The problem with George Stephanopoulos’s Clinton-gate mess is that his own words prove him to be both a bully and a hypocrite, as well as abjectly unethical.
Set aside the fact that — if not outed — he would likely never have informed his viewership about his contributions to the Clinton Foundation (and presumably would have continued to grill authors like Peter Schweizer for attacking the pay-for-play Clinton culture). Set aside the fact that, in Clinton Foundation tax-reporting fashion, he “forgot” a $25,000 donation when he initially and erroneously stated that he had contributed $50,000 rather than the actual $75,000. And that he confused the news source that originally discovered his gifts. What we are left with is George Stephanopoulos indicting George Stephanopoulos.
When he attacked Schweizer for a supposed conflict of interest in having been a Bush speechwriter for four months, he assumed that his own much longer tenure as a war-room political flak for Bill Clinton could never impinge on his own objectivity — much less provide the context for his recent donations to the Clinton family foundation.
After all, there are plenty of other charities concerned with AIDS and deforestation to help out. (At least Stephanopoulos did not suggest that he was interested in Haitian relief or Kazakhstani internal development.) And the vast majority of charities surely do not skim 90 percent off the top for travel and overhead expenses, as the Foundation does according to news reports. Routing $75,000 to these worthy causes via the Clintons might have meant that the charities ended up with ten cents on the dollar, or about $7,500 of Stephanopoulos’s money to divide up among them. Had he consulted various adjudicators of charity performance, he could have easily learned that giving to something run by Bill, Hillary, and Chelsea Clinton was not a very efficient way of saving trees and helping those infected with HIV.
So when Stephanopoulos confessed to Jon Stewart in late April that donors who know the Clinton Foundation modus operandi give generously to ensure that, “There’s a hope that that’s going to lead to something,” he was again referencing himself, although not overtly to Stewart. Remember, Stephanopoulos stated that he did not donate to deforestation and global AIDS efforts via the Clintons until 2012, 2013, and 2014. In other words, if Stephanopoulos were to grill Stephanopoulos, he would surely ask why the donations started then and why they went to the Clintons, given that the dates roughly coincide to when Hillary was transitioning out of the State Department and readying her run for the presidency. The obvious inference is that it would be wise for marquee television-roundtable hosts to plan ahead and to line up interviews for the upcoming campaign. Was Stephanopoulos, then, in donating at that time and to that recipient, thinking such an action would “lead to something” such as possible exclusives and better news access to the Clinton campaign?
And when it is reported that Columbia University Journalism School professor Richard Wald intones of the scandal that, “It’s a mistake, and it’s a dumb one, but it’s not a criminal offense; other people have done other dumb things,” one doesn’t know whether to laugh or cry. Wald once worked as “ethics czar” for Stephanopoulos’s own ABC network and, in good Clintonian fashion, is invoking for him the now familiar Bill/Hillary defense of “at least it can’t be proven a crime in a court of law” and “everyone does it.”