Busted: FOIA document release shows MSM accepting dictation from Hillary staff
Do you remember back to the time when the constant refrain in the mainstream media was that Hillary Clinton was a great secretary of state? Back before the Benghazi slaughter, before the Russia reset became a bad joke? For some reason, it was constantly bandied about that her globe-trotting in an executive version of the Boeing 757 (just like Trump’s, but presumably minus the gold faucets in the bathroom) made her an effective SecState.
Thanks to J.K. Trotter of Gawker’s Freedom of Information Act requests filed in 2012, we get to peek behind the curtain and see how such fawning coverage is manufactured. It ain’t pretty.
[It’s a] case study in how her prodigious and sophisticated press operation manipulates reporters into amplifying her desired message—in this case, down to the very word that The Atlantic’s Marc Ambinder used to describe an important policy speech.
The emails in question, which were exchanged by Ambinder, then serving as The Atlantic’s politics editor, and Philippe Reines, Clinton’s notoriously combative spokesman and consigliere (snip)
On the morning of July 15, 2009, Ambinder sent Reines a blank email with the subject line, “Do you have a copy of HRC’s speech to share?” His question concerned a speech Clinton planned to give later that day at the Washington, D.C. office of the Council on Foreign Relations, an influential think tank. Three minutes after Ambinder’s initial email, Reines replied with three words: “on two conditions.” After Ambinder responded with “ok,” Reines sent him a list of those conditions:
From: [Philippe Reines]
Sent: Wednesday, July 15 2009 10:06 AM
To: Ambinder, Marc
Subject: Re: Do you have a copy of HRC’s speech to share?
3 [conditions] actually
1) You in your own voice describe them as “muscular”
2) You note that a look at the CFR seating plan shows that all the envoys — from Holbrooke to Mitchell to Ross — will be arrayed in front of her, which in your own clever way you can say certainly not a coincidence and meant to convey something
3) You don’t say you were blackmailed!
One minute later, Ambinder responded:
From: Ambinder, Marc
Sent: Wednesday, July 15, 2009 10:07 AM
To: Philippe Reines
Subject: RE: Do you have a copy of HRC’s speech to share?
Ambinder made good on his word. The opening paragraph of the article he wrote later that day, under the headline “Hillary Clinton’s ‘Smart Power’ Breaks Through,” precisely followed Reines’ instructions:
When you think of President Obama’s foreign policy, think of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. That’s the message behind a muscular speech that Clinton is set to deliver today to the Council on Foreign Relations. The staging gives a clue to its purpose: seated in front of Clinton, subordinate to Clinton, in the first row, will be three potentially rival power centers: envoys Richard Holbrooke and George Mitchell, and National Security Council senior director Dennis Ross.
Ambinder’s toadying got him a “scoop” and helped shape the terms of discussion in other media.
Reines’ strategy worked out nicely. For an article aggregating Allen’s piece, New York magazine quoted his use of “muscular” in the headline, and even commissioned an illustration of Clinton wearing the arms of a body builder.
Eric Wemple of the Washington Post calls the deal “corrupt” and notes:
In a series of remarks to Gawker, Ambinder lamented making the deal. “It made me uncomfortable then, and it makes me uncomfortable today,” said Ambinder. “And when I look at that email record, it is a reminder to me of why I moved away from all that. The Atlantic, to their credit, never pushed me to do that, to turn into a scoop factory. In the fullness of time, any journalist or writer who is confronted by the prospect, or gets in the situation where their journalism begins to feel transactional, should listen to their gut feeling and push away from that.”
Even if you are cynical about the relationship of the Clintons with the media, you probably are not cynical enough.
Hat tip: Ed Lasky