dedicate resources to running down every possible Clinton email lead” and presenting them as evidence of corruption regardless of context.
By contrast, The Washington Post also reported on the emails, but presented them as a case of clear overreach by Judicial Watch.
If the Times report raises any question, it is Cohen’s: “Is there some kind of a deal with Judicial Watch where respected news outlets must print their partisan spin in return for [Clinton Foundation] emails?”
A new report from Politico suggesting former President Bill Clinton used federal money to subsidize the Clinton Foundation and possibly Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s email server illustrates media’s habit of scandalizing stories throughout Clinton’s presidential campaign that have not stood up when subjected to more scrutiny.
A September 1 report from Politico claimed that Bill Clinton “used a decades-old federal government program, originally created to keep former presidents out of the poorhouse, to subsidize his family’s foundation and an associated business, and to support his wife’s private email server.” The article was originally titled “Bill Clinton used tax dollars to subsidize foundation, private email server.” While the outlet acknowledged that its investigation did “not reveal anything illegal” (which some others in media also pointed out), it claimed to “offer fresh evidence of how the Clintons blurred the line between their non-profit foundation, Hillary Clinton’s State Department and the business dealings of Bill Clinton and the couple’s aides.”
The investigation specifically claimed that the Clintons used General Services Administration (GSA) funds to subsidize people who worked for the Clinton Foundation and for foundation email servers, including subsidizing an aide who helped set up Hillary Clinton’s server. However, the article does not show that federal funds actually went directly to these private activities as opposed to official work. The Clinton campaign pushed back, stating that private funds paid for Clinton’s server and that the GSA funds were not for servers and demanded a correction. The headline of the article has since been changed to “Bill Clinton aides used tax dollars to subsidize foundation, private email support.”
While Politico suggested that Clinton has been particularly greedy in requesting federal allocations, reporting that his requests since 2001 had been “more than any of the other living former presidents,” the piece ignored that such allocations have been larger for each successive president, with President George W. Bush receiving the most funds in fiscal year 2015.
Even though the article doesn’t show any legal wrongdoing, it still suggests that the behavior in question is sketchy -- which is the hallmark of what Vox’s former chief political correspondent Jonathan Allen called “the Clinton rules” in 2015. These “rules” have permeated media coverage of the Clintons during Hillary Clinton’s candidacy. According to Allen, many in media inherently “assume [Hillary Clinton] is acting in bad faith” and that “when the Clintons aren't forthcoming — and sometimes, even when they are — they're covering something up.”
This belief can be seen in the numerous recent pieces alleging nefarious behavior between the Clinton Foundation and the State Department under Clinton’s tenure as secretary of state. The New York Times pointed to emails from the conservative group Judicial Watch to claim that a Clinton Foundation official facilitated a meeting between a foundation donor and an ambassador. But that official sent an email on behalf of Bill Clinton, not as a foundation employee, and the donor didn’t seek any financial benefit from the meeting, which was never actually set up.
CNN suggested Clinton’s then-chief of staff Cheryl Mills violated government rules by simultaneously working for the State Department and volunteering for the Clinton Foundation, even though her foundation work was voluntary, she received no payment for it, and the State Department said it was allowed.
Multiple media outlets ran with a claim from Judicial Watch that Clinton aides tried to set up a meeting between Clinton and Crown Prince Salman of Bahrain, a foundation donor, even though the emails show that the meeting was proposed and arranged through “normal” and “official channels” and the crown prince has met with past secretaries of state and U.S. presidents.
Most prominently, The Associated Press alleged that more than half the people outside government who met Clinton when she was secretary of state were foundation donors, even while multiple media figures and the AP itself pointed out that there was no evidence of ethical breaches. The AP also sent out a tweet on the story, and CNN reported that there was “near unanimous agreement” among other journalists that the tweet was “false.” The AP defended its story in a statement seeming to imply that Clinton’s calendars were being covered up to hide potential wrongdoing. It also noted that the story was reported by the same team that discovered Clinton’s server, seeming to imply a connection in behavior between the two stories. When the AP’s executive editor was confronted over the incorrect tweet, she admitted the tweet was “sloppy” but refused to take it down.
In all of these foundation stories, media outlets have hyped the the charges, claiming they looked “unseemly” and made for bad “optics,” despite admitting that there was no evidence of any legal violation, “quid pro quo” or some kind of pay for play, thus illustrating the suspicion that Allen mentioned in Clinton coverage.
