Independent's Eye by Joe Gandelman
SAN DIEGO, Ca -- Uncertainty, thy name is San Diego.
They say, "Where there's smoke there's fire." Or some say, "They're just blowing smoke." Trust me: there's smoke AND fire around the high-paid host of ABC 's "This Week" and co-host of "Good Morning America" when it comes to having violated a basic tenet of responsible journalists.
Forget about the predictable and tiresome partisan-motivated demonizations and typical 21st snarkiness swirling around Stephanopoulos and look at the facts. This guy gave $75,000 to the Clinton Global Initiative, and then did interviews about the foundation on the air without disclosing his contribution.
Excuse me? Nope, we can't excuse him.
No, this isn't calling for him to resign -- there is tiresome demand-resignation-itus infecting partisans these days -- but can we kindly cut the garbage-ola and the polemics?
That he damaged his credibility even though the scandal-tinged Clinton Global Initiative has done some excellent work around the world is a fact. And those who like Stephanopoulos and his post-Clinton political spokesman press work aren't doing his or their credibility any good by trying to minimize it -- or spin it.
Paul Waldman ran a piece in the Washington Post saying Stephanopoulos just did the right a big favor by giving them an issue and something to blow out of proportion, but that the money controversy "wasn't an enormous scandal."
What Stephanopoulos did was indeed a no-no. It's almost stunning that someone who has been at his level in the political world, knows how some already distrust him due to his ex-employer, knows how our politics works and who's in the journalism big time (ABC just signed him for $105 million for another 5 years) would be so reckless. Shortly after the story broke, PayPal signs showing him and Hillary Clinton began popping up throughout New York City.
Did he ever TAKE Journalism 101?
In July 1973 I started my orientation at Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism to get my masters degree. Three things were said to us within the first week's first days. The Stephanopoulos story touches on all three.
#1: "A journalist is only as good as his sources."
Like many Americans, I was skeptical when Stephanopoulos joined ABC News at the end of Bill Clinton's term after being his campaign director and working in the Clinton White House. But Stephanopoulos proved to be no political hack and won plaudits for his political sourcing in his various roles for ABC News. Like ABC News, I was impressed with his professionalism and gravitas.
#2: When deciding on a story, ask yourself, "Who cares? So what?"
The story's important because he did not disclose the contribution when he interviewed and discussed it. Forget the tiresome partisan hacks who rant about the fact he worked for a politician. Diana Sawyer worked for my late, great San Diego Union editor, Jerry Warren in Nixon's press office when Warren was Nixon's deputy press director. The late Tim Russert was chief of staff for the late Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan.
#3: A journalist must be careful to make sure he is never seen as in any way being politically compromised, paid off with perks, or working or rooting for one side while interviewing the other.
Yes, conservatives ALSO gave to the Clinton Global initiative. I covered the 2010 New York session for my blog The Moderate Voice, and one participant was famous liberal and Democratic partisan -- Laura Bush. But THEY did not do interviews on the Gloval Initiative and THEY had not worked for Clinton. Disclosure is required if there's any possible perception of conflict. As one of my journalism professors jokingly put it: "A reporter must be overtly unbiased."
Stephanopoulos knew he'd be under scrutiny and knows how things can be defined negatively. Stephanopoulos was political dumbopoulos.
But keep in mind, when you hear Hillary Clinton's foes in both parties seemingly suggest the Clinton Global Initiative is nothing but a get together for the rich, or a slush fund for the Clintons, do not believe it. The Global Initiative has done some good work. Those trying to dismiss it as useless are full of baloneyopoulos.
Copyright 2015 Joe Gandelman, distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate.
Joe Gandelman is a veteran journalist who wrote for newspapers overseas and in the United States. He has appeared on cable news show political panels and is Editor-in-Chief of The Moderate Voice, an Internet hub for independents, centrists and moderates. He also writes for The Week's online edition. CNN's John Avlon named him as one of the top 25 Centrists Columnists and Commentators. He can be reached at [email protected] and can be booked to speak at www.mavenproductions.com. Follow him on Twitter: www.twitter.com/joegandelman