On August 23, the Associated Press tweeted out the following:
BREAKING: AP Analysis: More than half those who met Clinton as Cabinet secretary gave money to Clinton Foundation.
Almost instantly, pro-Clinton pundits, writers, and media outlets—including Matthew Yglesias of Vox, whose two articles I dedicated a not insignificant word count to addressing—began expressing their discontent over what they described as anti-Clinton media bias; a misleading and inappropriate attack on the Democratic presidential candidate. Naturally, the Clinton campaign asked for a retraction.
The tweet generated enough of a backlash that the AP addressed it, calling the wording “sloppy.” But that wasn’t enough for Clinton-friendly journalists, so last week, arguably the most trusted name in news announced it had deleted the offending tweet, and issued an apology:
The Associated Press today is deleting a 2-week-old tweet about Hillary Clinton’s meetings as Cabinet secretary after concluding the tweet fell short of AP standards by omitting essential context. At the same time, we are revising our practices to require removal and correction of any AP tweets found not to meet AP standards, including tweets that contain information that is incorrect, misleading, unclear or could be interpreted as unfair, or having a problem in tone.
As I read this, I could not help but feel a profound sense of disappointment—there was nothing actually wrong with the tweet.
The AP was forthcoming about the fact that the statistic in question came from its own investigation—an investigation which was based on the schedules available, and included only discretionary meetings with private individuals as opposed to those with government officials.
And yet, in an act of bullying, Clinton-friendly journalists dedicated numerous articles to denouncing the AP. The retraction sets a chilling precedent.
What we are seeing is a serious threat to journalism as writers and pundits—many of whom hold themselves up as pinnacles of integrity—are actively working to downplay stories that might be harmful to a particular candidate, and spread campaign narratives.
Below, I’ll show how the campaign and the media have been complicit in angling (often successfully) for softer coverage, and then explore the truth about the Clinton Foundation, which is nowhere near as innocent as Hillary’s mainstream advocates would like us to believe.
Part 1: The Clinton Campaign
Part 2: The Media
Paul Krugman of The New York Times, retweeted the AP's announcement with the caption, “After two weeks of reinforcing a completely false narrative.”
Krugman recently wrote an article titled “Hillary Clinton Gets Gored” which, as one could guess from its emotionally charged title, puts the former Secretary on the proverbial Cross as a victim of sensationalism and “innuendo,” and that is the only reason anyone thinks the Clinton Foundation is anything more than “a big force for good in the world.”
You could imagine the Clintons using the foundation as a slush fund to reward their friends, or, alternatively, Mrs. Clinton using her positions in public office to reward donors. So it was right and appropriate to investigate the foundation's operations to see if there were any improper quid pro quos. As reporters like to say, the sheer size of the foundation “raises questions.”
But nobody seems willing to accept the answers to those questions, which are, very clearly, “no.”
Krugman then wrote a follow up titled, “Why Are the Media Objectively Pro Trump?” in which he haughtily reiterated that journalists should be satisfied as to the Clinton Foundation.
It's not even false equivalence: compare the amount of attention given to the Clinton Foundation despite absence of any evidence of wrongdoing, and attention given to Trump Foundation, which engaged in more or less open bribery—but barely made a dent in news coverage…
And I don't see how the huffing and puffing about the foundation—which “raised questions”, but where the media were completely unwilling to accept the answers they found—fits into this at all.
No, it's something special about Clinton Rules. I don't really understand it. But it has the feeling of a high school clique bullying a nerdy classmate because it's the cool thing to do.
David Brock's Blue Nation Review, which spits out article after article to spin the Clinton controversy du jour, recently published a piece titled, “BREAKING: The Clintons Have a Foundation That Saves Children's Lives,” which actually contains the lines:
UPDATE 8/23/2016: The Clinton campaign has issued a lengthy response to the AP's Clinton Foundation story and its “outrageous” misrepresentations…
Ezra Klein, editor in chief of Vox, has published just one article seriously questioning the Clinton Foundation in the last month—and even then it was not from the author's perspective, but rather explaining why some people have questions. In light of the controversy surrounding Clinton, Klein also released a video which amounted to little more than a campaign ad for the embattled candidate.
