Stephanopoulos's Long History of Mixing Journalism and Politics

ABC News anchor George Stephanopoulos is the latest journalist caught in a web of lies and deceit. While NBC News anchor Brian Williams exaggerated and fabricated his own exploits; Stephanopoulos maintained political connections to the Clintons through undisclosed donations to their foundation. His lame apology for his contributions purportedly in support of global AIDS prevention and deforestation is a smokescreen. He could have just as easily contributed to Bono’s foundation, which is also fighting AIDS since, unlike Hillary Clinton, Bono is not running for US President.

Was Stephanopoulos’s conflict simply a minor oversight? A matter of, “I should have gone the extra mile to avoid even the appearance of a conflict”? Or was this a long-standing pattern of a political operative pretending to be a journalist finally reaching the light of day?

In 2010, Politico described a morning conference call tradition between then White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel and his old Clinton White House cronies Paul Begala, James Carville, and George Stephanopoulos. This tradition dated back to the Little Rock war room, active during Bill Clinton’s first presidential campaign, spinning and discrediting scandals like Whitewater or the latest “bimbo eruption” including Gennifer Flowers.

This was hardly a bunch of retired political veterans meeting for coffee and donuts, reminiscing about the good old days. During this time, Emanuel was President Obama’s chief of staff. Carville and Begala were quite active in politics at the time, providing political commentary for CNN and working with the White House and Democratic National Committee to discredit Rush Limbaugh. Stephanopoulos was co-anchor of Good Morning America and host of This Week, both prominent ABC News shows.

Imagine a daily conference call between the White House, political operatives, and a major network news anchor. Any conflict here? Lack of journalistic independence and ethics? Objectively reporting news or simply pitching propaganda?

Yet Stephanopoulos had the gall while interviewing Clinton Cash author Peter Schweizer to question his findings based on Schweizer serving as a “consultant to the Office of Presidential Speechwriting in the White House” over a two-year period. “This is an indication of your partisan interest,” Stephanopoulos reminded Schweizer. Yet no comment about the interviewer’s own “partisan interest.” Not just the Clinton Foundation contributions, but also his participation in a daily conference call with the White House and Democrat political operatives. And his days in the Clinton White House, not as a consultant but as a high level campaign operative, press secretary, and senior policy advisor to President Bill Clinton. Whose wife happens to be running for President. Who has the greater “partisan interest” here?

Imagine Karl Rove as anchor of the Today Show or Meet the Press during a Jeb Bush presidency, grilling the author of a book critical of President Jeb, while not disclosing his own history in the previous Bush White House. On Fox News Sunday today, host Chris Wallace told Rove, “I’ve taken some criticism this week because we have you on this show in 2014, and you were talking about Senate races and you're involved in Senate races.” Yet Rove is a commentator, not a news anchor. As are Carville and Begala, yet it is doubtful that CNN worries about any appearance of conflict. Stephanpoulos is not simply a commentator. He is the chief anchor at ABC News, the face of ABC News, using his position to defend the Clintons and castigate their critics. He might as well be chairman of the Democratic National Committee.

Stephanopoulos isn’t the only one. MSNBC commentator Chris Matthews was Democrat Speaker of the House Tip O’Neill’s chief of staff. The late Tim Russert, anchor of Meet the Press, was Democrat Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan’s chief of staff. Russert was considered fair, appropriate to his role as a new anchor. Matthews is a left-wing commentator on a left-wing cable channel, meaning no expectations of journalistic fairness. What about Stephanopoulos and ABC News?

ABC News is a division of The Walt Disney Company. They are committed to, “integrity, honesty, trust, playing by the rules.” A news anchor hiding his political activities and biases under the pretense of objective journalism demonstrates neither integrity nor honesty. It does not induce trust and certainly flies in the face of any journalistic rules.

ABC News gave Stephanopoulos their full support, calling the incident an “honest mistake.” The same ABC News that fired Geraldo Rivera for making a $200 political donation to a family friend. The Columbia School of Journalism, breeding ground for many elite journalists, has among its goals, “Finding out the truth about complicated situations…and communicating to the public in a clear, engaging fashion.” What would they say about George Stephanopoulos? Give him a high five and look the other way, as did ABC News? Is it any wonder only 6 percent of voters rate the news media as very trustworthy?

Brian C Joondeph, MD, MPS, a Denver based physician and writer. Twitter @retinaldoctor.

