On November 2, days before the presidential election, Fox host Bret Baier cited two anonymous sources to issue three explosive claims: The FBI is currently engaged in a “very high priority” investigation of “possible pay-for-play interaction” between Hillary Clinton and the Clinton Foundation that is uncovering an “avalanche” of evidence; the FBI believes with “99 percent accuracy” that Clinton’s private email server was hacked by at least five foreign intelligence services; and that these investigations “will continue to likely an indictment.”
Today, Baier issued an apology that effectively walked back all three claims.
Baier’s original reports were based on “two separate sources with intimate knowledge of the FBI investigations into the Clinton emails and the Clinton Foundation.” In the 24 hours following his initial claims, Fox gave the story more than two hours of airtime, and Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump trumpeted the story on the campaign trail. Meanwhile, several other networks debunked Baier’s reporting. But according to Trump campaign manager Kellyanne Conway, even if Fox’s reporting is wrong, “the damage is done to Hillary Clinton” and the facts don’t “change what’s in voters’ minds right now.”
Below is a comparison of Baier’s original reports, his apology statement this morning, and reporting from other networks.
The Clinton Foundation
Baier’s Original Reporting
Baier repeatedly hyped the magnitude of the Clinton Foundation investigation, calling it “a quote ‘very high priority’” and saying agents “had collected a great deal of evidence,” with “an avalanche of new information coming in every day.” He claimed that the investigation is “far more expansive than anybody has reported.”
From the November 2 edition of Special Report:
The Clinton Foundation investigation is a quote “very high priority.” Agents have interviewed and re-interviewed multiple people about the foundation case, and even before the WikiLeaks dumps, these sources said agents had collected a great deal of evidence. Pressed on that, one source said quote “a lot of it”. And there's an avalanche of new information coming in every day -- some of it from WikiLeaks, some from new emails.
The agents are actively and aggressively pursuing this case. And they will be going back and interviewing the same people again -- some for the third time.
Also from the November 2 edition of On the Record:
BAIER: Here's the deal. We talked to two separate sources with intimate knowledge of what's going on with these FBI investigations. A couple of things, one, the Clinton Foundation investigation is far more expansive than anybody has reported, I think, so far.
Three, the Clinton Foundation investigation is so expansive they have interviewed and re-interviewed many people. They described the evidence that they have as quote “a lot of it.” And there is an avalanche coming every day with WikiLeaks and the new emails. They are quote “actively and aggressively pursuing this case.”
In his apology, Baier said only that the investigation into the Clinton Foundation is “continuing” and that it’s a priority “for those investigators working it.” He nonetheless claimed to “stand by the sourcing on the ongoing active Clinton Foundation investigation” and that Fox is “working to get sources with knowledge of the details on the record.”
ABC News reported that “there has been no change in posture” for the investigation since February, when “prosecutors and senior FBI officials agreed there was no clear evidence of wrongdoing, and that a criminal case tied to the Clinton Foundation could not be made.”
NBC News’ Peter Williams reported that “FBI officials tell me there's been virtually no movement” on the Clinton Foundation inquiry “for the last several months.”
The Clinton Email Server
Baier’s Original Reporting
Baier originally claimed that “we have learned that there is a confidence from these sources that her server had been hacked and that it was about a 99 percent accuracy that it had been hacked by at least five foreign intelligence agencies, and they believe that things had been taken from that.”
In his apology, Baier admitted that “I was quoting from one source about his certainty that the server had been hacked by five foreign intelligence agencies. And while others believe that is probable because of the confirmed hacking of email accounts Secretary Clinton communicated with, as of today there are still no digital fingerprints of a breach no matter what the working assumption is within the bureau. All the time, but especially in heated a election on a topic this explosive, every word matters, no matter how well-sourced.”
Williams reported that there is “no such view” of hacking at the FBI, which has “concluded they couldn't know for sure, but they found no positive proof of any successful hacks.”
A Possible Indictment
Baier’s Original Reporting
In his On the Record appearance, Baier said that the “investigations will continue. There is a lot of evidence. And barring some obstruction in some way, they believe they will continue to likely an indictment.”
In his apology, Baier said that his reference to a “likely” indictment was “a mistake” because “no one knows if there would or would not be an indictment no matter how strong investigators feel their evidence is. It is obviously a prosecutor who has to agree to take the case and make that case to a grand jury.”
ABC News reported that the indictment claim was “inaccurate and without merit.” NBC’s Williams reported that “this idea that there are indictments near or something like that, I am told is just not true.” And according to CNN, Baier’s use of the word indictment was “wrong” because “there is no evidence that any of the Fox stuff is true. That there is nothing close to an indictment. “