Video ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF
Loading the player reg...
Loading the player reg...
CNN’s senior media reporter Dylan Byers reported that media outlets criticized an “arguably misleading” story by the Associated Press, where an “inaccurate tweet” promoting the story falsely claimed that “more than half” of the people who met Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton while she was secretary of state had also donated to the Clinton Foundation.
According to the AP’s original review (the story has since been changed) of State Department calendars released to the organization so far, covering roughly half of Clinton’s tenure at State, “[a]t least 85 of 154 people from private interests who met or had phone conversations scheduled with Clinton while she led the State Department donated to her family charity or pledged commitments to its international programs.” The AP promoted this story on Twitter by proclaiming “[m]ore than half those who met Clinton as Cabinet secretary gave money to Clinton Foundation.”
Byers explained that other journalists “noted that Clinton had held thousands of meetings with government employees, foreign representatives, civil leaders, journalists and others while Secretary of State that were not accounted for in the AP's report,” but the AP “is still standing by its story and has yet to correct its tweet, despite near unanimous agreement among other journalists that the tweet, at least, was false.” The AP’s story was also criticized for characterizing Nobel Peace Prize winner Muhammad Yunus, who has been a friend of the Clintons for decades, as little more than a donor asking for help. From Byers’ August 26 report:
Hillary Clinton is surrounded by suggestions of controversy. Terms like "Clinton Foundation," "email server," and "Benghazi" hover around her like a faint smoke that hints at the existence of fire.
But finding the fire -- the lie, the misdeed, the unethical act -- is proving to be rather difficult, as evidenced this week by an inaccurate tweet and arguably misleading story from the Associated Press that were quickly rebutted by the Clinton campaign and dismissed by many media outlets.
Three days later, the Associated Press is still standing by its story and has yet to correct its tweet, despite near unanimous agreement among other journalists that the tweet, at least, was false.
"The AP's social-media take on the story was seriously flawed," David Boardman, the Dean of the School of Media and Communication at Temple University and former editor of the Seattle Times, told CNNMoney. "It's sloppy, click-grabbing shorthand that is a disservice to the reporting to which it refers."
This "extraordinary" finding, as the AP put it, was deemed less extraordinary by other journalists and pundits who noted that Clinton had held thousands of meetings with government employees, foreign representatives, civil leaders, journalists and others while Secretary of State that were not accounted for in the AP's report.
Meanwhile, other news organizations pilloried the AP's report.
The Washington Post Fact-Checker wrote that there were "many more nuanced and important details in the story that are being misrepresented — by the AP's own promotional tweet, and by Trump."
Vox's Matthew Yglesias was more direct: "The AP's big exposé on Hillary meeting with Clinton Foundation donors is a mess," his headline read.
As denunciations of the Associated Press continue to mount, and the wire service tries to defend its wildly misleading report about the Clinton Foundation donors Hillary Clinton met with or talked to while serving as secretary of state, keep in mind the AP now joins a long list of news outlets that have been burned chasing Clinton-related 'scandal' stories in recent years.
Out to prove that Clinton was granting special access to foundation supporters, and that “possible ethics challenges” loomed if she were elected president, the AP announced on Twitter that “half” the people she met with while running the State Department had donated to her family charity. The claim set off a media firestorm, but it was completely false.
Unfortunately, there’s a long tradition of media players practicing tunnel vision in pursuit of hollow Clinton gotcha stories; stories that instantly portray her, sometimes alongside President Obama, as being villainous or deceitful, but turn out to be flat wrong.
Remember in 2015 when The New York Times accused Clinton of having possibly "violated federal requirements" for document retention with her use of personal email for official government business? It turned out that hint of criminality was invented by the Times, as several news outlets subsequently confirmed.
In 2013, ABC News’ Jonathan Karl got duped by a (likely Republican) source regarding the contents of White House emails discussing the formulation of talking points in the wake of the Benghazi terror attack. Going off bad intel, the ABC exclusive accused the administration of having "scrubbed" vital information from the talking points, which sparked a media frenzy. (Karl later expressed “regret” for the flaws in the report.)
