George Stephanopoulos has admitted he overlooked disclosing to ABC TV viewers that he donated $75,000 over the past three years to the Clinton Foundation.
The apology nonetheless raises the implication of a conflict of interest in his coverage of criticism leveled against the charitable organization.
Before going into television, Stephanopoulos was the White House communications director for the Bill Clinton administration and is a long-time Clinton insider. He is now ABC’s chief news anchor and co-host of Good Morning America as well as moderator of This Week, an ABC political roundtable which airs on Sunday mornings.
Stephanopoulos initially copped today to giving the Clinton non-profit $50,000 before the additional $25,000 came to light. This disclosure is notable in that Stephanopoulos on April 26 conducted a contentious and dismissive grilling of Clinton Cash author Peter Schweizer (see embedded video below). The book chronicles huge cash donations pouring into the Clinton Foundation from foreign governments and multinational corporations while Hillary Clinton was Secretary of State.
Apparently The Washington Free Beacon dug up the information on the Stephanopoulos donations. The ABC anchor evidently got wind of that, and gave the following preemptory statement to Politico — a platform considered more friendly to Democrats — today.
“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.”
Stephanopoulos has since withdrawn as moderator of an February, 2016, Republican presidential debate on ABC from New Hampshire but will still report on the upcoming presidential campaign.
“The contribution is publicly available information, but the host had not previously disclosed it to ABC viewers, despite taking part in on-air discussions about the Clinton Foundation and its controversial relationship with foreign donors,” the Beacon explained today.
Commenting on the belated Stephanopoulos disclosure that the Clinton Cash critic gave Clinton cash, author Schweizer told Bloomberg Politics that “Really quite stunned by this. [It’s] a massive breach of ethical standards. He fairly noted my four months working as a speech writer for George W. Bush. But he didn’t disclose this?”
Apparently ABC News is not planning any disciplinary action against the anchor.
“He’s admitted to an honest mistake and apologized for that omission. We stand behind him,” the network asserted.
Writing in the Washington Post, constitutional law professor Jonathan Adler observed that “I don’t object to the content of the interview, but I find it problematic that Stephanopoulos thought it relevant to challenge Schweizer based on the identity of his former employers or funders, but did not disclose his own equal (if not greater) conflict. ”
Separately, the Washington Post media column claimed today that “A donation from Stephanopoulos to the Clinton Foundation in any amount constitutes a scandal and an immediate crisis for ABC News… The problem with Stephanopoulos’s donations to the Clinton Foundation is that it gives him a stake — even if it’s a small one — in the operations and success of the charity… Good journalism simply cannot tolerate such a stake.”
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