The media misses the story in pursuing right-wing conspiracy theory


It’s sad when the mainstream “lamestream” media regurgitates media memes generated in the conspiracy fever swamps of the conservative media entertainment complex with misleading headlines like these:

New York Times (online): New Clinton Emails Raise Shadow Over Her Campaign

Washington Post: Emails reveal how foundation donors got access to Clinton and her close aides at State Dept

shiny_objects_shirtIf you read just the headline, like most Americans do (if they even bother to read a newspaper), you might be inclined to think that “This doesn’t sound good . . . You know, I think I heard something about this on FAUX News.”

But if you actually read the substance of the reporting on the e-mails selected by the reporters, you will come away wondering, “So what’s the big deal here?

Nancy Le Tourneau at the Political Animal blog writes, Beyond the Headlines About Emails and the Clinton Foundation:

You’re going to see a lot of headlines like this today: Emails reveal how foundation donors got access to Clinton and her close aides at State Dept. Sounds bad doesn’t it? Here are the details.

A sports executive who was a major donor to the Clinton Foundation and whose firm paid Bill Clinton millions of dollars in consulting fees wanted help getting a visa for a British soccer player with a criminal past.

The crown prince of Bahrain, whose government gave more than $50,000 to the Clintons’ charity and who participated in its glitzy annual conference, wanted a last-minute meeting with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

U2 rocker and philanthropist Bono, also a regular at foundation events, wanted high-level help broadcasting a live link to the International Space Station during concerts.

But wait…in the 5th paragraph of the story comes this:

The emails show that, in these and similar cases, the donors did not always get what they wanted, particularly when they sought anything more than a meeting.

Way down in the story we are told that the “sports executive” got a “no” to his request for the British soccer player, no one had any idea what to do with Bono’s request, and yes, the crown prince of Bahrain got a meeting with Clinton – by going through “official channels.”

Going back to that headline, what we see is that – when it comes to “foundation donors” – 2 of them didn’t get access, but the crown prince of Bahrain did eventually get a meeting with the Secretary of State. That’s the big story? Really?!

Beyond that there seems to be some inference related to the fact that many of these requests went through Clinton’s aide Huma Abedin. There are a couple of other stories about people who donated to both Democrats and the Clinton Foundation getting meetings with the Secretary of State via contacting Abedin – people who wanted to discuss their involvement in the Israeli/Palestinian peace process and refugee issues.

I suppose that if there was never a Clinton Foundation, we wouldn’t be subjected to stories about whether the Secretary of State held meetings with people involved in the work she was doing because of donations rather than simply because that was part of her job. So we can now say, “Damn the Clintons for trying to raise money to address global issues! It just messed everything up.” But knowing that a lot of people simply read headlines and run with them, perhaps we could also ask that the media not load them up with unjustified inferences. Nah, that one is probably a bridge too far.

Kevin Drum adds at Mother Jones, Hillary Clinton Ran a Very Tight Ship As Secretary of State:

The way Washington works—in fact, the way everything works—is that people socialize; they develop relationships; and they often try to leverage those relationships to call in favors. We have laws and institutions to try to put boundaries on this kind of thing, but it’s still ubiquitous. This is just the way homo sapiens is wired.

So now we have some more emails related to Hillary Clinton, and what have we learned? The crown prince of Bahrain wanted to meet with the Secretary of State, and in addition to making a request through normal channels he also talked to someone at the Clinton Foundation, who then called Huma Abedin. The meeting took place, which is entirely unexceptional since meeting with people like this is the Secretary of State’s job. There’s no indication that the extra push by the Foundation had any particular effect.

Another time, someone at the Foundation called Abedin to see if she could expedite a visa. She said this made her nervous, and the Foundation guy backed off.

On another occasion, a lobbyist who had formerly been a Democratic staffer asked for a meeting with her client, a coal company executive. Abedin blew her off.

We might yet find a smoking gun in all these emails. But so far, the trend is clear: lots of people talked to Huma Abedin to try to set up meetings with Hillary Clinton. Generally speaking, Abedin treated them politely but told them to get lost. That’s about it.

If some of these efforts had succeeded, that would hardly be noteworthy. It’s the kind of thing that happens all the time. What’s really noteworthy about the most recent email releases is that they demonstrate a surprisingly high level of integrity from Hillary Clinton’s shop at Foggy Bottom. Huma Abedin was tasked with running interference on favor seekers, and she seems to have done exactly that. There’s no evidence at all that being a donor to the Clinton Foundation helped anyone out.