That same year, CBS’ Lara Logan presented a bogus Benghazi investigation on 60 Minutes that relied on a supposed eyewitness to the terror attack; an eyewitness who previously told the FBI he had been nowhere near the U.S. diplomatic compound on the night of the killings. (The “witness” also told Logan he had scaled a twelve-foot high wall during the attack in order to bash a terrorist in the face.)
Now the AP joins that list.
I will note that unlike the New York Times, ABC News and CBS News examples cited above, the AP’s donor story this week did not revolve around false information. Instead, the AP chose to present information in a demonstrably misleading and unfair way, generating a firestorm of media coverage and dishonest campaign attack lines from Donald Trump.
Caveat: In its “BREAKING” tweet promoting the story, the AP did push categorically false information about Clinton and foundation donors. The AP tweet announced, “More than half those who met Clinton as Cabinet secretary gave money to Clinton Foundation.” But the AP’s own article contradicted that claim: The “half” represents a minor subset of people who met with or talked to Clinton. The brazenly false tweet, designed to generate controversy, still hasn’t been corrected or deleted by the AP.
Overall, the AP misfire seemed to be fueled by a newsroom desire to document Clinton malfeasance where none exists, or to ring the optics warning bell. “That is basically what most every drummed up ‘scandal’ against Hillary Clinton comes down to: from the perspective of the people judging her – it looks bad,” wrote Nancy LeTourneau at Washington Monthly in the wake of the APs’ failed donor story. “The AP blew their story,” she added.
LeTourneau wasn’t alone in coming to that conclusion.
The nut fact that the AP uses to lead its coverage is wrong, and [Stephen] Braun and [Eileen] Sullivan’s reporting reveals absolutely no unethical conduct … There’s just nothing here. That’s the story. Braun and Sullivan looked into it, and as best they can tell, [Clinton’s] clean.
Its entire premise was built on the kind of tendentious data-shaping that is the bread and butter of opposition researchers, not news outlets.
And Inside Philanthropy [emphasis added]:
Look, I get that the media doesn’t yet grasp how enmeshed our “charitable” sector has become in politics and public policy, since it's complicated and opaque stuff. But reporters like Stephen Braun and Eileen Sullivan should do their homework before writing about places where these two paths meet, like the Clinton Foundation, in order to provide more context. Otherwise, they’re just being irresponsible.
That last critique hit upon the glaring fact that the AP provided virtually no context for its Clinton hit piece. Rather than showing how Clinton’s contact with donors was “extraordinary,” the AP simply stated that as fact. That, along with plenty of innuendo, was supposed to convince readers that there was something very wrong with Clinton meeting with or speaking to 85 foundation donors over her days as secretary of state.
Here’s the key: The AP’s face-plant this week wasn’t a one-off instance of a newsroom temporarily losing its way and editors inexplicably okaying for publication an investigation that stridently tried to skew the facts. This is what happens all the time with Clinton coverage. The press is absolutely locked into a GOP-friendly mindset.
As Matthew Yglesias suggested at Vox, AP reporters and editors, using the exact same information they uncovered about Clinton’s visitors, could have written a factually accurate article about how, despite what her critics loudly claim, there’s no proof Clinton sold access, let alone favors, to foundation donors. Instead, the AP, adhering closely to accepted Beltway storylines, used the same information to depict Clinton as being ethically challenged, even though the AP’s own donor reporting didn’t support that conclusion.
Note that the AP’s blunder has been part of a renewed media frenzy about the foundation and its supposedly crooked ways. The press has defended its hyper-attention under the guise of conflict-of-interest concerns about the Clinton charity and Hillary Clinton’s possible presidency. But if the press suddenly can’t sleep at night knowing conflicts of interest might be lurking, why has almost nobody in the media asked if the Trump Foundation is going to be “shut down” if Donald Trump is elected president? Why has the Beltway press been virtually silent about the obvious conflicts looming if Trump hands over his sprawling business enterprise to his sons while he serves as president?
