Cabinet & Agencies

Issues ››› Cabinet & Agencies
  • Broadcast News Widely Covers Anthony Weiner Story, Ignores Abuse Accusations Against Trump Campaign CEO

    Wash. Post, NY Times Also Give More Prominence To Weiner Saga In Print Than Abuse Allegations Against Trump Campaign CEO

    Blog ››› ››› ALEX KAPLAN

    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.

  • Trump Pushes Right-Wing Media’s Nonsense Conspiracy Theory That Huma Abedin Is A Threat To America

    ››› ››› BOBBY LEWIS

    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. 

  • The AP, And Why The Press Has Trouble Admitting Its Clinton Mistakes

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    “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.

    For years, The New York Times has refused to acknowledge its rampantly misleading Whitewater coverage from the 1990s, as well as its overall breathless pursuit of Clinton ‘scandal’ stories back then.

    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.”

    Then over the weekend on Twitter, AP reporter Matt Lee lashed out at critics of the news organization’s donor story. That did not go well.

    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.

  • CNN: “Near Unanimous Agreement” Among Journalists That AP Botched Its Report On Clinton Meetings

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    CNN’s senior media reporter Dylan Byers reported that media outlets criticized an “arguably misleading” story by the Associated Press, where an “inaccurate tweet” promoting the story falsely claimed that “more than half” of the people who met Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton while she was secretary of state had also donated to the Clinton Foundation.

    According to the AP’s original review (the story has since been changed) of State Department calendars released to the organization so far, covering roughly half of Clinton’s tenure at State, “[a]t least 85 of 154 people from private interests who met or had phone conversations scheduled with Clinton while she led the State Department donated to her family charity or pledged commitments to its international programs.” The AP promoted this story on Twitter by proclaiming “[m]ore than half those who met Clinton as Cabinet secretary gave money to Clinton Foundation.”

    Byers explained that other journalists “noted that Clinton had held thousands of meetings with government employees, foreign representatives, civil leaders, journalists and others while Secretary of State that were not accounted for in the AP's report,” but the AP “is still standing by its story and has yet to correct its tweet, despite near unanimous agreement among other journalists that the tweet, at least, was false.” The AP’s story was also criticized for characterizing Nobel Peace Prize winner Muhammad Yunus, who has been a friend of the Clintons for decades, as little more than a donor asking for help. From Byers’ August 26 report:

    Hillary Clinton is surrounded by suggestions of controversy. Terms like "Clinton Foundation," "email server," and "Benghazi" hover around her like a faint smoke that hints at the existence of fire.

    But finding the fire -- the lie, the misdeed, the unethical act -- is proving to be rather difficult, as evidenced this week by an inaccurate tweet and arguably misleading story from the Associated Press that were quickly rebutted by the Clinton campaign and dismissed by many media outlets.

    Three days later, the Associated Press is still standing by its story and has yet to correct its tweet, despite near unanimous agreement among other journalists that the tweet, at least, was false.

    "The AP's social-media take on the story was seriously flawed," David Boardman, the Dean of the School of Media and Communication at Temple University and former editor of the Seattle Times, told CNNMoney. "It's sloppy, click-grabbing shorthand that is a disservice to the reporting to which it refers."

    [...]

    This "extraordinary" finding, as the AP put it, was deemed less extraordinary by other journalists and pundits who noted that Clinton had held thousands of meetings with government employees, foreign representatives, civil leaders, journalists and others while Secretary of State that were not accounted for in the AP's report.

    [...]

    Meanwhile, other news organizations pilloried the AP's report.

    The Washington Post Fact-Checker wrote that there were "many more nuanced and important details in the story that are being misrepresented — by the AP's own promotional tweet, and by Trump."

    Vox's Matthew Yglesias was more direct: "The AP's big exposé on Hillary meeting with Clinton Foundation donors is a mess," his headline read.

  • The Huge Media Failure Behind The Latest Clinton Global Initiative Pseudo-Scandal

    Despite Reporting, Bahraini Crown Prince Didn’t Give $32 Million To CGI

    ››› ››› ZACHARY PLEAT

    Numerous media outlets covering released State Department emails pushed by the conservative group Judicial Watch falsely claimed that Crown Prince Salman of Bahrain gave the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) tens of millions of dollars, which they suggested was linked to him meeting with then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. In fact, none of the money in question went to the Clinton Global Initiative -- the crown prince made a “Commitment to Action” to fund the scholarship program at a Clinton Global Initiative event, and the money raised from business donors in Bahrain and elsewhere went to the crown prince’s scholarship program to educate Bahraini students.

