The anti-Clinton media: here we go again

Lanny Davis Former Special Counsel to President Bill Clinton
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Not everyone is as apparently obsessed with writing vitriol about the Clintons as Maureen Dowd, the Times‘ op ed columnist. For example, last Saturday, Ms. Dowd compared the Clintons to the self-destructive cartoon character, Wile E. Coyote. Her first example of “little explosions” for which she holds the Clintons responsible, and I am not making this up — the tragic and painful experience of Huma Abedin, due to the conduct of her husband, NYC mayoral candidate, Anthony Weiner, whom she loves and forgives. Go figure.

At least it can be said that Ms. Dowd writes opinion on the Op-ed page of the Times. But that cannot be said about the two news reporters, Nicholas Confessore and Amy Chozick, who wrote a 2,839-word front-page article on Sunday, August 13, with the headline that there was “unease” and “multi-year deficits” at the Clinton Foundation. Those reporters are supposed to write confirmed facts to support their headline and core conclusions. They did not.

The first fact asserted by the reporters to explain the “unease” and “concerns” at the foundation was that during 2007 and 2008, the foundation “piled up a $40 million deficit” and in 2012, “it ran more than $8 million in the red.” But, as President Clinton pointed out in a published rebuttalthe $40 million assertion is based on IRS Form 990s, which requires multi-year commitments to be reported in the year the commitment is made, not the year the cash actually is received. Thus, he wrote, in 2005 and 2006 as a result of multi-year commitments, the foundation reported a surplus of $102,800,000, though we collected nowhere near that. “In later years, as that money came in to cover our budgets, we were required to report the spending but not the cash inflow.” In other words, the 990 can report a paper deficit for a particular year when, in fact, there is substantial cash in the bank or soon to be deposited. Thus, the reporters misled readers by relying on the numbers in the paper 990’s without further explanation of the actual cash realities.

Moreover, Mr. Clinton stated that for 2012, the reported deficit of $8 million was “inaccurate” — since it was “based on unaudited numbers included in our 2012 annual report. When the audited financials are released, they will show a surplus.”

The second core accusation in the Times story is that of “potential conflicts” of interest, represented by Teneo, a corporate consulting/public affairs/public relations firm co-founded by long-time senior aide, friend, and Clinton Foundation leader, Doug Band, and to which Mr. Clinton was a paid consultant for a brief period of time.

But then one cannot find a single instance of an actual conflict of interest, which is commonly defined as taking positions adverse to one another or having conflicting loyalties. But the factual examples reported in the Times article demonstrate exactly the opposite:  Teneo clients were successfully solicited by Band and his colleagues to contribute money to the foundation, which the Times reports has been used in the hundreds of millions of dollars to help the world’s poor, hungry, AIDS victims and to avoid global warming.

One of the best political reporters in Washington, Politico’s Maggie Haberman, posted an op ed piece yesterday August 20, unfortunately headlined, “The Clinton Drama:  Here we go again.” In fact, the more accurate headline should have been, “Bogus media-created Clinton scandals:  Here we go again.”

Remember Whitewater? A 20-year old real estate deal on which the Clintons lost about $40,000, which led to the appointment of Kenneth Starr as independent counsel?  Between 1993 and 2001, according to Google, the New York Times mentioned Whitewater 2,290 times and the Washington Post, 3,175 times. I would estimate tens of thousands of column inches in both papers and thousands of headlines, all implying wrongdoing by the Clintons regarding Whitewater.

The final result: On September 20, 2000, after seven years and over $50 million of public funds spent by the Office of Independent Counsel, the then-Independent Counsel, Robert W. Ray, successor to Mr. Starr, announced that the Whitewater investigation had closed without bringing any charges of wrongdoing against Bill or Hillary Clinton involving their Whitewater investment.

Are we all going to go through this all over again — in a relived 1990s nightmare, when even great journalistic institutions such as the New York Times allow themselves to rely on anonymous sourcing and more innuendo than confirmed facts to go after the Clintons?

My gut tells me, just as in the 1990s a majority of the American people will see through this type of journalism, and won’t allow compulsive Clinton haters and innuendo journalism to change their favorable opinions of Bill and Hillary Clinton.

Davis served as special counsel to former President Clinton and is principal in the Washington D.C. law firm of Lanny J. Davis & Associates, in which he specializes in crisis management. He is special counsel to Dilworth Paxson of Philadelphia and the author of a recently published book, Crisis Tales: Five Rules for Coping with Crises in Business, Politics, and Life.