Just days after he was promoted to deputy editorial page editor, USA Today’s David Mastio landed the national newspaper a bruised behind when his sloppy smear against a star CNN reporter backfired.
A question for the mammoth news outlet: What gives?
Why won’t USA Today retract an obviously bogus story he and Kelsey Rupp recently published about CNN Jake Tapper‘s possibly improper ties to the Clinton Foundation? Rupp is an editorial board fellow. Her tasks include “fact checking all columns accepted for publication.” Did she get a migraine the day this story was published?
Things initially got whipped up because the Clinton Global Initiative listed Tapper as one of the “speakers” at an upcoming event. Which could be a big deal — if it were true. Instead, Tapper will interview former President Clinton and possibly moderate a panel. Surely a journalist moderating a panel isn’t reason to sound the George Stephanopoulos alarm bells.
Despite being informed to the contrary, Mastio ran with slime and included this rather pointed deck:
And his lede is particularly troublesome:
“Yet another high-profile TV newsman may find himself embroiled in controversy over his connections to the Clinton Foundation.”
Or, as in the case of Tapper, he may not.
Mastio goes on to write that by “participating” in the CGI event next month Tapper puts himself in the unfortunate position of looking like he may be in bed with the Clintons. His word choice is “cozy.”
Cozy is a delicious word. But a better word might be “interview” since that is what Tapper plans to do there.
Mastio continues with a few scant facts — yes, he’ll interview Clinton, yes it’ll be televised, no he won’t be paid.
And then this doozy: “That stands in Tapper’s favor, but it does not solve the problem for Tapper or CNN, which is scheduled to host three Republican presidential primary debates.”
The only “problem” here is that there is no problem.
Somehow I got caught in the crossfire of this hideous mess. After The Mirror set the record straight, a miffed Mastio went on Twitter and delivered a sexist blow: He said I’m “so cute when I’m wrong.” But in the midst of his sackless insult, he offered no facts to support his accusation that Tapper may have improper Stephanopoulous-esque ties to the Clinton Foundation.
ABC’s Stephanopoulous recently got himself in a pickle when the Washington Free Beacon unearthed the nugget that he’d donated $75,000 to the Clinton Foundation.
Tapper, meanwhile, has never donated a dime to the Clinton Foundation.
But Mastio wasn’t finished attacking the real victim here, which is journalism. In an effort to topple a TV reporter, he ended up giving the industry a black eye with his clumsy reportage. Once again, he returned to Twitter. This time to whine that I am “a stenographer” for CNN. In a further attempt to distract himself and everyone else from his sloppiness, he tried to tattle on me to my editor and lodged complaints all over town. No one would entertain his churlish complaints.
The problem, however, persists. With no retraction, Mastio’s story still reads like Tapper may well have soiled himself with a Stephanopoulous stain so close to the 2016 presidential race.
He said information had been “scrubbed” online. By what or whom? Who knows? HotAir‘s Jazz Shaw equated the whole thing to throwing “darts at a wall.” Judging from his story’s URL — usatoday.com/story/opinion/2015/05/20 clinton-foundation-tapper-journalists-website-scrub-club — readers can deduce a couple of things.
- A deputy editorial page editor like Mastio may well value his title more than anyone else. A TV journalist is accused of working for a couple who may again occupy the White House. How this is opinion defies a reasonable person’s imagination.
- Mastio thought he had a smoking gun when he inquired about Tapper’s role in the event. The Clinton Global Initiative suddenly scrubbed Tapper’s picture and bio from the “speakers” section of the site. Except the reason they removed it is far more boring than Mastio would’ve liked anyone to believe lest his integrity or that of USA Today come under scrutiny. They removed Tapper’s name because he is not a speaker at the upcoming forum. He’ll be playing the mundane role of himself: a journalist.
The Mirror sought comment from USA Today’s Public Editor Brent Jones, Public Relations Manager Chrissy Terrell and Dave Mastio. None replied in Mirror press time. Jake Tapper also had no comment. But a CNN source with knowledge on the matter said this of Mastio: “He was presented with all of the facts, he instead created his own narrative. It’s disappointing but he is an opinion writer and entitled to his own opinions.”
It’s time for USA Today to retract the story and for Mastio to insert his pacifier.
UPDATE: USA Today‘s editorial page editor won’t back down from a story filled with mischaracterizations and untruths. He writes:
David Mastio passed along to me your request for comment about the column on Jake Tapper and the Clinton Foundation.
“May find himself embroiled in controversy” is a matter of opinion, not fact.
So, no, we are not planning any sort of retraction.
If you have an actual factual issue with the piece, let us know, and we’ll review it.
Deputy Editorial Page Editor