  • Muhammad Yunus Is A Decades-Long Clinton Friend And A Nobel Prize Winner. Donations Aren't Why She Met With Him.

    The "Scandal" Requires Reducing International Business And Non-Profit Leaders To "Clinton Foundation Donors"

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ

    The Associated Press is reporting 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” and scandalizing the information as “an extraordinary proportion indicating her possible ethics challenges if elected president.” That report is currently rocketing through the media.

    This level of media hysteria would make sense if favors were being granted to individuals because they were donors. But that speculation falls apart when the story gets down to specific cases, because many Clinton Foundation donors are internationally prominent figures in the business or non-profit worlds – the very sort of people one would expect to be meeting with a secretary of state in any administration.

    According to the AP’s review of State Department calendars released to the organization so far, covering roughly half of Clinton’s tenure at State, “[a]t least 85 of 154 people from private interests who met or had phone conversations scheduled with Clinton while she led the State Department donated to her family charity or pledged commitments to its international programs.”

    So who are these Clinton Foundation donors that the AP  notes met with Clinton? Famed Bangladeshi economist Muhammad Yunus is one, and eleven paragraphs of the AP story detail meetings and interactions between the internationally known figure and Clinton and her staff over assistance he sought that was first reported last October.

    Yes, Yunus-controlled organizations have donated between $125,000 and $300,000 to the Clinton Foundation, mostly as annual fees to attend Clinton Global Initiative meetings. But it’s completely absurd to suggest that “Clinton Foundation donor” is a major part of Yunus’ identity, or the reason why he might command attention from the secretary of state.

    As the AP notes, Yunus “won the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize for pioneering low-interest ‘microcredit’ for poor business owners.” He is a recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom. He is incredibly well-credentialed and almost universally celebrated. According to the Financial Times, beginning in 2007, tensions began between Yunus and Bangladesh’s government when Yunus “suggested he might establish his own political party to clean up Bangladesh’s public life.” Yunus was ultimately forced out of his managing director position at Grameen Bank in 2011 just months after the prime minister publicly denigrated microlenders as “bloodsuckers of the poor.” During that period, Clinton repeatedly received requests for help from Yunus, spoke with him on the phone, and after he was ousted met with him and publicly urged the government to halt their efforts to “seize control of Grameen Bank's effort to find new leaders.”

    And this wasn’t Clinton’s first encounter with Yunus - the Clintons have ties to the economist that go back decades before the foundation even existed. They brought Yunus to Arkansas in 1983 to learn more about how microfinance could be used in the state, and Bill Clinton talked about his work during his 1992 presidential campaign.

    Politico’s Blake Hounshell pointed out the oddity of portraying Yunus as a “Clinton crony” rather than a victim deserving of Clinton’s aid:

    In addition to Yunus, here are the other people who met with Clinton detailed in the report:

    • S. Daniel Abraham, the “billionaire behind the Slim-Fast diet and founder of the Center for Middle East Peace.”
    • Stephen Schwarzman, chairman of the Blackstone Group, one of the largest private equity companies in the world, with a massive charitable giving arm to match.
    • Nancy Mahon “of the MAC AIDS, the charitable arm of MAC Cosmetics, which is owned by Estee Lauder,” whom the AP suggests met with Clinton to discuss “a State Department partnership to raise money to finance AIDS education and prevention.”
    • Estee Lauder CEO Fabrizio Freda, whose “company made a commitment to CGI in 2013 with four other organizations to help survivors of sexual slavery in Cambodia.”

    All are Clinton Foundation donors or work for organizations that have donated to the Clinton Foundation. But they are also exactly the sort of people you would expect to meet with any secretary of state. The suggestion of malfeasance only makes sense if you ignore any reason Clinton could have to meet with these individuals other than their status as donors to an international charity.

  • Read These Tweets To Understand How The Media Are Screwing Up Their Clinton Foundation Coverage

    Blog ››› ››› NINA MAST

    Journalist and Yale political science lecturer John Stoehr criticized the media for picking up the latest accusations of pay-to-play behavior at the Clinton Foundation when there is “no evidence to suggest” that such a scheme was established.