Why is there always a separate, higher standard the Clintons have to meet? And why do news outlets like the Associated Press, and The New York Times, and ABC and CBS, routinely engage in dishonest endeavors in the name of chasing so-called Clinton scandals?
As Dylan Byers announced last year at Politico, the D.C. press seems “primed to take down Hillary Clinton.” The AP did nothing this week to disrupt that claim.
Media are attempting to scandalize a report from The Associated Press that revealed that “[m]ore than half the people outside the government who met with now-Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton while she was secretary of state gave money ... to the Clinton Foundation,” calling the report “breathtaking” and “disturbing,” because it “looks bad,” and the “optics” and “perceptions” are problematic, despite the fact that their programs also note that “it wasn’t illegal,” and there was no quid pro quo. The focus on the “optics” of the situation rather than the facts has led some in media to criticize the reporting, and explain that “consumers of the media [should] think twice about whether or not the narrative” media are pushing “fits ALL of the facts.”
The "Scandal" Requires Reducing International Business And Non-Profit Leaders To "Clinton Foundation Donors"
The Associated Press is reporting that “more than half the people outside the government who met with Hillary Clinton while she was secretary of state gave money - either personally or through companies or groups - to the Clinton Foundation” and scandalizing the information as “an extraordinary proportion indicating her possible ethics challenges if elected president.” That report is currently rocketing through the media.
This level of media hysteria would make sense if favors were being granted to individuals because they were donors. But that speculation falls apart when the story gets down to specific cases, because many Clinton Foundation donors are internationally prominent figures in the business or non-profit worlds – the very sort of people one would expect to be meeting with a secretary of state in any administration.
According to the AP’s review of State Department calendars released to the organization so far, covering roughly half of Clinton’s tenure at State, “[a]t least 85 of 154 people from private interests who met or had phone conversations scheduled with Clinton while she led the State Department donated to her family charity or pledged commitments to its international programs.”
So who are these Clinton Foundation donors that the AP notes met with Clinton? Famed Bangladeshi economist Muhammad Yunus is one, and eleven paragraphs of the AP story detail meetings and interactions between the internationally known figure and Clinton and her staff over assistance he sought that was first reported last October.
Yes, Yunus-controlled organizations have donated between $125,000 and $300,000 to the Clinton Foundation, mostly as annual fees to attend Clinton Global Initiative meetings. But it’s completely absurd to suggest that “Clinton Foundation donor” is a major part of Yunus’ identity, or the reason why he might command attention from the secretary of state.
As the AP notes, Yunus “won the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize for pioneering low-interest ‘microcredit’ for poor business owners.” He is a recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom. He is incredibly well-credentialed and almost universally celebrated. According to the Financial Times, beginning in 2007, tensions began between Yunus and Bangladesh’s government when Yunus “suggested he might establish his own political party to clean up Bangladesh’s public life.” Yunus was ultimately forced out of his managing director position at Grameen Bank in 2011 just months after the prime minister publicly denigrated microlenders as “bloodsuckers of the poor.” During that period, Clinton repeatedly received requests for help from Yunus, spoke with him on the phone, and after he was ousted met with him and publicly urged the government to halt their efforts to “seize control of Grameen Bank's effort to find new leaders.”
And this wasn’t Clinton’s first encounter with Yunus - the Clintons have ties to the economist that go back decades before the foundation even existed. They brought Yunus to Arkansas in 1983 to learn more about how microfinance could be used in the state, and Bill Clinton talked about his work during his 1992 presidential campaign.
