By George E. Curry
Like the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the world’s largest philanthropy that primarily funds education, world health and population projects, the Clinton Foundation was established to address such issues as climate change, global health, economic development, health and wellness and problems involving women and girls.
In a crass effort to derail Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign bid, major Republican figures and Fox News, their partner-in-crime, are peddling the idea that there is something inherently wrong with supporting private efforts to improve the world.
As Media Matters observes, they are “falsely equating donations to the Clinton Foundation with contributions to a Democratic political campaign.” The media watchdog group observes, “The foundation is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization, which means it is ‘absolutely prohibited from directly or indirectly participating in, or intervening in, any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for elective public office.’”
Media Matters wrote, “Paul Waldman, an American Prospect senior writer and former Media Matters senior fellow, criticized Politico reporter Dylan Byers for drawing a misleading ‘parallel between donating to a candidate’s campaign and donating to a charitable foundation run by an ex-president.’
“Other media figures have similarly made the false political campaign comparison. Fox News host Gretchen Carlson, Breitbart.com, National Review Online, and HotAir.com, all suggested a donation to the foundation was equivalent to financing Democratic candidates.
“As Waldman explained at The Washington Post, ‘it’s notable that everyone is now treating the Clinton Foundation as if it has long been central to sort of scheme to personally benefit the Clintons, and not a charitable foundation.’ He added that ‘judging by the way the foundation is now talked about – as if anyone who has had any association with it is tainted – you’d think it was running a network of international assassins instead of distributing malaria medication.’”
Partisan critics conveniently neglect to note that prominent Republicans are also generous contributors to the Clinton Foundation.
For example, Rupert Murdoch, founder of the News Corporation Foundation, and his son, James, have given more than a million dollars to the Clinton Foundation. In fact, more than a dozen news organizations have donated to the foundation.
Aside from the overt political attack on the Clinton Foundation, the case of George Stephanopoulos, a former Clinton administration press secretary, illustrates the problems associated with a political operative switching careers in hopes of being viewed as a credible journalist.
Too often TV talking heads are labeled “journalists” when they are anything but. As the American Press Institute notes, “Journalism is the activity of gathering, assessing, creating, and presenting news and information.” In other words, it’s not merely the ability to share one’s opinions.
Stephanopoulos erred by making a $75,000 contribution to the Clinton Foundation, knowing it could call into question his ability to be fair. He compounded the mistake by failing to disclose it to the public. Like it or not, if journalists want to maintain their credibility, they must refrain from participating in overt political acts or behavior that can be perceived that way.
Britt Hume of Fox said, “…if there’s one thing he [Stephanopoulos] needed to do in doing that was to sever any real or apparent ties with the Clintons. Contributing to their foundation is one thing. And now it also turns out that he participated in panels and other events connected to the Clinton Global Initiative. It is a mistake to do that. You want to be seen as independent.”
Evidently, you get a pass if you’re at Fox News.
“Fox News has attacked ABC News anchor George Stephanopoulos for participating in Clinton Foundation-affiliated events, calling it a ‘mistake’ that compromises ‘good coverage,’” Media Matters found. “But Fox News anchor Maria Bartiromo moderated or participated in at least eight [Clinton Global Initiative] events between 2008 and 2013 while at CNBC.”
Yet, Fox is not calling that a “mistake” that compromises “good coverage.”
Judy Woodruff, the co-anchor and managing editor of PBS NewsHour, was criticized for making a paltry $250 donation in 2010 to the Clinton Haiti Relief Fund. She issued a statement, saying: “I made the gift in response to an urgent joint appeal from former President Clinton and then-President George W. Bush for aid to the victims of the Haiti earthquake,” Woodruff explained in an email to the Wall Street Journal. “Seeing the massive loss of human life and the terrible conditions for survivors, I wanted to make a contribution and saw this as a way to do that.”
Yes, “journalists” must walk a fine line, not crossing over into political partisanship. And, yes, they must avoid even the appearance of such activity. But let’s be equally clear: The Clinton Foundation is a highly respected charity, not a political offshoot of Bill and Hillary Clinton.
George E. Curry, former editor-in-chief of Emerge magazine, is editor-in-chief of the National Newspaper Publishers Association News Service (NNPA) and BlackPressUSA.com. He is a keynote speaker, moderator, and media coach. Curry can be reached through his Web site, www.georgecurry.com. You can also follow him at www.twitter.com/currygeorgeand George E. Curry Fan Page on Facebook. See previous columns at http://www.georgecurry.com/columns.