    After the conservative activist group Judicial Watch published emails showing supposed pay-to-play behavior by then-Secretary of State and current Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and the Clinton Foundation, media outlets quickly repeated the story despite a lack of evidence that anything improprietous happened. Judicial Watch has a history of conning media into covering bogus Clinton-related stories, leading outlets to ignore new evidence and even undermine their own reporting in the process.

    In a series of tweets, Stoehr criticized the media coverage of Judicial Watch’s allegations, saying it proves the thesis of a 1996 Atlantic piece called “Why Americans Hate the Media.” Midway into his argument, he addressed the idea that Clinton’s actions constitute pay-to-play misbehavior, saying “This is not pay-to play. There’s no evidence to suggest it, no matter how much the right-wing group Judicial Watch urges to the contrary":

  • Fox News Host’s Attempt To Scandalize Phone Calls To Clinton Aide Undermined By Network’s Own Reporting

    ››› ››› NICK FERNANDEZ

    Fox News host is alleging that State Department call logs showing Clinton Foundation chief operating officer Laura Graham “leaving almost 150 telephone messages for Hillary Clinton’s top aide at the State Department,” Cheryl Mills, reveal a “pay-for-play scam” and “quid pro cash.” But Fox News’ own original report on the call logs states that “there is no evidence of any misconduct in the calls or contacts between Graham and Mills,” and according to State Department spokesman Mark Toner, the “calls could well be ... simply coordinating on” relief efforts after the 2010 earthquake in Haiti given that Mills led State’s response to the disaster and former President Bill Clinton and the Clinton Foundation played key roles during the aftermath.

  • Days After Breitbart Exec. Becomes Head Of His Campaign, Trump Calls For Clinton Foundation Special Prosecutor

    Trump’s Call For Special Prosecutor Premised On Baseless Lies Promoted By Breitbart’s Stephen Bannon

    Blog ››› ››› TYLER CHERRY

    Donald Trump called for a special prosecutor to conduct an “expedited investigation” into the Clinton Foundation, just days after former Breitbart News chairman Stephen Bannon was named chief executive of Trump’s campaign. Bannon helped spread the baseless smears hyped in the discredited Clinton Cash book that Trump is now lifting his attacks from.

    Trump said during an August 22 campaign rally that “an expedited investigation by a Special Prosecutor” into the Clinton Foundation -- specifically into claims of “coordination between the pay-for-play State Department and the corrupt Clinton Foundation” -- is required because the FBI and Department of Justice “certainly cannot be trusted to quickly or impartially investigate Hillary Clinton’s crimes.”

    Trump’s demand for a special prosecutor comes less than a week after Trump hired former Breitbart News executive chairman Stephen Bannon as the campaign’s chief executive. Bannon -- who ran Breitbart as a propaganda arm of the Trump campaign -- has long led a smear campaign against Hillary Clinton and the Clinton Foundation with discredited and false attacks.

    After Breitbart editor-at-large Peter Schweizer wrote the error-filled Clinton Cash -- which made a series of baseless allegations of corruption and quid pro quo by the Clinton Foundation and Hillary Clinton -- Bannon wrote and produced the accompanying documentary film. Bannon is also the executive chairman and co-founder of the Government Accountability Institute, which Schweizer is president of.

    Among the discredited attacks that Trump has adopted from Bannon and Schweizer’s smear campaign include claims that Clinton “signed off” on a Russian uranium deal that led to “millions of dollars in donations” to the Clinton Foundation. That conspiracy has been widely discredited, and Schweizer himself admitted he had no "direct evidence" proving Clinton intervened on the issue.

    Trump also echoed Bannon and Schweizer’s evidence-free claim that an Iranian telecommunications company escaped sanctions from Clinton while secretary of state because it paid Bill Clinton for a speech.

    It is no surprise that Trump is infusing Bannon’s shoddy anti-Clinton attacks with his own campaign, given the close-knit relationship Trump has had with Breitbart during his campaign.

  • Media Continue To Fall For Clinton Foundation Pseudo-Scandals Promoted By Judicial Watch

    Blog ››› ››› TYLER CHERRY

    Media are once again rushing to scandalize newly released State Department emails pushed by the conservative group Judicial Watch that allegedly show a conflict of interest created by “Clinton Foundation donors receiving special access” to then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. But the emails actually show the heir to a head of state arranged a meeting with Clinton through “official channels,” as he had with Clinton’s previous Republican predecessors.