Matthew Yglesias, also of Vox, in addition to his two attacks on the AP discussed earlier, in which he dismisses any questions of wrongdoing at the foundation, wrote a piece titled, “Against Transparency,” in which he actually tries to make the case that the email releases which preceded the latest round of inquiries into the public charity prove a need for greater secrecy in government.
Joy-Ann Reid of MSNBC, wrote an article a few weeks ago for The Daily Beast titled “Can President Hillary Survive the Media's Fake Scandals” in which she dismisses the idea that Clinton Foundation donors had greater access to the Clinton State Department.
Joan Walsh of The Nation, tweeted that anyone who “jumped on” the AP's story about Clinton's schedules should be “ashamed” in spite of the veracity of both the actual report as well as the initial tweet.
NBC's Matt Lauer did not ask a single question regarding the Clinton Foundation during his Commander in Chief forum.
Kevin Drum of Mother Jones, has also helped perpetuate the notion that inquiries into the foundation are nothing more than media sensationalism with a condescendingly titled piece: “Sigh. Yet Another Non-Scandal at the Clinton Foundation.”
Amanda Marcotte of Salon, asserted definitively that there was no scandal.
Joe Conason, editor in chief of the National Memo, wrote an article attacking Judicial Watch following its email release, and posted several haughty tweets about the good work the Clinton Foundation does. In one, he went so far as to mock Donald Trump's religion for questioning it.
But these journalists ignore much to arrive at the conclusion that there no story and no need to dig further.
Part 3: The Truth About the Foundation
Author’s note: Lee Fang of The Intercept provides a similar breakdown, but I’ve filled in some of the blanks for the purposes of creating this timeline.
The Clinton foundation is and has been, the Clintons’ greatest political and financial tool for personal advancement, and though the family collects no actual salary from the public charity, it helped build their robust political donor network, gain and maintain access to world leaders, and, most importantly, acquire paid speaking engagements—one of their greatest sources of personal revenue.
Though Mrs. Clinton cut ties with the foundation in 2008 to become Secretary of State, Mr. Clinton maintained his leading role on the charity’s board, ensuring that his wife maintained a financial and political interest, albeit indirectly, in the foundation. In and of itself, such a setup is a prima facie example of a conflict of interest.
Back in April of 2014, the Washington Post reported that two months after Secretary Clinton had helped Boeing secure a $3.7 billion deal to sell aircraft to the Russian government, the aeronautics giant donated $900,000 to the Clinton Foundation.
A year later, in April, 2015, The New York Times reported that after the Clinton State Department approved a deal which gave Russia control of the world’s largest production company, Uranium One, the company’s chairman, by way of his family foundation, donated $2.35 million to the Clinton Foundation, and paid Bill Clinton $500,000 in speaking fees.
Then in July of that year, the Wall Street Journal reported that after Secretary Clinton helped UBS avoid legal trouble with the Internal Revenue Service, the Swiss bank’s involvement with the Clinton Foundation and the Clintons significantly increased. It increased its donations to the charity, and partnered with it on a multi-million dollar project, and it became Bill Clinton’s “biggest single corporate source of speech income disclosed since he left the White House.”
An International Business Times investigation from May of this year, found that foreign nations that donated to the foundation received increases in weapons sales from the State Department, at higher rates than non-donor nations, and defense contractors that donated—or paid Bill Clinton for speeches—received deals authorized by Clinton and the department. From the report:
Under Clinton’s leadership, the State Department approved $165 billion worth of commercial arms sales to 20 nations whose governments have given money to the Clinton Foundation, according to an IBTimes analysis of State Department and foundation data. That figure—derived from the three full fiscal years of Clinton’s term as Secretary of State (from October 2010 to September 2012)—represented nearly double the value of American arms sales made to the those countries and approved by the State Department during the same period of President George W. Bush’s second term.
