Commentary

Stephanopoulos Debacle Reveals Politicos And Journos Are Too Chummy

The George Stephanopoulos debacle now unfolding at ABC News is a symbol of the inappropriate chumminess that has set in between a certain class of journalists in this country and the people they are supposed to cover.

The fact that Stephanopoulos -- considered one of the top one or two stars of ABC News (the other being anchorman David Muir) -- would donate tens of thousands of dollars to a foundation run by the nation’s most powerful political couple is such a gross misjudgment that the criticism being leveled at Stephanopoulos and ABC seems wholly justified.

It does boil down to one key question: How can Stephanopoulos be in position to serve as the face of ABC’s political coverage going into a presidential election season in which his friends the Clintons are playing a huge part -- with one of them, Hillary -- seeking the presidency?

The answer would seem to be: He can’t, because so many viewers and media watchdogs will be searching his face and parsing his questions to try and detect instances where he might be favoring the Clintons and their point of view, while watching the interviews he’ll be assigned to conduct on “Good Morning America” and the Sunday morning show “This Week” with candidates of both parties. 

First and foremost, the powers that be at ABC News should be intelligent enough to realize that Stephanopoulos cannot now be seen interviewing either Hillary or Bill Clinton. I mean, how are those conversations supposed to start -- with Hillary or Bill thanking their pal George for his largesse?

For all we know, Stephanopoulos gave so generously to the Clinton Foundation because he truly believes in the foundation’s charitable activities. He might also believe he can maintain his journalistic objectivity despite his ties to the Clintons. The problem is that none of that really matters here. Going forward, Stephanopoulos can strive to be the most impartial interviewer the world has ever seen, but the perception will still persist that he’s tainted and biased -- not least because critics and pundits won’t let go of it.

One of the problems here is the way in which many of those in the upper echelons of the journalism profession have cozied up to the politically powerful in this country. The two groups sometimes seem indistinguishable. Sometimes, it’s as if they’re really one group -- not two groups separated into “journalists” and “politicians,” but one amorphous group of political-media “celebrities” who appear together on TV and then head out to dinner.

The annual White House Correspondents Dinner that has become such a hot ticket for members of this class to see and be seen is a grotesque example of how the adversarial relationship that traditionally existed between reporters and politicos seems to have broken down, if not disappeared entirely.

Meanwhile, ABC has a sticky situation on its hands. It also appears to be an expensive one, with the New York Post reporting that Stephanopoulos’ current contract calls for the network to pay him $105 million over seven years. That’s a lot to pay for a guy who might now have to be marginalized in the very arena he was hired to work in -- politics and the presidential race.

So what is ABC supposed to do now? Suspend him, like NBC did with Brian Williams? And what do these suspensions accomplish anyway? Time will tell if NBC’s six-month suspension of Williams will cure him of his Pinocchio complex -- but only if NBC lets him back in the building. Will suspending Stephanopoulos for a period rid the public of the perception that he’s a pro-Clinton partisan? Probably not. So what now?

4 comments about "Stephanopoulos Debacle Reveals Politicos And Journos Are Too Chummy ".
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  1. Alan Westendal from West End Communications/Consul, May 19, 2015 at 12:32 p.m.

    It couldn't have been a secret that Mr. S. was a Clinton partisan when ABC first hired him, after all, he served as a political functionary in the Clinton White House.

    The initial plume of bad judgment was the Network's.

    It shouldn't be a shock that Mr. S., like some others in the Clinton camp, truly believe, probably because they see their "cause" as so obviously righteous, that the common rules of ethics don't always apply to them. So the second display of flagrant bad judgment was Mr. S.'s, in thinking his contributions were so clearly appropriate that there was no possible bad consequence.

    The solution to ABC's dilemma is, of course, obvious: fire the guy. It will save them from endless embarrassment in the future, and, just maybe, show that they can sometimes put a higher value on integrity than on income.

  2. Gene Thomas from Telecom Consult, May 19, 2015 at 1:28 p.m.

    Great article Adam. May I offer there is an even larger issue of 'news' people and organizations being tainted, filtered, biased and serving their “sponsor” rather than serving the truth to America?


    The FOX ‘News” Channel is so overtly and latently the Outlet for the GOP. I call them the Fox Republican Network: FRN.


    FRN always reports and exaggerates and distorts and everything about President Obama. FRN rarely reports anything negative about the GOP and it political players, rarely indeed. Even rarer they seldom report a correction on their errors either.


    The FRN, one way or another is financed and controlled by the GOP leadership.


    You will get and more even station and news caster neutral reports of the truth around the USA and world from El Jazeera.

  3. Phillip Nones from Mullin/Ashley Associates, Inc., May 19, 2015 at 2:48 p.m.

    Great article Adam. May I offer there is an even larger issue of 'news' people and organizations being tainted, filtered, biased and serving their “sponsor” rather than serving the truth to America?




    The MSNBC Channel is so overtly and latently the Outlet for the Democrat Party. I call them the MSNBC Democrat Network: MDN.




    MDN always reports and exaggerates and distorts and everything about Republicans. MDN rarely reports anything negative about Barack Obama and other Democrats, rarely indeed. Even rarer they seldom report a correction on their errors either.




    The MDN, one way or another is financed and controlled by the Democrat Party leadership.




    You will get and more even station and news caster neutral reports of the truth around the USA and world from El Jazeera.

  4. Jonathan McEwan from MediaPost, May 20, 2015 at 12:18 p.m.

    There is no such thing as a reporter without a point of view. It's silly to suggest that is such a thing. I prefer people to be more honest, show their true beliefs and at the same time try to be even handed. But anyone who pretends not to be liberal or conservative at heart is doing us a true disservice. AND these commenters are both correct. We all know and have known for decades which outlets lean left and which lean right. Please. Now, on with the show!

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