The latest State Department scandal, involving a possible cover-up of sexual misconduct by an ambassador and security officials, was only newsworthy enough to merit one full report each on ABC and NBC's morning and evening newscasts before the two networks moved on. NBC led Tuesday's Today with the "damaging documents" concerning the "possibly illegal...behavior", but ignored it the following morning. NBC Nightly News hasn't even touched the story yet.
ABC arrived late to covering the allegations on Tuesday's World News, but Good Morning America has yet to mention the issue as of Wednesday. CBS broke their scoop on the scandal on Monday's CBS This Morning, and covered it as well on Tuesday and Wednesday.
Chief White House correspondent Chuck Todd filed a full report on the NBC morning show about the "allegations of prostitution and pedophilia, and allegations that those crimes were somehow covered up or not looked into" by the State Department. Todd noted that "NBC News has obtained documents related to ongoing investigations into some disturbing allegations...A State Department memo says the ambassador...'routinely ditched his protective security detail in order to solicit sexual favors from both prostitutes and minor children.'"
Nearly twelve hours later, Jonathan Karl picked up on the story on ABC's World News. The ABC journalist led his report by pointing out that "the State Department is pushing back hard against allegations it thwarted several investigations into sexual misconduct....The embarrassing allegations are contained in an internal memo leaked by a former State Department investigator who blamed senior officials for interfering in the investigations."
Karl also spotlighted how "the memo also cites an investigation of three of Hillary Clinton's security agents, who allegedly solicited prostitutes while on official trips....The State Department says the cases were thoroughly investigated, and the agents were punished with one or two-day suspensions. None were fired because soliciting a prostitute was not considered a fireable offense."
Earlier in 2013, ABC and NBC followed a similar path in their minimized coverage of abortionist Kermit Gosnell's murder trial. The two networks were also slow to pick up on the Justice Department's controversial investigation of Fox News Channel journalist James Rosen.
The full transcripts of Chuck Todd's report from Tuesday's Today on NBC and Jonathan Karl's report from Tuesday's World News on ABC:
MATT LAUER: And we are following this breaking news out of Washington, some serious allegations this morning facing the State Department.
SAVANNAH GUTHRIE: That's right. According to internal State Department memos, the agency might have called off or intervened an investigation into possibly illegal and inappropriate behavior within it's ranks, allegedly to protect jobs and avoid scandals. This concerns a time that Hillary Clinton was secretary of state. We want to get right to NBC's chief White House correspondent Chuck Todd with the latest. Chuck, good morning to you.
[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: State Department Scandal; Were Allegations of Sexual Misconduct Covered Up?]
CHUCK TODD: Good morning, Savannah. You know, there's an old saying in Washington that the cover up is worse than the crime, but in this case both parts of it are disturbing. Allegations of prostitution and pedophilia, and allegations that those crimes were some how covered up or not looked into. So the State Department this morning is having to response to those clams and those investigations of misconduct by State Department officials, including by an ambassador and security agents attached to then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. And the allegations are that these investigations were whitewashed, quashed all together, and that those orders came from high up.
NBC News has obtained documents related to ongoing investigations into some disturbing allegations involving State Department personnel and at least one ambassador. A State Department memo says the ambassador, quote, "routinely ditched his protective security detail in order to solicit sexual favors from both prostitutes and minor children." The memo also says a top State Department official directed department investigators to, quote, "cease the investigation" into the ambassador's conduct. It's just one of what another document describes as, quote, "several examples of undue influence" from top State officials. On Monday, a State Department spokesperson would not confirm specific investigations.
JEN PSAKI: I'm not going to talk about specific cases, but I can say broadly that the notion that we would not vigorously pursue criminal misconduct in a case – in any case – is preposterous.
TODD: A former investigator for the department's Inspector General has complained to Congress and the media that the investigations have not been thorough because of the pressure from those high-level officials.
PSAKI: We take every allegation of misconduct seriously and we look into it.
TODD: It was less than six months ago that another major internal investigation painted Hillary Clinton's State Department in a negative light. That scathing report, on the failed diplomatic security procedures in the aftermath of the Benghazi attack.
HILLARY CLINTON: What difference, at this point, does it make? It is our job to figure out what happened.
TODD: As we noted, the whistle-blower in this case, a member of the Inspector General investigative team at the State Department, she's gone to Congress demanding an investigation and it's our understanding Congressman Ed Royce, a leading Republican on House Foreign Relations, says he does plan on having an investigation. And no doubt hearings are probably going to come soon as well, Savannah.
GUTHRIE: But Chuck, where are we on this? Is it at this point just allegations from one whistle-blower? Have they been substantiated in anyway?
TODD: Well, here's what it is, the whistle-blower says that this report, that the internal investigation having to do with how diplomatic security even investigated these allegations, that's where this scathing report came from. It's how the investigators somehow dropped the investigations, including into this ambassador, and on to some others, including folks that were part of security detail. So the allegations themselves haven't been fully substantiated by us, but this Inspector General whistle-blower believes that the evidence was clear but the problem was the investigation wasn't done in time to find out for sure if this misconduct was happening.
GUTHRIE: More to come on this for sure. Chuck Todd, thank you very much.
06:35 pm EDT
ABC – World News
DIANE SAWYER: And now, back here at home, there have been allegations of a cover-up at Hillary Clinton's State Department – internal memos raising questions that include whether security officers at the State Department solicited prostitutes.
ABC's senior White House correspondent Jonathan Karl has the documents.
[ABC News Graphic: "Embarrassing Allegations"]
JONATHAN KARL (voice-over): The State Department is pushing back hard against allegations it thwarted several investigations into sexual misconduct.
[ABC News Graphic: "Growing Questions: State Department Accused Of A Cover-Up"]
JEN PSAKI, STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESWOMAN (from press conference): Of course, [we] take every allegation of misconduct seriously and we investigate them thoroughly.
JONATHAN KARL: The embarrassing allegations are contained in an internal memo leaked by a former State Department investigator who blamed senior officials for interfering in the investigations. The most explosive allegation was that a U.S. ambassador regularly ditched his security detail to solicit sexual favors in a park near the embassy. The State Department says in thoroughly investigated the charges and concluded they were unfounded.
The memo also cites an investigation of three of Hillary Clinton's security agents, who allegedly solicited prostitutes while on official trips, including a March 2010 trip to Moscow and a June 2010 trip to Colombia, almost two years before the Secret Service got in trouble for the same thing. The memo says the investigator also looked into similar allegations against four other members of Secretary Clinton's security detail, and concluded the prostitution problem was endemic among Clinton's security agents.
KARL (on-camera): The State Department says the cases were thoroughly investigated, and the agents were punished with one or two-day suspensions. None were fired because soliciting a prostitute was not considered a fireable offense.
KARL (voice-over): And the State Department insists its prostitution problem is not endemic.
PSAKI: Last year alone, the detail accompanied then-Secretary Clinton to 69 counties, with more than 10,000 person-nights spent in hotels abroad. So, I'm not going to speak to specific cases, as I said at the onset, for obvious reasons, but it is hardly endemic.
KARL: State Department says some of the investigations are on-going, but insist none of them have or will be interfered with. Jonathan Karl, ABC News, Washington.