Politico’s Blake Hounshell pointed out the oddity of portraying Yunus as a “Clinton crony” rather than a victim deserving of Clinton’s aid:
BTW, it is weird to present Muhammad Yunus as a Clinton crony rather than a victim of Bangladeshi gov’t persecution https://t.co/8zABW76Rxh
— Blake Hounshell (@blakehounshell) August 23, 2016
In addition to Yunus, here are the other people who met with Clinton detailed in the report:
All are Clinton Foundation donors or work for organizations that have donated to the Clinton Foundation. But they are also exactly the sort of people you would expect to meet with any secretary of state. The suggestion of malfeasance only makes sense if you ignore any reason Clinton could have to meet with these individuals other than their status as donors to an international charity.
Associated Press Explains That Report Only Includes Her Meetings With People Outside The Government
Fox News personalities deceptively cited an Associated Press report to claim that half of all of Hillary Clinton’s visitors during her tenure as secretary of state were donors to the Clinton Foundation. But the AP only included her meetings with people “outside the government,” and the report made clear that her actions do not appear to violate the law.
A review of State Department calendars showed “at least 85 of 154 people from private interests who met or had phone conversations scheduled with Clinton … donated to her family charity or pledged commitments to its international programs,” according to a review of State Department calendars released so far to The Associated Press.
Fox News argued the report was proof of “influence peddling,” claiming it found over 50 percent of all Clinton’s meetings at the State Department were with Clinton Foundation donors. Stuart Varney, guest host of Your World with Neil Cavuto, called the AP report “clear evidence” of “a round robin of influence peddling” because Clinton “holds meetings half the time” with donors:
STUART VARNEY (HOST): This late report from the AP, roughly half the people who had meetings with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had contributed money to the foundation. That is clear evidence, it seems, of influence peddling, doesn't it? You can't laugh that off, can you?
You give money to a foundation. The foundation is headed by the Clintons. Hillary Clinton is secretary of state. She holds meetings half the time with with people who have given money to the foundation. That's a round robin of influence peddling.
The AP report makes clear that the meetings “do not appear to violate legal agreements Clinton and former President Bill Clinton signed before she joined the State Department in 2009.” Additionally, AP explains that 154 meetings “did not include U.S. federal employees or foreign government representatives”:
More than half the people outside the government who met with Hillary Clinton while she was secretary of state gave money - either personally or through companies or groups - to the Clinton Foundation. It's an extraordinary proportion indicating her possible ethics challenges if elected president.
At least 85 of 154 people from private interests who met or had phone conversations scheduled with Clinton while she led the State Department donated to her family charity or pledged commitments to its international programs, according to a review of State Department calendars released so far to The Associated Press.
The meetings between the Democratic presidential nominee and foundation donors do not appear to violate legal agreements Clinton and former president Bill Clinton signed before she joined the State Department in 2009.
The 154 did not include U.S. federal employees or foreign government representatives. Clinton met with representatives of at least 16 foreign governments that donated as much as $170 million to the Clinton charity, but they were not included in AP's calculations because such meetings would presumably have been part of her diplomatic duties.
CBS This Morning was the only network or cable morning news show to detail new reports on Paul Manafort’s work in support of Ukraine’s previous pro-Russian government. Several print and digital outlets had produced devastating reports that Manafort -- former campaign chairman for Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump -- received potentially illegal payments, that he worked to influence U.S. opinion of the pro-Russian Ukrainian government, and that he helped set up protests against NATO troops including U.S. service members.
Former New York City mayor and Trump supporter Rudy Giuliani falsely claimed that in the “eight years before Obama came along, we didn’t have any successful radical Islamic terrorist attack in the United States,” pushing a false right-wing media narrative that there were no terror attacks during the Bush administration.
Right-wing media figures reacted to the July 7 shooting attack of 12 Dallas police officers with unhinged conspiracy theories and racially charged rhetoric.
Media outlets have had to correct numerous reports on Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server while secretary of state due to flawed journalistic processes that favored anonymous sourcing and failed to prioritize accuracy. With the FBI calling for no criminal charges following its probe into the use of the server, Media Matters looks back at nine corrections from seven different publications.