So tell me again what the issue is here?

The Crooks & Liars blog adds some pertinent facts. Emails Prove No ‘Pay To Play’ Between State And Clinton Foundation:

It’s inaccurate to talk about the “Clinton emails” in relation to the latest fooflah related to Hillary Clinton’s tenure at State. The emails in question are actually those to and from Huma Abedin.

In the last 24 hours, I’ve read in CNN, the Washington Post, and ABC News, how recently published emails released by our friends, Judicial Watch, show that Clinton is in under fire because of “troubling” connections between State and the Clinton Foundation donors. In NBC News, I read how Trump has called for an investigation of the Clinton Foundation.

I have to wonder if any of the pundits and journalists actually read the emails. Because if they had, they would have noticed, as Kevin Drum has, that this whole thing really is absurd.

* * *

Not only was there absolutely no demonstration of “pay-to-play” in the Clinton Foundation communications with Abedin, the news media seems to have forgotten that the Clinton Foundation is a charitable organization. Among other things, it provides low-cost access to HIV drugs for over 8 million people a year. That’s in addition to the work it does creating schools, helping farmers, and its various clean energy and environmental efforts.

The media also has done a poor job of noting that none of the Clintons financially benefit from the Foundation (financial filing). Yes, Chelsea Clinton is on the board. But Chelsea has a salary of exactly $0.00. That’s $15 dollars less, an hour, than what the Democrats want to implement as a minimum wage.

[Bill and Hillary Clinton also do not receive any compensation. In fact, they donated $1 million to the Foundation.]

In addition, the media has a problem with math. Case in point, there is a handful of emails between the Clinton Foundation and Abedin. A handful of emails, in four years. There’s not a mathematician in the world who could deduce a pattern of behavior with that small a sampling.

But that doesn’t stop the media.

* * *

The [right-wing strike force] Judicial Watch, its 100+ FOIA lawsuits, and the helpful federal judges who seem to think that the State Department can magically create more FOIA workers, have the State Department’s FOIA processes so tied up, that none of us will be able to get any request through for the next four years.

This breaking of the State FOIA system suits Judicial Watch, just fine. It now controls what information is released from the State Department. Best of all, we get to pay millions for the privilege of losing our access.

I wonder why CNN, ABC, NBC, Washington Post and the rest don’t cover this as a story? Since they obviously have so much time on their hands.

Finally Digby writes at Salon, Judicial Watch vs. Hillary: The conservative group has a long history of spreading Clinton lies: Right-wing strike force Judicial Watch is not letting up on Hillary’s emails — the media shouldn’t enable them.

Back in the 1990s the political establishment made fun of Hillary Clinton for her comment that the press was missing the real story of “the vast right-wing conspiracy” that had been dogging her family throughout her husband’s presidency. Any mention of it provoked eye-rolls and knowing smirks among the cognoscenti, who were all absolutely sure that it was just more evidence of Clinton’s guilty conscience over something.

But she was right. And there was some real reporting on it even at the time although, as it was revealed, the Republicans would throw out another shiny object and the press pack would go running in the opposite direction like a herd of gazelles. So it was very difficult to get a handle on the whole story.

* * *

The book “The Hunting of the President” and the new e-book “The Hunting of Hillary,” both by Joe Conason and Gene Lyons, finally put together the overall narrative of what happened.

The media is repeating its sins from the 1990s again. You really should read Digby’s entire post on Judicial Watch.


  1. clinton is a moral reprobate her iraq war vote is enough proof for anyone other then clinton zombies. yet tom hartmann is attacking jill stein not hillary.

  2. I want to thank everyone here for making my point. Clinton has done a horrible job in damage control. Just coming out and saying “I did this and big deal”. Would go a long way. Instead she lets her competition control the conversation.

    Steve’s comments below realy drive home my point. Again there is no evidence yet we continue to point to mysterious innuendoes, rumors, and perceptions. These things are not implications of criminal activity. Every person here can be drug through the mud and made out to be a crook in politics. Aside from Jimmy Carter can you really point to ANY POTUS that can not be painted as somone crooked with the right slant regardless of evidence? Even Carter was painted as a Southern bigot by the press. Data and not facts. Feelings and not logic.

