ABC Faces Credibility Crisis Over Donations

George Stephanopoulos said today on Good Morning America that his $75,000 in donations to the Clinton Foundation, made in three increments to the foundation started by his one-time boss, former President Bill Clinton, were a mistake.

NEW YORK (AP) — George Stephanopoulos apologized to viewers Friday for donating $75,000 to the Clinton Foundation and failing to disclose it earlier, as ABC News now finds its chief anchor in a credibility crisis on the eve of a presidential campaign.

Stephanopoulos said on “Good Morning America” that the donations, made in three increments to the foundation started by his one-time boss, former President Bill Clinton, were a mistake.

“I should have gone the extra mile to avoid even the appearance of a conflict,” the “GMA” and “This Week” host said. “I apologize to all of you for failing to do that.”

Stephanopoulos rose to the top ranks at ABC over 18 years and worked to establish himself as an independent journalist despite skepticism by some in politics because of his background as a top aide to Clinton’s 1992 campaign and later in the White House. The donations brought that issue back to the fore just as Hillary Rodham Clinton is launching her presidential campaign.

ABC News President James Goldston has not addressed whether Stephanopoulos will be disciplined. The network said in a statement Thursday that it stands behind Stephanopoulos and that the anchor made an honest mistake. ABC said Stephanopoulos voluntarily removed himself as a moderator for ABC’s planned coverage of a GOP presidential debate next February.

Network leaders must weigh how the issue will affect public perception of its top on-air political journalist, just as NBC News executives are wondering whether suspended anchor Brian Williams will be believable to viewers following revelations that he embellished details of stories he was involved in.


Peter Schweizer, author of “Clinton Cash,” a book that traces the public involvement of organizations that have donated to the Clinton Foundation, said Friday that Stephanopoulos’ donations “highlight precisely the lack of transparency and cronyism that I report on.” Stephanopoulos interviewed Schweizer recently on the Sunday public affairs program “This Week” without revealing the donations.

“It is incomprehensible to me that after George Stephanopoulos went out of his way to state on-air that I wrote speeches for President George W. Bush, Stephanopoulos hid from viewers the fact that he is himself a major Clinton Foundation donor,” Schweizer said.

Stephanopoulos has pointed out that this donation, among dozens he has made to charitable organizations, were a matter of public record. He said they were made to support the foundation’s work on global AIDS prevention and deforestation.

The Clinton foundation is not obligated by law to publish the name of donors and the amounts of their gifts, but the charity has often provided annually-updated lists since 2008. Public announcements have not always accompanied the updates, and each update is cumulative and reported in wide monetary ranges, making it difficult to spot precise amounts of donations.

The story is a threat to Stephanopoulos’ ability to cover politics for ABC, said Mark Feldstein, a veteran broadcast journalist now a professor at the University of Maryland.

“He seemed mostly to have put to rest fears that he would be too partisan to be a serious television journalist and news anchorman, but he couldn’t have given the Republican Party a greater sword to decapitate him,” said Feldstein, who is writing a book on media scandals.

Aly Colon, a professor of journalism ethics at Washington & Lee University, said he believed it would be best if ABC removed Stephanopoulos from coverage of anything related to the Clintons.

“In today’s environment, many people are truly suspicious of how the news is covered, and this just feeds into that suspicion more,” Colon said.

Associated Press correspondent Stephen Braun in Washington contributed to this report.

Comments (13)

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Evan Ortynsky says:

May 15, 2015 at 3:34 pm

There are plenty of left wing nut-jobs in the wings of all Main stream media to lob softball questions at Hillary and attack every conservative candidate with accusations disguised as questions. They pretty much all put their liberal left wing bias into the “reporting” of news and never give the voter a true sense of what each candidate stands for.

They should let him keep reporting on Clinton, but make him state his involvement and donations every time he reports… that will make everyone know about it.

Of course, this is just my opinion…

    Wagner Pereira says:

    May 15, 2015 at 3:45 pm

    So what is worse, 1) Lying you were under fire in the Middle East when you were not or 2) Lying about contributions to a fund with the name and under management that is also in the Political Spotlight when you are the lead person on Politics at a Network? Clearly A must be MUCH worse, because very little has been made of B in the press.

    Wagner Pereira says:

    May 15, 2015 at 3:46 pm

    so much for self-editing, lol. But the point is made.

    Wagner Pereira says:

    May 15, 2015 at 8:33 pm

    Clearly you have a problem with the definition of liberal besides not knowing what you are talking about @macjohn.

Gene Johnson says:

May 15, 2015 at 4:02 pm

Pardon me Insider, but what lie are you talking about in “2?” And as for MacGyver, everyone has biases – left, right or middle. Your comments show your own personal biases. The “job” of a journalist is to avoid as best as possible his or her personal biases from affecting their reporting. Some do it better than others (on all sides of the partisan divide). From what I have seen. Mr. Stephanopoulos has not shied away from asking tough questions of Democratic candidates. While you don’t specifically say this, but rather suggest it, can you point to specific instances of his lobbing “softball questions to [Senator/Secretary] Clinton while attacking every conservative candidate with accusations disguised as questions?”

    Wagner Pereira says:

    May 15, 2015 at 8:53 pm

    George did not divulge his contributions which is a lie. If journalist were “avoid(ing) as best as possible his or her personal biases from affecting their reporting”, as there is literally no coverage of George’s omission (which even he has acknowledged was a mistake), that shows bias in and of itself. How many stories have been on TVNewscheck about this (1) compared to Brian Williams (at least a dozen or two). And it is no different on any other media outlet. As thus, this proves the bias.

Wagner Pereira says:

May 15, 2015 at 8:56 pm

BTW, I thought ABC was going to have a credibility crisis the week prior to the Brian Williams fiasco. Why? Because while every other News Outlet was leading with the measles outbreak in California tied to Disneyland, ABC did not even mention it for close to a week until they couldn’t get away from the story. Even then, they only once ever mentioned it started in Disneyland. So yes, I expected ABC to have a major credibility crisis when that was uncovered. Fortunately for them, NBC and Brian Williams tripped all over themselves in the following 7 days so the narrative changed.

Michelle Underwood says:

May 16, 2015 at 11:06 am

Stephanopoulos has been in the tank for the Dems for years; the only difference now is that it’s out in the open. ABC has had a credibility crisis from the minute they hired him. You’re in denial if you don’t see that.

    Wagner Pereira says:

    May 17, 2015 at 2:57 am

    A true journalist can be firmly in one camp but put that aside and be neutral. However, this blows his credibility of doing that out of the water.