Stephanopoulos and ABC News now in a no-win situation
George Stephanopoulos’s self-recusal from the GOP debates constitutes an admission of his lack of impartiality, but he refuses to take it to the logical conclusion and recuse himself from the presidential campaign. That is going to be increasingly difficult for him and ABC News to defend. If he admits to being tainted, then how can he be trusted to cover Hillary Clinton fairly?
Of course, for the man ABC News has made its principal face, recusal from the biggest story of the next year and a half would be untenable. How could he continue in his role as anchor?
NBC News took its time investigating Brian Williams, but ABC rushed out a declaration of support for Stephanopoulos almost immediately after the donations were disclosed. In fact, after ABC expressed its support, the total amount of donations was amended, from 50 to75 thousand dollars. So when Stephanopoulos came clean, he did not come completely clean.
Who forgets about a 25 thousand dollar donation? Nobody the average American can trust or identify with.
The interview (video here) with Peter Schweizer that Stephanopoulos conducted repeated the Clinton campaign talking points (”no evidence”) repeatedly, and was the most aggressive one that Schweizer faced. It was also a bit deceptive beyond the concealed conflict of interest, as Jeffrey Meyer of Newsbusters pointed out:
The ABC host went so far as to quote a “independent government ethics expert” but didn’t mention he was a beneficiary of far-left billionaire George Soros:
As you know, the Clinton campaign says you haven't produced a shred of evidence that there was any official action as secretary that supported the interest of donors. We’ve done investigative work here at ABC News, found no proof of any kind of direct action.
And an independent government ethics expert at the Sunlight Foundation Bill Allison wrote this. "There's no smoking gun. No evidence that the changed policy based on donations to the foundation. No smoking gun." Is there a smoking gun?
After Schweizer detailed the further investigations that needed to be done regarding the Clinton Foundation, Stephanopoulos dismissed any wrongdoing and merely suggested “but it's not a criminal, nothing that would warrant a criminal investigation.”
Later on, Stephanopoulos suggested Schweizer was merely writing this book to help Republicans go after Hillary for political reasons:
The Clintons do say it's coincidence and as they say you have produced no evidence and I still haven’t heard any direct evidence and you just said you have no evidence that she intervened here. But I do want to ask a broader question. It's been reported that you briefed several Republicans on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee including the Chairman Bob Corker. Did you offer any briefings to Democrats?
As you know, the Democrats have said this is indication of your partisan interest. They say you used to work for President Bush as a speech writer. You are funded by the Koch brothers. How do you respond to that?
Ironic would be the mildest term I could use in describing Stephanopoulos decrying a conflict based on working in a previous regime and mentioning funding while concealing his own conflicts.
Is this all inside baseball that will fade away over time? I suspect not. The reason is that Stephanopoulos is a bona fide celebrity, and will continue to be in the public eye. It will be almost impossible for him to cover the election without people, especially Republicans but also Bernie Sanders, Martin O’Malley, and maybe Elizabeth Warren, paying close attention.
Having in effect disqualified himself part of the way, Stephanopoulos is going to have a hard time hanging onto his position, no matter how reluctant ABC News is to can its leading newsman.
Screen capture via Newsbusters