Fox News’ Sunday shows continued to hype the claim by the conservative group Judicial Watch that Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton gave favors to a Clinton Foundation donor when she was secretary of state. The Fox reports ignored that the emails provide no evidence of the donor seeking to benefit from the State Department and that the person the donor asked to meet has “never met nor spoken” with him.
Conservative Group Judicial Watch Claims Emails Prove Clinton Foundation “Worked To Reward Its Donors” With State Department Access
NY Times: Emails Released Showing Clinton Foundation Official Facilitating Donor Meeting With Ambassador. The conservative group Judicial Watch released an email dump they claimed shows the Clinton Foundation “worked to reward its donors with access and influence at the State Department” while Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton was secretary of state. One of the email exchanges shows Doug Band, an aide to both Bill Clinton and the Clinton Foundation, in 2009 emailing Clinton aide Huma Abedin asking that a foundation donor, Gilbert Chagoury, have a chance to speak with then-U.S. Ambassador to Lebanon Jeff Feltman. From an August 9 Times article:
A new batch of State Department emails released Tuesday showed the close and sometimes overlapping interests between the Clinton Foundation and the State Department when Hillary Clinton served as secretary of state.
In one email exchange, for instance, an executive at the Clinton Foundation in 2009 sought to put a billionaire donor in touch with the United States ambassador to Lebanon because of the donor’s interests there.
In April 2009, Douglas J. Band, who led the foundation’s Clinton Global Initiative, emailed Ms. Abedin and Cheryl D. Mills, another top adviser to Mrs. Clinton, for help with a donor.
Mr. Band wrote that he needed to connect Gilbert Chagoury, a Lebanese-Nigerian billionaire who was one of the foundation’s top donors, with someone at the State Department to talk about his interests in Lebanon.
“It’s jeff feltman,” Ms. Abedin answered, referring to Jeffrey Feltman, who was the American ambassador to Lebanon at the time. “I’m sure he knows him. I’ll talk to jeff.” [The New York Times, 8/9/16]
Fox Sunday Shows Hype Claim That Clinton Foundation Donors Were “Getting Favors From The State Department”
MediaBuzz: “Clinton Foundation Lobbied State Dept.” Fox News media analyst Howard Kurtz said on his show MediaBuzz that “Previously secret emails reveal[ed] a cozy, favor-seeking environment between Hillary Clinton’s State Department and the folks at the Clinton Foundation.” Panelist and reporter for the Washington Examiner Lisa Boothe claimed that the media are “absolutely covering up for Hillary Clinton” and inaccurately claimed that “there is an investigation into public corruption charges with the Clinton Foundation.” Throughout the segment, an on-air graphic read, “Hillary Emails Overshadowed? Clinton Foundation Lobbied State Dept.” From the August 14 edition of Fox News’ MediaBuzz:
HOWARD KURTZ (HOST): It has all the elements of a big story. Previously secret emails revealing a cozy, favor-seeking relationship between Hillary Clinton’s State Department and the folks at the Clinton Foundation.
KURTZ: Do you believe the media are intentionally playing down these emails, or is it just that the story has been simply overshadowed by all of the controversies that swirl around [Donald] Trump?
LISA BOOTHE: I think that they're absolutely covering up for Hillary Clinton. You look at ABC, CBS --
KURTZ: Covering up is a strong charge.
BOOTHE: I stand by it. I think that you look at the coverage of ABC, CBS, and NBC, they gave two times more coverage to the Trump tower climber than they did these new revelations on Hillary Clinton’s emails. Hillary Clinton is the only presidential candidate to have two FBI investigations, one on her email server and now this new revelation that there is an investigation into public corruption charges with the Clinton Foundation. She has quite literally put our national security at risk, potentially risking lives as well, with the information that’s based on her server, but somehow this hyperbole and rhetoric gets more attention than actions that have put our nation at risk.
KURTZ: Would you agree that some news outlets, including the big newspapers and cable news networks, have covered the story in some substantial detail?
BOOTHE: I think to an extent, but not enough. I mean, she has faced two FBI investigations and she's the Democratic nominee. That is mind-boggling to me.
KURTZ: What jumped out at me, Heidi, is the way that there was a big donor, a foreign guy who wanted to get a meeting with someone at the State Department, and suddenly Hillary's top aides are at it. I think the meeting never ended up taking place. But was the news value here undercut at all by the fact that there was no incriminating email that was released, at least in this round, written by Hillary Clinton herself?
HEIDI PRZYBYLA: It's involving her aides but they are her closest aides, right? Huma Abedin --
KURTZ: Huma Abedin and Cheryl Mills. [Fox News, MediaBuzz, 8/14/16]
Fox’s Chris Wallace: “You Don’t Have A Problem With Big Donors To The Foundation Getting Favors From The State Department?” Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace asked Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO), “you don’t have a problem with big donors to the foundation getting favors from the State Department?” After McCaskill clarified that the donor was offering information, Wallace responded, “We don’t know if that’s true.” From the August 14 edition of Fox News Sunday:
CHRIS WALLACE (HOST): Well, let's take a look at that second case that you're talking about. This involves a fellow named Doug Band who was a top official at the Clinton Foundation. He emails Huma Abedin, one of Secretary Clinton's closest aides, to arrange for Gilbert Chagoury, who contributed at least $1 million to the foundation, to talk to a top U.S. official. Senator McCaskill, you don't have a problem with big donors to the foundation getting favors from the State Department?