ABC News anchor George Stephanopoulos is the latest journalist caught in a web of lies and deceit. While NBC News anchor Brian Williams exaggerated and fabricated his own exploits; Stephanopoulos maintained political connections to the Clintons through undisclosed donations to their foundation. His lame apology for his contributions purportedly in support of global AIDS prevention and deforestation is a smokescreen. He could have just as easily contributed to Bono’s foundation, which is also fighting AIDS since, unlike Hillary Clinton, Bono is not running for US President.

Was Stephanopoulos’s conflict simply a minor oversight? A matter of, “I should have gone the extra mile to avoid even the appearance of a conflict”? Or was this a long-standing pattern of a political operative pretending to be a journalist finally reaching the light of day?

In 2010, Politico described a morning conference call tradition between then White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel and his old Clinton White House cronies Paul Begala, James Carville, and George Stephanopoulos. This tradition dated back to the Little Rock war room, active during Bill Clinton’s first presidential campaign, spinning and discrediting scandals like Whitewater or the latest “bimbo eruption” including Gennifer Flowers.

This was hardly a bunch of retired political veterans meeting for coffee and donuts, reminiscing about the good old days. During this time, Emanuel was President Obama’s chief of staff. Carville and Begala were quite active in politics at the time, providing political commentary for CNN and working with the White House and Democratic National Committee to discredit Rush Limbaugh. Stephanopoulos was co-anchor of Good Morning America and host of This Week, both prominent ABC News shows.

Imagine a daily conference call between the White House, political operatives, and a major network news anchor. Any conflict here? Lack of journalistic independence and ethics? Objectively reporting news or simply pitching propaganda?

Yet Stephanopoulos had the gall while interviewing Clinton Cash author Peter Schweizer to question his findings based on Schweizer serving as a “consultant to the Office of Presidential Speechwriting in the White House” over a two-year period. “This is an indication of your partisan interest,” Stephanopoulos reminded Schweizer. Yet no comment about the interviewer’s own “partisan interest.” Not just the Clinton Foundation contributions, but also his participation in a daily conference call with the White House and Democrat political operatives. And his days in the Clinton White House, not as a consultant but as a high level campaign operative, press secretary, and senior policy advisor to President Bill Clinton. Whose wife happens to be running for President. Who has the greater “partisan interest” here?

Imagine Karl Rove as anchor of the Today Show or Meet the Press during a Jeb Bush presidency, grilling the author of a book critical of President Jeb, while not disclosing his own history in the previous Bush White House. On Fox News Sunday today, host Chris Wallace told Rove, “I’ve taken some criticism this week because we have you on this show in 2014, and you were talking about Senate races and you're involved in Senate races.” Yet Rove is a commentator, not a news anchor. As are Carville and Begala, yet it is doubtful that CNN worries about any appearance of conflict. Stephanpoulos is not simply a commentator. He is the chief anchor at ABC News, the face of ABC News, using his position to defend the Clintons and castigate their critics. He might as well be chairman of the Democratic National Committee.

Stephanopoulos isn’t the only one. MSNBC commentator Chris Matthews was Democrat Speaker of the House Tip O’Neill’s chief of staff. The late Tim Russert, anchor of Meet the Press, was Democrat Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan’s chief of staff. Russert was considered fair, appropriate to his role as a new anchor. Matthews is a left-wing commentator on a left-wing cable channel, meaning no expectations of journalistic fairness. What about Stephanopoulos and ABC News?

ABC News is a division of The Walt Disney Company. They are committed to, “integrity, honesty, trust, playing by the rules.” A news anchor hiding his political activities and biases under the pretense of objective journalism demonstrates neither integrity nor honesty. It does not induce trust and certainly flies in the face of any journalistic rules.

ABC News gave Stephanopoulos their full support, calling the incident an “honest mistake.” The same ABC News that fired Geraldo Rivera for making a $200 political donation to a family friend. The Columbia School of Journalism, breeding ground for many elite journalists, has among its goals, “Finding out the truth about complicated situations…and communicating to the public in a clear, engaging fashion.” What would they say about George Stephanopoulos? Give him a high five and look the other way, as did ABC News? Is it any wonder only 6 percent of voters rate the news media as very trustworthy?

Brian C Joondeph, MD, MPS, a Denver based physician and writer. Twitter @retinaldoctor.