Friday, May 15, 2015




George Stephanopoulos is a very nice person. He is, of all the Clinton loyalists, perhaps the least aggressive and obnoxious in his defenses of the team. It is easy to like him and he has time for young people and those who are not famous, which is an aspect that is underappreciated in famous people. 

But this should not blind us to the fact that he is, and was, and remains a Democratic staffer at heart, he is a Clinton loyalist through and through. When he carries that water he carries it right, which is why he should never have been a Republican debate moderator at all and he should not be one in the future. Luca Brasi owed less to the Godfather than Stephanopoulos owes the Clintons, and when it comes time to send someone to the fishes – as he attempted to do with Peter Schweizer the other day – Stephanopoulos is happy to oblige.

It's one thing to work in politics before moving into a career in media. It's another thing to be presented as a neutral arbiter in a presidential context even as you're giving money to what was essentially a non-profit slush fund for a former and future candidate for president. If you wanted to be fair and balanced about it, you’d have a conservative riding on alongside George Stephanopoulos to balance his liberal opinions with a different perspective. 

But that’s not what the networks do – they allow him to present his agenda-driven questions every week to his guests without any competing voice. There’s nothing wrong with working in politics before you work in media. The problem is that unlike many other staffers-turned-anchors, Stephanopoulos may still be doing politics, not just doing media. It’s just human instinct – you go with what you know, and who you know. Asking Stephanopoulos to remove his Clinton jersey is like asking Tim Russert to root for the Dallas Cowboys.

Jack Shafer weighs in.  “Most politicians cross over to media with the understanding that they will continue their partisan ways. But others, such as Stephanopoulos, Sawyer and Russert agree implicitly and explicitly to leave that baggage behind. In shelling out 75,000 dollars to the politically identified Clinton Foundation, Stephanopoulos has betrayed that compact, torched the journalism-cred he has acquired in the past two decades, and obviously forgotten the lessons in political savvy he learned as a member of Bill Clinton’s inner circle. He knew going into ABC News that his reporting and his personal actions would be extra scrutinized for bias. 

I find it implausible that he did not understand in 2012, 2013 and 2014 (the years he gave the Clinton Foundation cash), that his contributions would be an issue with his employers and his viewers once discovered—even if they were just sitting there buried on a website for anyone to stumble upon.” Could this have all been taken care of with a line from Stephanopoulos disclosing this before talking about the Foundation? Maybe he never thought it would be controversial, but I just don’t see how.

As for Stephanopoulos’s debate recusal, Ted Cruz says he shouldn’t moderate any 2016 debates, not just the GOP ones.  I’m not sure about that. Stephanopoulos is smart and good on TV. What’s more important is his role – perhaps not as moderator, but as left of center questioner, paired with someone from the right? We know he’s for the Clintons. We’ve always known it. But reiterating it in this fashion – putting his money behind them – is the sort of thing that neutral arbiters just don’t do if they want to retain the aura of unbiased coverage.


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