What took so long?
The question isn’t whether George Stephanopoulos compromised his credentials as a “journalist” by failing to reveal his donations to the Clinton Foundation. The question is why, immediately after Stephanopoulos left the Clinton administration, ABC hired this partisan in the first place.
In 1996, when ABC hired him, the initial press release said he would “serve both as a political analyst and as a correspondent.” The “correspondent” role caused such an uproar — even in liberal mainstream media — that a few days later ABC quickly retreated: “I don’t know how that got into the press release,” said a spokeswoman. “He will not report the news.”
Then-ABC News Vice President Joanna Bistany said Stephanopoulos would be a commentator like ABC contributor William Kristol, Republican Dan Quayle’s former chief of staff. “I view it the same way as Kristol,” she said. “He has a point of view, a political persuasion.” Bistany also said, “We want a mix of voices,” assuring that Stephanopoulos wouldn’t “do anything that has any appearance of conflict.”
Then came the double cross.
By 1999, Stephanopoulos was a regular contributor on “World News Tonight” and “Good Morning America” and had co-anchored ABC’s overnight news program. Still, ABC assured viewers that he’d stay away from partisan political stories. “We’re all conscious of the sensitivity with him having been part of the news in Washington,” said then-ABC News President David Westin. “We wouldn’t have him be the beat reporter on the (Al) Gore campaign.” An ABC spokeswoman added, “He will not be the beat reporter assigned to a campaign,” although that “does not mean that we won’t have him doing more general political stories.”
In 2002, Stephanopoulos became host of “This Week,” and two years later ABC named him “chief Washington correspondent.”
Now comes the news that Stephanopoulos gave $75,000 to the Clinton Foundation but failed to disclose the contribution to his employer and to his viewers. He offered this apology: “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. … 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.”
Stephanopoulos, however, has yet to publicly disclose further ties to the Clinton Foundation. He served several times as a panelist, moderator or “featured attendee” for the foundation. Also, the Washington Free Beacon reports that Hillary Clinton’s campaign manager, Robby Mook, once worked as an intern for Stephanopoulos when he briefly taught at Columbia.
Did ABC not see the political documentary “The War Room”? Filmmakers, during the 1992 presidential campaign, followed Bill Clinton’s top campaign advisers, James Carville and Stephanopoulos. Both were passionate political operatives. Stephanopoulos, for example, aggressively defended Clinton against charges of infidelity and of lacking “character.” Consider this exchange with ABC’s Sam Donaldson:
Donaldson: “Now, Gov. Clinton has a character problem, but I take it that your line of counterattack is that it’s–“
Stephanopoulos: “Gov. Clinton has no character problem. He’s passed his character tests.”
Donaldson: “Well, I mean, he has not denied that he has engaged in marital infidelity. He denied a specific one–“
Stephanopoulos: “He has said that he had problems in his marriage.”
Donaldson: “That’s right. And he has talked about the draft, and to some people it’s a character problem.”
Stephanopoulos: “Bill Clinton’s passed his character test throughout his life and throughout this campaign. … (The American people) don’t want to be diverted by side issues, and they’re not going to let the Republican attack machine divert them.”
After the ’92 election, Stephanopoulos served as White House communications director and senior adviser on policy and strategy. During Clinton’s Monica Lewinsky/perjury scandal, a Time magazine cover showed a grim president with his equally grim domestic policy adviser Stephanopoulos. The headline read: “Deep Water: How the President’s men tried to hinder the Whitewater investigation.”
Stephanopoulos’ recent grilling of “Clinton Cash” author Peter Schweizer becomes all the more brazen given Stephanopoulos’ own then-undisclosed 75K contribution to the Clinton Foundation. Schweizer’s book questions whether donors received favors from then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Stephanopoulos repeatedly asked whether he had “evidence” or any kind of “smoking gun.”
Carole Simpson, a former colleague at ABC, was blunt: “There’s a coziness that George cannot escape. … While he did try to separate himself from his political background to become a journalist, he really is not a journalist.”
When Stephanopoulos apologized for failing to disclose his contributions, he said he should have avoided “even the appearance of a conflict.” Doesn’t this standard apply to Clinton Foundation donors and Hillary Clinton’s job as secretary of state? Doesn’t this standard also apply to ABC and Stephanopoulos’ job as news “correspondent” or “anchor”?
Finally, why, during all these years that ABC fraudulently passed off Stephanopoulos as a journalist, did real journalists say nothing?
COPYRIGHT 2015 LAURENCE A. ELDER
Larry Elder is a best-selling author and radio talk-show host. To find out more about Larry Elder, or become an “Elderado,” visit www.LarryElder.com. Follow Larry on Twitter @larryelder.