  3. Firms Paid Bill Clinton Millions As They Lobbied Hillary Clinton
    Former President Bill Clinton accepted more than $2.5 million in speaking fees from 13 major corporations and trade associations that lobbied the U.S. State Department while Hillary Clinton was secretary of state, an International Business Times investigation has found. The fees were paid directly to the former president, and not directed to his philanthropic foundation.

    Many of the companies that paid Bill Clinton for these speeches — a roster of global giants that includes Microsoft, Oracle and Dell — engaged him within the same three-month period in which they were also lobbying the State Department in pursuit of their policy aims, federal disclosure documents show. Several companies received millions of dollars in State Department contracts while Hillary Clinton led the institution.

    The disclosure that President Clinton received personal payments for speeches from the same corporate interests that were actively seeking to secure favorable policies from a federal department overseen by his wife underscores the vexing issue now confronting her presidential aspirations: The Clinton family is at the center of public suspicions over the extent of insider dealing in Washington, emblematic of concerns that corporate interests are able to influence government action by creatively funneling money to people in power.

    Read more…

    • Managing perceptions is obviously not the Clintons’ forte. Nor does it seem to be much of a priority.

      Yet, Mr. Meanie soldiers on. I see that he has written Part 2. Stay tuned. I can’t even imagine what he will have accumulated by the end of Hillary’s first year not to mention her first term.

      • Hillary spent 6 years on the Board of Directors of Walmart. During that time she sat quietly while they worked to bust up any talk of unionizing. She’s been mixing business and politics for a long time.

        She’s everything that’s wrong with our government (revolving door that it is), and it’s sad that the first Democratic woman elected POTUS is actually a Republican.

        She’s going to win in a landslide despite being an extreme DINO because she won the lottery when the GOTeaP picked Cheeto Benito for their nominee.

        Anyone hoping for a modern day Frances Perkins is going to be shocked when they get Maggie Thatcher instead.

        And now I’m going to let this poor dead horse be.

  4. Aug 24, 8:27 AM EDT


    WASHINGTON (AP) — More than half the people outside the government who met with Hillary Clinton while she was secretary of state gave money – either personally or through companies or groups – to the Clinton Foundation. It’s an extraordinary proportion indicating her possible ethics challenges if elected president.

    At least 85 of 154 people from private interests who met or had phone conversations scheduled with Clinton while she led the State Department donated to her family charity or pledged commitments to its international programs, according to a review of State Department calendars released so far to The Associated Press. Combined, the 85 donors contributed as much as $156 million. At least 40 donated more than $100,000 each, and 20 gave more than $1 million.

    The meetings between the Democratic presidential nominee and foundation donors do not appear to violate legal agreements Clinton and former president Bill Clinton signed before she joined the State Department in 2009. But the frequency of the overlaps shows the intermingling of access and donations, and fuels perceptions that giving the foundation money was a price of admission for face time with Clinton. Her calendars and emails released as recently as this week describe scores of contacts she and her top aides had with foundation donors.

    • Welcome to the 90’s, y’all. It’s already happening, the Clintons and their many apologists v. The Great Right Wing conspiracy or the Great Mainstream Media Conspiracy, take your pick. In the interim, all kinds of things are happening in this country that really deserve our attention.

      But here we are and, rest assured, this is what a Clinton administration looks like. What a squandered opportunity by the Democrats. Trump is in meltdown mode and the Democrats are set to landslide this election. And this is what we are engaged in because the ruling Democrats made the election all about fulfilling the political ambitions of a single individual. And they’re going to easily win this election ONLY because the opponent is Donald Trump.

      But we must engage in this discussion about pay to play or pay to access Hillary Clinton while she was Sos. Yes, I am putting myself in the position of a representative of some government that wishes to speak with Madam Secretary. Well, lookie here, I found a million dollars on the coffee table. What should I do with it? Oh, yes, the Clinton Foundation. I think I’ll give it to them because they are doing all this charitable work that directly coincides with my humanitarian goals.

      Stop the nonsense. Just stop it. Give people credit for having a lick of sense. Not everyone rode into town on a load of lumber. Twenty five years of apologizing for these people is just too damn much.

    • Correlation is not causation . . . where does the AP reveal anything that is improper? Someone requested a meeting, and in a few cases someone got a meeting? Big fucking deal. This is how government operates.

      The “scandal” is summed up in the AP report: “But the frequency of the overlaps shows the intermingling of access and donations, and fuels perceptions that giving the foundation money was a price of admission for face time with Clinton.” Again, correlation is not causation. This is horseshit reporting from the AP.