Conservatives have just lost their excuse to question the results of the investigation relating to Hillary Clinton’s email server, which legal experts say lacks a “legitimate basis” to charge Clinton with crimes. Right-wing media figures have ignored those experts to suggest that if the investigation does not result in a Clinton indictment, it must be politically tainted. But Attorney General Loretta Lynch affirmed that she will “be accepting the recommendations” made by “career agents and investigators” and FBI Director James Comey in the case, and conservative media have spent months lauding Comey’s “impeccable integrity” and ability to impartially conduct the investigation.
Several media outlets falsely reported that the final report released by Republicans on the House Select Committee on Benghazi contained “new information,” when in fact all of the “key findings” in the report had been previously reported. Committee Republicans reportedly released “embargoed ‘exclusives’” strategically to manipulate reporters into presenting details in the releases as new information.
After nearly four years of right-wing myths about the September 2012 attack on an American diplomatic compound and CIA compound in Benghazi, Libya, and as Republicans and Democrats on the House Select Committee on the attacks release their reports, Media Matters has compiled a list of more than 50 myths and facts regarding the origin of the attack, the security surrounding the compounds, the Obama administration’s handling of the attack during and after its occurrence, attacks on then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and other lies and misinformation regarding the Benghazi attack.
On June 25, 1938, President Franklin Roosevelt signed the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) into law and established the first nationwide minimum hourly wage. The relative value of the minimum wage has fluctuated considerably over time, but it has steadily eroded since reaching an inflation-adjusted peak in 1968 -- the $1.60 per hour wage that year would be worth roughly $11.05 today. For several years, in the face of a growing movement to lift local, state, and federal minimum wages to a livable standard, right-wing media opponents have frequently promoted a number of misleading and discredited myths about the minimum wage’s economic effects.
After presumptive GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump said clubgoers at Pulse nightclub in Orlando, FL, where a gunman killed 49 people June 12, should have been carrying guns, many media outlets noted that Trump had staked out a position on guns in bars that was even more extreme than the National Rifle Association’s.
Several media outlets, however, also incorrectly reported that the NRA opposes guns in bars generally.
In fact, for years the NRA has made state-level efforts to allow concealed guns to be carried in bars so long as the person with the gun does not consume alcohol. The alcohol prohibition would largely operate on an honor system, as most concealed carry laws require that the gun remain concealed at all times unless being used for lawful self-defense or some other legal purpose.
On June 17, Trump said while discussing the Orlando mass shooting, “If some of those wonderful people had guns strapped right here -- right to their waist or right to their ankle -- and … one of the people in that room happened to have it and goes 'boom, boom,' you know what? That would have been a beautiful, beautiful sight." (Trump later dishonestly claimed he was referring only to the arming of employees or security guards.)
Two NRA officials were asked about Trump’s remark during Sunday show appearances on June 19. NRA Institute for Legislative Action executive director Chris Cox said people drinking in clubs should not carry guns while NRA executive vice president Wayne LaPierre said, “I don’t think you should have firearms where people are drinking.” The NRA later clarified that LaPierre was expressing opposition only to people drinking while carrying guns in bars.
So while Trump’s position is further out there compared to the NRA’s position, the NRA’s position itself is out of the mainstream.
Several outlets misreported the NRA’s extreme position in guns in bars, amid confusion over both Trump and LaPierre attempting to “clarify” remarks made about guns in bars:
USA Today: “But NRA officials said Sunday that having armed patrons in bars with alcohol was not such a good idea.”
NBC’s Peter Alexander on the June 20 broadcast of Today: “Trump’s argued that if more people at that Orlando nightclub were armed with guns strapped to their waist, and that they fired back at the shooter, the carnage would have been much less. But even the NRA pushed back against that, insisting it does not believe people should carry guns in drinking establishments.”
Associated Press: “Donald Trump is backtracking from his contention that victims of the Orlando massacre should have been allowed to carry arms into the nightclub where they were attacked -- a stance even the NRA says is untenable.”