SEN. CLAIRE MCCASKILL: Well, first of all, all this gentleman wanted to do was give information. He was asking for nothing. He thought he had valuable information he wanted to give.
WALLACE: But we don't know that. That's what Gilbert Chagoury says. Gilbert Chagoury’s a fellow who has been in trouble with the law, had to give back millions of dollars. He says he wanted to talk to tell them about what his insight into the election in Lebanon. We don't know if that's true.
MCCASKILL: Well, we do know this. We know there's no evidence based on what the State Department has said in the last few days, based on all of the investigations that have been done around an unprecedented release of emails in government, that there are no laws that have been broken. There is no evidence there was any pay-to-play. [Fox Broadcasting Co., FoX News Sunday, 8/14/16]
Chris Wallace: Emails “Seem To Indicate A Cozy Relationship Between” Clinton Foundation Donors And The State Department. On the August 14 edition of FOX News Sunday, Wallace said the emails “certainly seem to indicate a cozy relationship between the Clinton Foundation and big donors there and Hillary Clinton’s State Department.” Wallace also suggested that “part of the problem” with Hillary Clinton was that “the links between” the foundation and Clinton’s work as secretary of state presented a problem. From the August 14 edition of Fox News Sunday:
CHRIS WALLACE (HOST): Then there’s Hillary Clinton and these latest emails, which certainly seem to indicate a cozy relationship between the Clinton Foundation and big donors there and Hillary Clinton’s State Department.
WALLACE: Let me just pick it up though on the foundation, because that was the new news this week. One case, Doug Band, who was, as we pointed out, a top official at the foundation, the Clinton campaign says well, no, no, he wasn’t working there, he was working as a personal aide -- which he was also, to President Clinton -- not in his role as a top official of the foundation and not as the head of the Clinton Global Initiative, but isn’t that part of the problem, that this public and private all got mixed up?
BOB WOODWARD: Of course. But, I mean, the emails all go together. It’s not just the Clinton Foundation. What’s on her personal email server? I mean, look at thousands of things that were not turned over. You find Democrats talking to reporters who cover national security asking do you know anything? What's going on? They're holding their breath that there might be something here that would be damaging to her candidacy and even worse, damaging to the national security.
WALLACE: We asked you for questions for the panel and we asked about the Clinton Foundation. We got this on Twitter from John Carney. He tweeted, “Why did Justice Department not pursue this about the links to the Clinton Foundation. Was Obama giving Clinton another free pass?” George, how do you answer John? And do you think the links between, the nexus between the foundation, the Clinton Global Initiative, the big fees for the Clintons' speeches, and her work as secretary of state is going to be a problem for her in this campaign?
GEORGE WILL: It will be if the media makes it such. That is, the IRS scandal, the defining scandal of this administration, the suppression of advocacy by conservative groups, simply died from media lack of interest. You used the phrase a moment ago, Chris, that the public and private got tangled up. Hillary Clinton looks at the world through the lens of progressivism. A progressive believes that the government should be everywhere and in everything, that everything is political. A natural consequence of progressivism is a blurring of, ultimately the erasure of, the distinction between the public and private spheres of life. Therefore, it is natural to flow from that that you would send a State Department employee to New York to work on foundation business, that foreign governments with interests in the State Department would give to the foundation, and that things would get tangled up. [Fox Broadcasting Co., Fox News Sunday, 8/14/16]
But The Evidence Doesn’t Support Fox’s Story
There Is No Evidence That Clinton Foundation Donor Chagoury Was Seeking Financial Benefit From The State Department. The email exchange provided no evidence that Band attempted to secure a meeting for Chagoury with someone at the State Department to discuss “his interests in Lebanon.” Band gave no explanation for why Chagoury wanted to speak to a “substance person re Lebanon.” A fact sheet distributed to surrogates by the Clinton campaign states that Chagoury, who is of Lebanese descent, “was simply seeking to share his insights on the upcoming Lebanese election with the right person at the Department of State for whom this information might be helpful. In seeking to provide information, he was not seeking action by the Department.” [Media Matters, 8/10/16]
Then-U.S. Ambassador To Lebanon Confirmed He Never Spoke With Clinton Foundation Donor Chagoury. Then-U.S. Ambassador to Lebanon Jeff Feltman, who was the “substance person” Chagoury was to speak with, told CNN that he has “never met nor spoken with Mr Chagoury” and was not even “aware of the proposal that he speak to me until this email exchange was released.” From an August 10 article:
“We need Gilbert Chagoury to speak to the substance person re Lebanon,” Band wrote. “As you know, he's a key guy there and to us and is loved in Lebanon. Very imp.”
“It's jeff feltman,” Abedin responded, referring to Jeffrey Feltman, who was the US ambassador to Lebanon at the time. “I'm sure he knows him. I'll talk to jeff.”
Feltman told CNN Wednesday that he never met with Chagoury.
“I have never met nor spoken with Mr Chagoury. I was not aware of the proposal that he speak to me until this email exchange was released, but in any case we never spoke,” he said. [CNN.com, 8/10/16]