In the midst of their media feeding frenzy over Michael Wolff’s gossipy and fact-mangling book on the Trump White House, there was another piece of news that broke. On January 4, the FBI announced it had returned to investigating the Clinton Foundation. Yawn. First, they ignored it. Then, they touched on it for half a story, followed by pundits insisting that there is “nothing new,” as if they have access to the factual evidence being sought by the FBI.
Does the “nothing new” response ring a bell? It should.
Last year, some reporters stared at the clear evidence of corporate donations to the Clinton Foundation following State Department actions under Hillary Clinton and claimed there was “no evidence” of a pay-to-play scheme. But let’s explore the depth of their investigations giving them the authority to make such pronouncements. In October, NPR’s Joel Rose acknowledged donors were awarded meetings with Secretary Clinton, “but there's no evidence that big donors got any special favors from the State Department.”
Rose didn’t even bother to look at NPR’s own reports. A few months earlier, NPR’s Scott Detrow laid out the case of the Swiss bank UBS and their problem with the IRS. The tax collectors wanted details about the secret bank accounts of Americans. Hillary Clinton brokered a deal with the Swiss government and the bank; the agreed to turn over a small fraction of the information the IRS sought. Then – presto! – the bank gave about a half million dollars to the Clinton Foundation. UBS also showered Bill Clinton with $1.5 million for a series of speeches.
But there’s “no evidence” of favors.
On January 6, CBS This Morning brought on Kathleen Kingsbury, deputy editor at the New York Times editorial page. “I think that given the fact that there doesn`t seem to be new evidence on the table, the only conclusion we can come to is that this is a political vendetta brought on by the White House,” she blustered. “The FBI looked into these allegations in 2016 and said there wasn`t enough evidence to actually bring charges. So, what’s new now?”
Hillary would have been proud. A perfectly Clintonian summary.
On ABC, Cokie Roberts seconded that emotion: “Whether they've learned anything new is the real question there. Why would it continue now when they've already been investigating it for a good long time? So there is certainly at least a whiff of politics here.”
On January 7, NBC morning anchor Morgan Radford implied bad news for the Clintons was fake news. She asked Chuck Todd: “Break something else down for us, this real versus fake news. We've learned this week about developing investigations into the Clinton Foundation and the author of that controversial dossier, but is this a real investigation or is that just a political sideshow?”
Todd agreed it was a “sideshow.” Whitewater, perjury, pay-to-play – it’s always a “sideshow.”
Journalists would probably excuse their boredom by saying “she’s not president.” But history strongly suggests they would be just as bored (or twice as hostile) to a Clinton Foundation probe if she actually won the election. We can just as easily guess that if Donald Trump had narrowly lost the election, the media would still be investigating his alleged Russian collusion.
Any voter outside the Clinton bubble who negotiated their way around the who-cares media in 2016 could clearly see that the Clintons over the decades filled a 50-car train of scandal baggage. But our “real news” reporters live in perpetual denial.