Geraldo Rivera claims that he was fired by ABC News in 1985 for a far more modest political donation-related transgression than has landed network anchor George Stephanopoulos in hot water.
Referring to his 30-years-ago career mishap as a “lousy $200 donation,” Rivera declared that Stephanopoulos is in “major trouble.”
George Stephanopoulos admitted yesterday he overlooked disclosing to ABC TV viewers that he donated $75,000 over the past three years to the Bill, Hillary & Chelsea Clinton Foundation. He repeated his apology today on Good Morning America, explaining in part that he should have gone “the extra mile” to avoid the appearance of a conflict of interest.
This revelation is notable in that Stephanopoulos on April 26 conducted a contentious and dismissive grilling of Clinton Cash author Peter Schweizer. The book chronicles huge cash donations pouring into the Clinton Foundation from foreign governments and multinational corporations while Hillary Clinton was Secretary of State.
Clinton critics have speculated that the nonprofit is a slush fund for influence peddling, which the Hillary Clinton presidential campaign has rejected as unfounded.
Before going onto 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.
ABC News is standing behind Stephanopoulos, calling the previously undisclosed $75,000 donation to the charity an honest mistake.
In a Facebook posting today, Rivera claimed he was canned by ABC News merely for the undisclosed $200 donation, although there is more to the story. The Celebrity Apprentice runner-up and self-described “militant moderate” insists that he got in trouble back then for complaining that an ABC exec friendly with the Kennedy family spiked his 20/20 story about actress Marilyn Monroe’s relationship with Bobby and John Kennedy.
“In 1985, after fifteen great years, I was fired by ABC News. The official reason for my firing was a non-disclosed $200 donation to a family friend running in a non-partisan mayoral campaign in New Bedford Massachusetts… The point is ABC treated my undisclosed $200 donation harshly because the network wanted me out for that unrelated reason.”
Now a Fox News correspondent, Rivera argues that Stephanopoulos is receiving special treatment from his former employer.
“Now ABC is bending over backward to minimize and forgive George Stephanopoulos’ $75,000 donation to the Clinton Foundation because he is central to the network’s recent success… By neither informing his employer nor the public of his substantial donations to the Clinton Foundation he undermines his ability to do his job… Money raises the specter of Pay for Play… The donations look like he’s trying to buy continued access to the family he served so loyally as a political operative in the 1990s. Moral of the Story: If Bret Baier, Megyn Kelly, Chris Wallace or Bill O’Reilly made a similar donation to say an educational foundation run by Jeb Bush, liberal wolves would be howling in front of Fox News.”
Rivera amplified his Facebook message on Fox and Friends this morning when he said that “I was at odds with ABC News management. George Stephanopoulos is the darling of ABC News management so they will treat him with kid gloves. They will try their best to protect and preserve him because he is very effective as a broadcaster.”
Appearing on MSNBC’s Morning Joe, New York Times reporter Jeremy Peters seemed to agree with Geraldo.
“…I do not think there is a modern parallel for this, for the person who is the face of the most watched news network in the country to have given $75,000 to an entity that bears the name of a person who is running for president…The appearance is that he was trying to buy access, he was trying to buy an interview and if you are a face – the public face of a news network, that is something that – my bosses certainly would not tolerate… this is really a corporate branding protection exercise. George Stephanopoulos is ABC News, right?… and they can’t afford, from a corporate branding standpoint, to leave him twisting in the wind.”
Given the Stephanopoulos revelation, Clinton Cash author Peter Schweizer wants a do-over, according to what he told FNC’s Sean Hannity last night.
“What ABC could do is let’s do another interview on the Sunday morning show to talk about the contents of the book so we actually get a chance for viewers to hear what’s in the book. That’s the first thing I would ask. Looking at Stephanopoulos’ past, the question to me is really, going into that interview I assumed the relationship with the Clintons was in the past, that he had made this transition into the media and it was a different chapter in his life. These donations, the fact that he’s going to these events, it raises all kinds of questions about that, and I think it’s legitimate for people to look into it. If this was any other political candidate and a reporter doing this, you can bet there would be serious consequences for it.”
Separately, despite the praise that George Stephanopoulos has heaped on the good works of the Clinton Foundation around the globe, only a small portion of the money — perhaps 10 cents on the dollar — collected from donors allegedly goes to charitable endeavors on the ground, according to the Federalist.
“Based on an extensive analysis of the Clinton Foundation’s tax filings, The Federalist found that the organization spent less than 10 percent of its budget on charitable grants in 2013. From 2009 through 2012, it spent less than 15 percent of its budget on charitable grants to other organizations. In 2013, for example, a majority of the Clinton Foundation’s budget was spent on staff salaries, travel, office supplies, and rent.”
In a callback to Stepanopoulous’ reference in this GMA apology about going the extra mile, Daily Beast columnist Lloyd Groves weighed in.
“…It is hard to argue that asking tough questions of a charity’s critic on the air…without bothering to mention that you’ve donated to that charity, is anything other than a serious breach of accepted journalistic standards. Or that letting viewers know about such a potential conflict of interest is ‘going the extra mile.’ Apparently Stephanopoulos still fails to grasp that there is nothing ‘extra’ about what should have been a common-sense disclosure.”
Joe Concha of Mediate reminded everyone yesterday that MSNBC suspended Keith Olbermann for making political donations to Democrats. Concha further maintains that George Stephanopoulos should step down from This Week and that a suspension for a week or two “makes sense.”
Concha added, “[W]hen ABC News’ chief anchor and host of its Sunday morning political talk show donates to the likely Democratic nominee’s charitable foundation and doesn’t reveal that fact before every interview he does with anyone seen as an enemy or competitor of the Clintons, it’s hiding in clear sight an obvious conflict of interest. “
Perhaps the only person happy about the George Stephanopoulos ethical lapse is Bloomberg political reporter Mark Halperin, whose racially offensive, widely criticized interview with U.S. Senator Ted Cruz has now been pushed out of the headlines.
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