A liberal journalist who has moderated forums hosted by the Clinton Global Initiative offered a brutal takedown of the organization on Friday, describing it as “creepy,” “disgusting” and “gross.”
Adam Davidson, who hosts a show for NPR and has written for New York Magazine, also said during an appearance on Slate’s “Political Gabfest” podcast, that the Bill and Hillary Clinton-controlled group’s events are “all about buying access.”And later in the podcast, he said that the Clinton Foundation has made the Clintons “beholden to scumbags.”
Davidson’s harsh critique comes as Hillary Clinton faces accusations that her family charities are massive pay-for-play schemes. An AP investigation found that more than half of the private individuals Clinton met with as secretary of state were Clinton Foundation donors.
The pressure over the apparent conflicts of interest forced the Clintons to pledge to start limiting who can donate to the Clinton Foundation and other affiliated groups if Hillary Clinton is elected president.
Davidson was relentless in his critique of the Clinton-controlled entities.
“And there is a real creepy vibe, to me, personally, at the Clinton Global Initiative,” Davidson said during the podcast, IJ Review notes.
“It seems, to me, that it is all about buying access. It is incredibly expensive just to go to the thing, it’s $100,000-something,” said Davidson, who has hosted CGI panels for several years, including last year.
Davidson, who noted that his comments mean that he is unlikely to be invited back as a moderator, said that CGI events are clearly segregated between the haves and have-nots.
“There’s sort of these explicit ways in which you get access,” he said. “You pay more money to get more access to political leaders and to really rich people and to big corporate leaders.
“There’s this kinda creepy theatre that happens where you have the CEO of Coca-Cola or IBM or whatever or GE up there with President Clinton and they’re just bathing each other in love over how generous and wonderful they are and how much they care about the world and all these, like, earnest people applauding and thrilled.”
“It just feels like the worst version of an elite selling access to the aspirational, creating this theatre of doing good, but it’s all about something else. It really feels gross,” Davidson continued.
Davidson also laid out the differences between the Clinton Global Initiative and the Clinton Foundation. They operate under the Clinton umbrella but have separate staffs and different cultures. But he was equally as harsh about the Clinton Foundation’s work.
The Clinton Foundation, the higher profile of the two, is “just a bunch of people congratulating each other on how awesome they are,” said Davidson.
He described how Clinton Foundation officials would compel him to fill his panels with heads of state of foreign governments who were promised a slot but “literally have nothing to say.”
“Yes! It’s disgusting,” Davidson lamented.
“If you are planning…to run for president…don’t set up a foundation where you are beholden to scumbags from other countries. That’s ridiculous. And if you are secretary of state tell your husband not to do business with them.”
He also said that the Clinton Foundation’s work is “not in the top tier.”
He pointed to the Foundation’s work in Haiti in the aftermath of natural disasters there.
“Haiti is one of their singular focuses. It is a very small country. They have not had a major impact on Haiti,” he said.
“It’s more the performance of very public charity, not the actual intervention in deep and meaningful ways.”
Clinton and members of her campaign have adopted new talking points this week amid the Clinton Foundation criticism. They are now claiming that shutting down the organization would mean depriving millions of low-cost HIV/AIDS drugs.
Despite his grievances with the Clinton organizations, Davidson says he still supports Hillary Clinton for president.
“Obviously, I fully support Hillary Clinton,” he said.
“I can’t wait to vote for her,” he added.
Update: Reached for comment, Davidson tells The Daily Caller that he has some regrets about how he described the Clinton organizations.
“It was spur of the moment and, while I was being truthful, I do wish I had been more careful in my word choice,” he tells TheDC.
“When I said things like ‘beholden to scumbags,’ I was referring, entirely, to the Clinton Foundation, itself [and not to Hillary Clinton],” he added.
“I simply meant that the Foundation, recognizing its relationship with a future Presidential candidate, should—I would think—have been more careful in who they partnered with and should have had a bigger wall separating them from Secretary Clinton’s folks.”
Davidson said that while he does not like reading emails in which former Clinton Foundation adviser Doug Band sought favors for donors from Hillary Clinton aide Huma Abedin — emails which have been released this month — he has “never seen any evidence that Hillary Clinton did anything wrong.”
“I don’t think this is a story of pay-for-play. It’s more a story of an overzealous Foundation using all tools at its disposal to raise funds and awareness. It’s creepy, as I said. I don’t like it. But it’s not illegal or evil or disqualifying.”
Asked if he was invited to speak at this year’s CGI conclave — which will be held next month — Davidson said that he was not. He likely would not have moderated if he had been, he says.
“I probably would have declined, just because it’s an election year and it feels weird to be a reporter doing an event for one of the candidates,” he said, adding that he has not been contacted by anyone from the Clinton orbit since offering his criticism.
The Clinton Foundation has not responded to requests for comment.