CNN and MSNBC buried the inspector general report’s revelation that a number of FBI agents were receiving unauthorized free handouts, such as dinners and tickets, from reporters.
Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz noted in his report on the Clinton investigation, which was released Thursday, that his department found numerous instances in which FBI agents were improperly in contact with reporters and were receiving a number of free perks from their relationships. (RELATED: IG Report: FBI Agents Regularly Received Free Handouts From Journalists)
The department “identified numerous FBI employees, at all levels of the organization and with no official reason to be in contact with the media, who were nevertheless in frequent contact with reporters.”
FBI agents’ relationships with the media extended to “improperly receiving benefits from reporters, including tickets to sporting events, golfing outings, drinks and meals, and admittance to nonpublic social events” and could have encouraged some agents to leak information to the press, Horowitz implied in the report.
In fact, these relationships could have violated federal gift-giving rules laid out by the U.S. Office of Government Ethics. (RELATED:IG Revelations On Agent/Journo Gift-Giving Could Be Federal Crimes)
Despite the serious potential implications of the IG’s findings, CNN and MSNBC gave little coverage to that part of the report. It was only ever mentioned on CNN twice — once by Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham and once by former U.S. attorney Preet Bharara — and received no mentions in articles on their website.
MSNBC anchors were similarly mum about the story with the exception of Ari Melber, host of “The Beat.” Melber dedicated at least two minutes Thursday to the FBI’s obsession with its image in the media and a little under a minute to the specific findings on improper contacts with the media.
Melber also showed several charts from the IG report that showed the extent of some reporters’ contacts with members of the FBI.
Melber’s report was an outlier rather than the norm, as he was the only person on the network to even mention the FBI’s inappropriate contacts with the media, according to a search of TV clipping service Grabien.
CNN and MSNBC reported plenty on other aspects of the IG report, particularly the fact that Horowitz found no evidence that political bias motivated former FBI director James Comey’s missteps in the Clinton probe. Yet, they seemingly found the FBI’s culture of leaks and the possibility that reporters were bribing sources to not be as noteworthy.