These “Clinton rules” also carried over into the media’s reporting on Clinton’s private email server. Between the server’s discovery in March 2015 and FBI Director James Comey’s July 2016 recommendation that no criminal charges be filed, multiple media outlets scandalized the issue, often resulting in errors that were sometimes corrected and sometimes not. Among the erroneously reported supposed suspicious behavior was the AP’s suggestion that a person with a “mysterious identity” registered the domain name for Clinton’s email account, when it was actually just a misspelled name of a Clinton aide; the AP’s claim that Clinton’s use of an iPad contradicted her claim that she set up a private email in order to carry a single device -- even though the iPad came out a year after the account was set up; and CNN’s implication that Clinton tried to “[make] it harder and more expensive for the federal government to quickly review her emails” for possible public release by giving them to the State Department in paper and not electronically, even though State Department rules require preserved emails to be printed out (CNN later issued a correction).
Most notoriously, The New York Times botched a report claiming that inspectors general were launching a criminal probe into Clinton’s emails, which the inspectors general and Justice Department subsequently announced was not true. The Times at first refused to admit any errors in its report; it subsequently had to issue two separate corrections to the article.
Some media figures have called out their colleagues for following these biased coverage “rules.” Journalist and Yale political science lecturer John Stoehr wrote that the foundation reporting showed “that there is no evidence to suggest #PayToPlay” and that media are not doing “the basic job of prioritizing evidence that casts doubts on political accusations” from groups like Judicial Watch. Echoing Allen’s mention of the “Clinton rules,” Vox’s Matthew Yglesias wrote that media coverage carries the “perception that Clinton is corrupt” and that “everyone knows she’s corrupt,” meaning “every decision she makes and every relationship she has is cast in the most negative possible light.” He compared that to treatment of other government figures whose family members had foundations, such as Colin Powell and George W. Bush. As Yglesias mentioned at the end of his piece:
To the extent that Clinton is an example of the routinized way in which economic elites exert disproportionate voice in the political process, that’s a story worth telling. But it’s a very different story from ... one in which Clinton is a uniquely corrupt specimen operating with wildly unusual financial arrangements and substantive practices.
Much of what we’ve seen over the past 18 months is journalists doing reporting that supports the former story, and then writing leads and headlines that imply the latter. But people deserve to know what’s actually going on.
Despite baseless right-wing claims that the Clinton Foundation operates as a “slush fund” to “enrich the Clintons,” two leading charity watchdog groups have given the foundation the highest possible marks for “financial health … accountability and transparency.”
Wash. Post, NY Times Also Give More Prominence To Weiner Saga In Print Than Abuse Allegations Against Trump Campaign CEO
Broadcast network news programs devoted significantly more time to lewd behavior from Anthony Weiner, the husband of an aide to Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, than to allegations that Donald Trump's campaign CEO engaged in domestic violence and workplace sexual harassment. The outlets treated the Weiner story as a major campaign issue even though Weiner is playing no direct role in the Clinton campaign.
Politico reported on August 25 that Trump’s campaign CEO, Stephen Bannon, “was charged with misdemeanor domestic violence, battery and dissuading a witness following an incident with his then-wife in 1996.” The charges were later dropped, but the police report says that Bannon’s wife claimed that he “pulled at her neck and wrist during an altercation over their finances, and an officer reported witnessing red marks on her neck and wrist to bolster her account.” BuzzFeed on August 29 reported that Bannon had also been accused of sexual harassment by a co-worker while working as an investment banker in the 1990s.
On August 29, a top aide to Hillary Clinton, Huma Abedin, announced that she was separating from Weiner following reports that he had sent lewd photos of himself to another woman.
One might think media would focus more on the Bannon story, which involves allegations of criminality against the CEO of a presidential campaign, than on the dissolution of the marriage of a candidate's aide. That was not the case.
ABC, CBS, and NBC devoted more than half an hour of coverage to the Weiner-Abedin story -- roughly 10 minutes for each network -- according to a Media Matters review of their morning and evening news shows (NBC’s Today and Nightly News, ABC’s Good Morning America and World News Tonight, and CBS’ CBS This Morning and Evening News) on August 26, August 29, and the morning of August 30. Those same programs devoted only 39 seconds in total to covering either of the Bannon stories, with all of that coverage coming from Good Morning America.
Two of the nation’s leading newspapers for national political coverage, The New York Times and The Washington Post, similarly gave the Weiner-Abedin story more emphasis in their print editions. Both papers devoted 1,400-word front page articles to their separation. By contrast, the Times placed its August 26 story on Bannon’s alleged abuse on page 13, along with a portion of a page 10 August 27 piece and a single sentence of a page 1 August 27 piece. The Post devoted a large portion of a page A04 article on August 27 to the allegation. Neither paper covered the sexual harassment allegation in their respective print editions.
