On Friday, May 15, the Washington Post’s Paul Farhi reported:
“ABC News chief anchor George Stephanopoulos made three contributions to the Clinton Foundation, ABC confirmed Thursday, in an apparent conflict with his duties as a journalist.
“Stephanopoulos contributed $25,000 in 2012, 2013 and again last year.”
That led Republican Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky to declare that Stephanopoulos’ donations should preclude him from moderating any debates during the 2016 presidential debates.
While fully agreeing with this Paul-demanded exclusion, I’m wondering why this Clinton contributor should be allowed to continue as an ABC newsman.
The Post also reported:
“Republicans and media ethicists said the contributions raised questions about his objectivity and neutrality, particularly since he is likely to cover Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign.”
ABC announced that Stephanopoulos has decided not to moderate a Republican debate sponsored by the network and the Republican National Committee scheduled for Feb. 6.
But, when asked whether this decision was prompted by Sen. Paul’s strong critique, ABC spokeswoman Heather Riley declined to comment.
Think about that.
“No comment” from a network that is constantly asking others for comment.
I strongly suspect that the ABC-announced allegation that it was Stephanopoulos who decided not to moderate is false and that he was actually compelled to so announce by that network.
What should have been done to Stephanopoulos is what NBC News did in 2010 with suspensions of MSNBC host Keith Olbermann and Joe Scarborough for their making political contributions to political candidates. For how on earth can we expect any reporter to maintain the requisite objectivity of news coverage if the person covered is able to pay off the coverer with contributions?
Astoundingly, ABC issued a statement that it has no plans to even punish Stephanopoulos, much less to fire him. The statement contended that he has made – and this is a quote – “an honest mistake.”
How in the name of ethical mathematics can three different sums of $25,000 a piece be described as “an honest mistake” rather than three outrages?
From Tom Rosensteil, executive director of the American Press Institute, came the following statement:
“If you have a conflict, people don’t know where your loyalties lie. … This should have been a clear, bright line for Stephanopoulos, because he came from the Clinton administration. He should be doubling over backward to demonstrate his independence.”
In a statement issued Thursday morning by ABC, Stephanopoulos said:
“I made charitable donations to the foundation in support of the work they’re doing on global AIDS prevention and deforestation, causes I care about deeply. I thought that my contributions were a matter of public record. However, in hindsight, I should have taken the extra step of personally disclosing my donations to my employer and to the viewers on air during the recent news stories about the foundation. I apologize.”
ABC News also issued a statement:
“As George has said, he made charitable donations to the foundation to support a cause he cares about deeply and believed his contributions were a matter of public record. He should have taken the extra step to notify us and our viewers during the recent news reports about the foundation. He’s admitted to an honest mistake and apologized for that omission. We stand behind him.”
News organizations usually permit charitable contributions by their employees but frown on any association with causes or organizations their journalists might cover.
Fox News in 2010 prohibited host Sean Hannity from broadcasting his program from a rally held by supporters of tea-party candidates.
An Associated Press report by David Bauder on May 15 was headlined, “ABC Faces Credibility Crisis over Stephanopoulos Donations,” and included the following:
“The story is a threat to Stephanopoulos’ ability to cover politics for ABC, said Mark Feldstein, a veteran broadcast journalist, now a professor at the University of Maryland.
“He seemed mostly to have put to rest fears that he would be too partisan to be a serious television journalist and news anchorman, but he couldn’t have given the Republican Party a greater sword to decapitate him,” said Feldstein, who is writing a book on media scandals.
Aly Colon, a professor of journalism ethics at Washington and Lee University, said he believed it would be best if ABC removed Stephanopoulos from coverage of anything related to the Clintons.
“In today’s environment, many people are truly suspicious of how the news is covered and this just feeds into that suspicion more,” Colon said.
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