The Clinton-led State Department also authorized $151 billion of separate Pentagon-brokered deals for 16 of the countries that donated to the Clinton Foundation, resulting in a 143 percent increase in completed sales to those nations over the same time frame during the Bush administration. These extra sales were part of a broad increase in American military exports that accompanied Obama’s arrival in the White House. The 143 percent increase in U.S. arms sales to Clinton Foundation donors compares to an 80 percent increase in such sales to all countries over the same time period.
American defense contractors also donated to the Clinton Foundation while Hillary Clinton was secretary of state and in some cases made personal payments to Bill Clinton for speaking engagements. Such firms and their subsidiaries were listed as contractors in $163 billion worth of Pentagon-negotiated deals that were authorized by the Clinton State Department between 2009 and 2012.
Then in June, ABC News released a story following an email release from the State Department, that after the journalists had contacted the department in 2011 concerning a Clinton Foundation donor, Rajiv K. Fernando, who had ended up on a top secret nuclear security board in spite of having no qualifications in the field (unlike every other member), Clinton’s staff had scrambled to protect her. As it turned out, the emails revealed that it was Clinton’s chief of staff, Cheryl Mills, who had insisted on Fernando’s appointment.
The emails further reveal how, after inquiries from ABC News, the Clinton staff sought to “protect the name” of the Secretary, “stall” the ABC News reporter and ultimately accept the resignation of the donor just two days later…
The newly released emails reveal that after ABC News started asking questions in August 2011, a State Department official who worked with the advisory board couldn’t immediately come up with a justification for Fernando serving on the panel. His and other emails make repeated references to “S”; ABC News has been told this is a common way to refer to the Secretary of State.
“The true answer is simply that S staff (Cheryl Mills) added him,” wrote Wade Boese, who was Chief of Staff for the Office of the Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security, in an email to Mannina, the press aide. “Raj was not on the list sent to S; he was added at their insistence.”
Earlier this month The New York Times reported that State Department emails obtained and released by the conservative group Judicial Watch, suggest that top Clinton Foundation officials were able to get access to the department. Specifically, an exchange between Douglas J. Bland of the foundation and Huma Abedin, Clinton’s top aide, in which the former request assistance in obtaining a special passport for an advisor to Bill Clinton, has raised eyebrows because it reveals close ties between the charity and the government agency.
Could all of these incidents of countries and individuals donating to the Clinton Foundation and benefiting from the Clinton State Department be coincidences? Anything is possible, but, Krugman himself even cites one example of outright nepotism in his article:
Consider the big Associated Press report suggesting that Mrs. Clinton’s meetings with foundation donors while secretary of state indicate “her possible ethics challenges if elected president.” Given the tone of the report, you might have expected to read about meetings with, say, brutal foreign dictators or corporate fat cats facing indictment, followed by questionable actions on their behalf.
But the prime example The A.P. actually offered was of Mrs. Clinton meeting with Muhammad Yunus, a winner of the Nobel Peace Prize who also happens to be a longtime personal friend. If that was the best the investigation could come up with, there was nothing there.
Even setting that aside, as Glenn Greenwald of The Intercept wrote in in his response piece to Krugman, “The fact that quid pro quos cannot be definitively proven does not remotely negate the urgency of this journalism…quid pro quos by their nature elude such proof.”
Part 4: A Dangerous Precedent
What is so upsetting about this situation—where Clinton-friendly journalists appear to believe that only Republicans and the right require scrutiny—is the fact that this great American experiment hinges on an unbiased, independent Fourth Estate. An antagonistic relationship with government and politicians on all sides is healthy. That is precisely why we must have journalists more loyal to the dispensation of newsworthy information than to a candidate. By cutting Hillary Clinton a break, we are setting precedent in favor of opacity that will outlive just one administration. At a certain point, the other shoe will drop.