Not only was the amount of coverage uneven, but in its coverage the broadcast news shows repeatedly framed the Abedin-Weiner story as something that could harm Clinton’s campaign as well as recall for voters Clinton’s own marital problems, a frame that wasn’t applied to the Bannon story.
NBC correspondent Andrea Mitchell on Today claimed “of course” there would be political fallout for Clinton, connecting the Abedin story to Clinton not having a press conference and suggesting that it would remind voters “about Hillary Clinton's own choices 20 years ago, 19 years ago,” an apparent reference to Clinton’s decision not to leave her husband after he had an affair.
CBS anchor Norah O’Donnell on Evening News said it was “about the last thing Hillary Clinton's campaign needed, a scandal involving the husband of her top aide Huma Abedin.” O’Donnell also asked CBS political director John Dickerson if the story “change[d]” things for Clinton and her campaign.
ABC correspondent Cecilia Vega on Good Morning America noted that Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump attempted to turn the separation “into a political attack,” adding that Trump “is not holding back, so is the Clinton campaign worried that this will be a distraction for them?” ABC political analyst Matthew Dowd also claimed the story “is a problem for the Hillary campaign” because “independents out there look at it and say, ‘Do we really want to go back to all this again?’”
The Times and the Post’s coverage made the same connection. The Times alleged the Weiner story “threatens to remind voters about the troubles in the Clintons’ own marriage over the decades” and “evokes the debates that erupted over Mrs. Clinton’s handling of the [Monica] Lewinsky affair.” The Post also pointed to “a different ending to the parallel between Bill and Hillary Clinton and each wife’s public embarrassment by the sexual indiscretions of her politician husband.”
The only mention of either Bannon story on broadcast news shows was during Good Morning America’s August 26 edition, which treated Bannon’s alleged spousal abuse as a passing issue. ABC correspondent Jonathan Karl briefly stated that the domestic violence allegation could cause “more turmoil ahead for the Trump campaign CEO,” but he didn't mention any impact on the overall campaign or Trump specifically. ABC anchor George Stephanopoulos also briefly brought up the domestic violence allegations with Trump campaign manager Kellyanne Conway to ask if Trump was “aware of [the allegation], is he OK with it,” to which Conway claimed ignorance and Stephanopoulos quickly moved on.
The coverage of Bannon’s alleged abuse in the Times and the Post, while given less prominence than its Weiner-Abedin coverage, did mention a potential negative impact to Trump’s campaign. The Times claimed that while Bannon’s appointment was “part of an effort to reset a candidacy that has stumbled with minority and female voters,” Bannon “brings to the post his own bumpy background that includes misdemeanor charges of domestic violence.” In an article the next day, the Times noted the abuse allegation has “created distractions for Mr. Trump’s campaign and raised questions about [Trump’s] management style.” The Post also made the same case in an article that same day. However, none of this coverage, in broadcast or print, noted that the Bannon allegations came on the heels of other women claiming Trump had sexually harassed them in the workplace.
Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump implied that Huma Abedin, an aide to Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, is a security risk because of her mother’s current and her own former employment at an academic journal that writes about Muslims. Trump’s attack follows years of smears about Abedin from informal Trump adviser Roger Stone and right-wing media outlets, which said that Abedin is disloyal to the United States and that she is a secret “Muslim Brotherhood” agent.
“When we're wrong, we must say so as soon as possible.” Associated Press guidelines.
Somebody inside the Associated Press should hide the shovels so editors there will stop digging.
The hole they’ve dug in recent days just keeps getting bigger as the wire service refuses to admit obvious mistakes in the lengthy investigation they published last week about Clinton Foundation donors, and the implication they were able to buy access at Hillary Clinton’s State Department.
Not only was the AP article itself deeply flawed and lacking crucial context, the news organization also tweeted out this categorically false announcement to its 8.4 million followers to promote its investigation: “BREAKING: AP analysis: More than half those who met Clinton as Cabinet secretary gave money to Clinton Foundation.”
That tweet immediately ignited a media firestorm. It has since been retweeted or liked more than 13,000 times, and the claim is now widely repeated as fact. But it’s completely inaccurate. The AP investigation only looked at a small portion of Clinton’s meetings or conversations -- only 154 people met the parameters of the AP’s study, of which 85 donated or pledged commitments to the Clinton Foundation. There’s no way 85 represents “more than half” of the people Clinton met with while serving as secretary of state between 2009 and 2013.
“Clinton actually participated in over 1700 meetings as secretary of state during that time period,” notes Judd Legum at ThinkProgress. “That means, in truth, fewer than 5% of Clinton’s meetings as Secretary of State were with Clinton Foundation donors.”