    Judicial Watch’s press release framed the emails as showing “Hillary Clinton State Department Gave Special Access to Top Clinton Foundation Donors,” and focused on exchanges between Bill Clinton aide Doug Band and Hillary Clinton aide Huma Abedin regarding a meeting Crown Prince Salman of Bahrain requested with Clinton. Judicial Watch suggested that the crown prince’s relationship with the Clinton Foundation was crucial to him meeting with Clinton:

    Included among the Abedin-Band emails is an exchange revealing that when Crown Prince Salman of Bahrain requested a meeting with Secretary of State Clinton, he was forced to go through the Clinton Foundation for an appointment. Abedin advised Band that when she went through “normal channels” at State, Clinton declined to meet. After Band intervened, however, the meeting was set up within forty-eight hours. According to the Clinton Foundation website, in 2005, Salman committed to establishing the Crown Prince’s International Scholarship Program (CPISP) for the Clinton Global Initiative. And by 2010, it had contributed $32 million to CGI. The Kingdom of Bahrain reportedly gave between $50,000 and $100,000 to the Clinton Foundation. And Bahrain Petroleum also gave an additional $25,000 to $50,000.

    From: Doug Band

    To: Huma Abedin

    Sent: Tue Jun 23 1:29:42 2009

    Subject:

    Cp of Bahrain in tomorrow to Friday

    Asking to see her

    Good friend of ours

    From: Huma Abedin

    To: Doug Band

    Sent: Tue Jun 23 4:12:46 2009

    Subject: Re:

    He asked to see hrc thurs and fri thru normal channels. I asked and she said she doesn’t want to commit to anything for thurs or fri until she knows how she will feel. Also she says that she may want to go to ny and doesn’t want to be committed to stuff in ny…

    From: Huma Abedin [Huma@clintonemail.com]

    Sent: Thursday, June 25, 2009 10:35:15 AM

    To: Doug Band

    Subject:

    Offering Bahrain cp 10 tomorrow for meeting woith [sic] hrc

    If u see him, let him know

    We have reached out thru official channels

    But the emails show that the meeting was proposed and arranged through “normal” and “official channels,” not through “special access” as Judicial Watch characterized it. Crown Prince Salman of Bahrain “asked to see [Clinton] thurs and fri thru normal channels,” according to the emails, and Clinton didn’t “want to commit to anything” until she confirmed her schedule and how she was feeling. Later that week, Abedin confirmed that Clinton and her staff “reached out [to Crown Prince Salman of Bahrain] thru official channels” to set up the meeting.

    According to a write-up from Agence France-Presse, obtained via Nexis search, the meeting was about the “tense post-election climate in Iran and the Middle East peace process” -- exactly the sorts of topics one would expect the secretary of state to discuss with a Middle Eastern leader.

    Given that past secretaries of state and US presidents have met with Crown Prince Salman -- including Condoleezza Rice, Colin Powell, and President George W. Bush -- it’s not unusual that the crown prince sought a meeting with Clinton during her tenure as secretary of state, and there is no evidence he got the meeting due to his affiliation with the Clinton Foundation.

    But that hasn't prevented the press from trying to turn the meeting into a scandal.

    Media outlets immediately ran with the story, suggesting that “the new revelations,” as Politico put it, “add to the controversy that has swirled around the Clinton Foundation, with Donald Trump and other critics accusing Hillary Clinton of using her position at the State Department to reward major donors through access to other power players.”

    The Wall Street Journal scandalized the emails, saying they “could fuel criticism that the Clinton family’s charitable foundation, in fundraising with wealthy donors, corporations and foreign nations, created a conflict of interest for Mrs. Clinton during her work as the nation’s top diplomat.”

    A Fox News article wrote that “Such emails have fueled accusations from Republicans of a ‘pay-to-play’ operation.”

    CNN’s John Berman said, "It doesn't literally have to be provable pay to play to have an appearance problem."

    These accounts adopt Judicial Watch’s frame that the meeting between Bahrain’s crown prince and Clinton was granted only because of “special, expedited access” and “preferential treatment” because of his relationship with the Clinton Foundation, and that at the least, the emails and meeting reflect bad optics.

    Judicial Watch is a right-wing organization with a history of duping the press on Clinton email stories.