Ed Driscoll

Stephanopoulos Enters into Modified Limited Hangout Phase of Scandal

The Clinton’s man at ABC is boldly going today where Brian Williams has gone before, just a few months ago. As John Nolte of Big Journalism tweets, the Clinton operative with a byline at ABC “deceives his viewers and then offers a terrible apology. Any of this sound familiar, ABC News?”

Lloyd Grove of the left-leaning Daily Beast describes it as Stephanopoulos’ “Passive-Aggressive Non-Apology for Clinton Donation:”

You see, Good Morning America host George Stephanopoulos was just too darned generous to poor kids and AIDS victims.

In a non-apology apology that is unlikely to appease the referees of press ethics, let alone his Republican detractors—and may just baffle morning television viewers who haven’t paid attention to the blossoming scandal within the media-political complex—the former top aide to Bill and Hillary Clinton put the very best face possible on his lapse in judgment in not disclosing $75,000 in donations to the Clinton Foundation when he conducted a contentious April 26 interview with foundation critic Peter Schweizer on This Week With George Stephanopoulos, ABC News’s Sunday show.

Although Stephanopoulos’s case is very different from—and nowhere near as serious as—the embellishments of suspended NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams, his explanation of his mistake on Friday morning was much in the same vein as Williams’s claim last February that he made up a story about a helicopter ride in Iraq simply in an innocent, good-hearted attempt to honor America’s fighting men and women.

Willams wrapped himself in the flag; Stephanopoulos cloaked himself in charity.

Grove concludes:

So if Stephanopoulos really wants to put this issue to rest—and I think he can—he’s going to have to do better than the once-over-lightly treatment he accorded it Friday morning. A “modified limited hangout”—to use Nixon aide John Ehrlichman]s famous phrase during the  Watergate adventure—just won’t do in this case.

I’m not at all sure I agree that Stephanopoulos’s case is “nowhere near as serious as” the Williams debacle. As Nolte wrote yesterday at Big Journalism, “Obviously, Williams is not to be trusted. Nevertheless, other than the Katrina fairytales that were obviously meant to damage President Bush, all of his lies were self-aggrandizing resume-enhancers. What ABC News and their chief political correspondent George Stephanopoulos are guilty of makes Williams and NBC News look like freshly-scrubbed Eagle Scouts.”

In contrast to Williams’ Apocalypse Now and Full Metal Jacket fantasies, Stephanopoulos looks more than ever like the Clinton’s paid fixer at ABC. Add to it, as Nolte writes, ABC censoring The Path to 9/11 miniseries to whitewash President Clinton terrifying decision to avoid capturing Osama bin Laden. Plus Stephanopoulos’s portrayal of the Clinton’s slush fund as a wonderful humanitarian charity (despite earlier telling Jon Stewart, “Nobody gives money to the Clintons without expecting quid pro quo.”) and not disclosing his ties when beating up Clinton Cash author Peter Schweizer over his conflict of interest as a former Bush speechwriter. The result is a credibility disaster for ABC that’s been looming since the late 1990s.

And then consider that NBC let Keith Olbermann — who whatever his myriad excesses, never held himself out as an objective journalist and was the very face of MSNBC — go for a paltry $7200 worth of campaign contributions. And add to it, Geraldo Rivera’s claim today that he was fired from ABC in 1985 over a miniscule $200 campaign donation.

Over a decade ago, Jonah Goldberg noted that one reason why fictional (in this case openly fictional, unlike Stephanopoulos and Williams) TV franchises such as Law & Order, CSI and NCIS continue on waaaay past their freshness date is that in the age of the Internet, the networks are terrified that if they retire a venerable brand name, they’ll lose millions of viewers and never get them back. Beyond his close ties to the Clintons and the Democrat party, does ABC consider George Stephanopoulos to be a brand name that’s too big too fail?

We’ll soon find out; if ABC keeps Stephanopoulos on, they’ll have lost all credibility with half the country. (Not that they care much about that half of the country, which Stephanopoulos knows works in his favor.)

In the meantime, as with NBC while Williams was twisting in the wind, oh to be a fly on the wall of the ABC boardroom between now and Sunday morning:

Update: It gets worse for ABC: “Woman Who Delayed Response to Free Beacon While George Stephanopoulos Scrambled to Plant His Story at Politco Used To Work As Press Contact For… HILLARY CLINTON.”

If you’re an MSM journalist who believes that what Brian Williams did was worse than the corruption at ABC and among Stephanopoulos and his cronies, you’re being willfully blind to protect ABC, Stephanopoulos, and/or Hillary’s election bid.

And even more worse:

As Rothman tweets, “Looks like we get to test the proposition that you can serve as a network anchor even though no one trusts you to cover a POTUS campaign.”