The AP’s reckless social media hyping of the donor story represented “sloppy, click-grabbing shorthand that is a disservice to the reporting to which it refers,” David Boardman, the Dean of the School of Media and Communication at Temple University, told CNNMoney.
And yet there was Kathleen Carroll, executive editor of the Associated Press, on CNN’s Reliable Sources insisting the AP’s tweeted claim didn’t need to be corrected or deleted. “If we felt it was wrong we would have taken it down right away,” Carroll announced, despite the fact that, to date, only the AP thinks its tweeted declaration is accurate. Pressed by host Brian Stelter, Carroll conceded the tweet was “sloppy,” but the organization clearly has no intention of deleting it.
As the AP investigation began to crumble last week, I noted that the wire service joined a dubious list of news outlets that have gotten burned chasing bogus Clinton ‘scandal’ stories over the years. And now we’re seeing the postscript to that sad tradition: News outlets which then refuse to admit they botched their Clinton ‘scandal’ stories. There’s a stubborn refusal to clean up their own mess.
Meanwhile, when CBS’ Lara Logan reported a botched Benghazi investigation on 60 Minutes, featuring a bogus “eyewitness” to the terror attack, the network never released a full explanation for how such an obviously flawed report was ever allowed to air. Instead, the network ordered a minimal internal review, released a two-page summary and Logan and a producer took a leave of absence from the program.
By contrast, when CBS faced conservative outrage after airing a flawed report about President Bush's Vietnam War record in 2004, the network appointed former Republican attorney general Richard Thornburgh, to investigate. Thornburgh’s review panel worked for three months, interviewed 66 people, and issued an-often scathing 224-page report.
And now we have the AP’s stumble-a-thon. Carroll’s attempted defense on Reliable Sources was just the latest defensive misfire for the news outlet. Last week, the AP released a statement defending the article, but didn’t really address the specific complaints that were mounting. “The initial article was bad,” wrote Matthew Yglesias at Vox, “and while the defense of the article usefully clarifies a key point, it is also bad.”
The reason this newsroom misfire is generating so much attention and so much anger is that it’s as if the Associated Press set out to create a textbook example of how the Beltway press plays loose with Clinton ‘scandal’ facts and then refuses to admit a mistake, even when there’s virtually no debate about the falsehoods.
But it wasn’t just the tweet. It was the entire premise of the AP article that was botched and requires a correction or at least a fuller explaining.
From the AP's investigation [emphasis added]:
More than half the people outside the government who met with Hillary Clinton while she was secretary of state gave money -- either personally or through companies or groups -- to the Clinton Foundation. It's an extraordinary proportion indicating her possible ethics challenges if elected president.
Right in the first paragraph the AP announced it was “extraordinary” that Clinton met with 85 foundation donors during her nearly 50 months as secretary of state. But extraordinary compared to what? In order to prove that point, the AP needed to provide context to show how the figure was remarkable and out of the ordinary. But the AP never even tried.
Simple question: How many of those same foundation donors who met with Clinton also met with secretaries of state under the previous Republican administration?
The clear implication from the AP report was that Clinton donors bought access and favors. But if lots of those same donors gained access to President Bush’s State Department, the AP implication falls apart. Indeed, its entire investigation collapses. (Vox's Yglesias posted several examples where a Clinton donor featured by the AP met with key Republican officials over the years.)
Working hard to avoid crucial context, the AP presented almost laughably non-controversial examples to highlight what reporters suggested were key instances of how Clinton Foundation donors received special treatment at the State Department.
From the Washington Monthly’s Nancy LeTourneau on how "the AP blew their story" [emphasis added]:
In an attempt to provide an example of how this becomes an “optics” problem for Hillary Clinton, they focused much of the article on the fact that she met several times with Muhammad Yunus, a Clinton Foundation donor. In case you don’t recognize that name, he is an economist from Bangladesh who pioneered the concepts of microcredit and microfinance as a way to fight poverty, and founded Grameen Bank. For those efforts, Yunus won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2006, the United States Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2009 and the Congressional Gold Medal in 2010.
The connection the AP tries to make is that SoS Clinton met with Yunus because he was a Clinton Foundation donor. What they didn’t mention is that their relationship goes back over 30 years to the time Hillary (as first lady of Arkansas) heard about his work and brought him to her state to explore the possibility of implementing microfinance programs to assist the poor.
What a mess. And to think how many editors at the AP saw the donor investigation article before it was published and were unconcerned -- or unaware -- that they were deceiving their readers.
And now those same bosses don’t want the AP to be held accountable.