George Stephanopoulos now has zero credibility on politics. And if ABC News lets its anchor and political correspondent anywhere near the 2016 presidential campaign, it will have less than zero credibility or journalistic integrity.
ABC News can issue 50 statements like the one it did today saying how it stands behind its co-anchor of "Good Morning America." And Stephanopoulos can address the situation on “This Week with George Stephanopoulos,” the Sunday morning public affairs program he hosts, by falling on his knees and weeping while he begs forgiveness like Jimmy Swaggart on “Nightline."
And you know what? I don’t care.
As a TV journalist and political analyst, Stephanopolous is dead to me – worse than dead to me, in fact, for all the years I gave him the benefit on the doubt that he wasn’t a hopeless ideologue and Clinton devotee. And I will guarantee you that I am not alone in the contempt and revulsion I am feeling for him.
This might not be as bad as the serial lying of suspended NBC anchor Brian Williams, but it could be every bit as damaging to Stephanopoulos’ ability to continue as the face of ABC News -- especially in the political season now starting.
He behaved as badly as his worst enemies on the right side of the political spectrum ever accused him of acting. And why should anyone ever trust him not to be dealing under the table and using the credibility ABC News earned through the hard and honest work of journalists like Peter Jennings to make the Clintons look good and their rivals bad?
Stephanopoulos, a former communications director and senior adviser to President Bill Clinton, confirmed to Dylan Byers of Politico on Thursday that he gave $75,000 to the foundation run by Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton – and didn’t disclose any of it. (The Washington Free Beacon appears to have been the news operation that flushed ABC News and Stephanopoulos out on the donations and into the arms of Politico.)
As Byers reported:
In 2012, 2013 and 2014, Stephanopoulos made $25,000 donations to the 501 nonprofit founded by former President Bill Clinton, the foundation's records show. Stephanopoulos never disclosed this information to viewers, even when interviewing author Peter Schweizer last month about his book "Clinton Cash," which alleges that donations to the foundation may have influenced some of Hillary Clinton's actions as secretary of state.
In a statement to the On Media blog on Thursday, Stephanopoulos apologized and said that he should have disclosed the donations to ABC News and its viewers.
"I made charitable donations to the Foundation in support of the work they’re doing on global AIDS prevention and deforestation, causes I care about deeply," he said. "I thought that my contributions were a matter of public record. However, in hindsight, I should have taken the extra step of personally disclosing my donations to my employer and to the viewers on air during the recent news stories about the Foundation. I apologize."
“Interviewing” is a kind term for what he was doing to Schweizer. I recorded the interview and was appalled by what I saw.
Fortunately for Stephanopoulos and ABC News, it came after the first night of rioting in Baltimore in the wake of the death of Freddie Gray, and I had other concerns.
But I can still hear his shrill attack on Schweizer:
"We've done investigative work here at ABC News, found no proof of any kind of direct action," Stephanopoulos said. "No proof... An independent government ethics expert, Bill Allison, of the Sunlight Foundation, wrote this: ... 'There's no smoking gun, no evidence that she changed the policy based on donations to the foundation.' No smoking gun... No evidence."
For the record, here's the statement from ABC News today:
"As George has said, he made charitable donations to the Foundation to support a cause he cares about deeply and believed his contributions were a matter of public record. He should have taken the extra step to notify us and our viewers during the recent news reports about the Foundation. He’s admitted to an honest mistake and apologized for that omission. We stand behind him."
“An honest mistake.” Are you kidding me?
A guy this politically savvy didn’t think he had to disclose these contributions to his employer or to the people who tune in to ABC News thinking they are getting trustworthy, reliable, impartial and vetted information?
Doesn’t ABC News have an annual ethics statement in which employees are asked about just such conflicts? My company does.
Is there anyone at ABC News who understands and respects journalistic ethics?
Or is it all network spokespersons trying to spin away this huge breach of ethical behavior the way Stephanopoulos once was paid to try and spin away the sins of Clinton?
Maybe Stephanopoulos should go back to work for the Clintons as their communications director -- and give the honest journalists at ABC News a chance not to have their work tainted by his lack of a moral compass.