      • AzBM, you know as well as I do that when you are in the public eye perception can be everything. The perception is that you could buy access to Secretary of State Clinton by making a fat donation to the Clinton Foundation. Reality? Yes? No? Maybe so? Who knows? But the perception is real because there are all these little indicators that you could buy access. And the perception has been there since their days in Arkansas. I know you are a loyal Clintonista, but don’t you ever wonder about the rumors of corruption and influence peddling that follows the Clintons wherever they go?

      • No, thats not how it operates and thats not how it is supposed to operate. You shouldnt have to hire a lobbyist to make government work properly. KTAR was airing a radio show talking about waiting hours at MVD for service. So i happened to be on my way home and detoured over to the closest MVD at Beck Street. They had the Qmatic customer service system still system still up and operating. Average wait times were hour and 5 minutes at peak rush hour, 3 pm. I walked through asking people how things were going. The first woman i asked told me she had been there 15 minutes and had three people in front of her in line. Back in 1998 we got the wait times down to 15 minutes by putting in the Qmatic system and by giving a teamwork bonus for customer satisfaction, wait time objectives and quality objectives. During lean times, the bonus system was pitched, 50 bucks a month for minimum wage workers but it made the job fun for them and the work easier to do.

        I calculated that system saved 50 million dollars a year in the value of people’s time. Its an example of what you can do when you are serious about government for the people.

        My office did 212 pieces of legislation using a very simple but quite powerful and complex formula. Solve a problem in the law without creating any new problems. Put 50 smart people in the room and grind until youve thought of every aspect of the issue.

        Once youve done that, the legislation just flies through the process. By far more bipartisan legislation than any other legislator in history. Number 2 was 43 pieces of legislation back.

        Also, i ran as a cleanelection candidate every year so the contribution game was easy. I could do policy not politics.

    • Well, hello, Mr.Meanie. I see that I got your attention. Indeed, I agree, correlation is not causation. Anyone who has taken Statistics 101 has an appreciation for that beyond the anecdotal.

      We certainly can’t turn back the hands of time and determine if all of those contributions would have been made to the Clinton Foundation if someone other than Hillary Clinton were SoS. So, perhaps perception is what matters because it is, in fact, all the electorate has most of the time when judging politicians. One would almost want to think that Hillary Clinton and her handlers would be concerned about managing those perceptions especially given her presidential ambitions.

      No, that never happens with the Clintons. I just remembered that one of Bill’s nicknames was Slick Willie back in the 90’s. It fit him quite well. The Clintons do as they please and they depend on their attack dogs and apologists to make it alright.

      But, without question, Hillary is going to be the president barring unforeseen circumstances. And this will only get worse, same as Bill.

      If you, Mr. Meanie, want to justify all of these questionable links, go right ahead. You’ve got your work cut out for you and it should keep you busy for at least the next four years. I happen to be interested in other things.

      • And this:

        “”Edward Tufte, in a criticism of the brevity of “correlation does not imply causation”, deprecates the use of “is” to relate correlation and causation (as in “Correlation is not causation”), citing its inaccuracy as incomplete.[1] While it is not the case that correlation is causation, simply stating their nonequivalence omits information about their relationship. Tufte suggests that the shortest true statement that can be made about causality and correlation is one of the following:[4]

        “Empirically observed covariation is a necessary but not sufficient condition for causality.”

        “Correlation is not causation but it sure is a hint.””

  5. at least 75 clinton fund donors names were erased from state department log and no one at state can remember who did it or why. and the large arms sales that the donors wanted. well that is just a coincidence that they came after large donations from donors who’s names got mysteriously erased from state department records.

  6. BTW. Clinton fan or not is fine with me and besides the point. Can anyone here please give me fact based evidence that shows real hard curruption? Please let me know. Not Whitehouse affairs or gross mismagement of emails. Real evidence of intentional criminal behavior over HRC career? Or are we all gonna continue the theme of truthiness? It feels like she is crooked so she is. Kinda like the Trump people and poll numbers, or global warming deniers, or a wall on the border. Feels right enough so it must be true??? Right?

    • You need a dose of reality, Vendetta. It is rare that central figures in successful criminal enterprises leave a trail of bread crumbs behind to follow so you can successfully prove that what they are doing is illegal. Subordinates are the ones who get their hands dirty and take the fall should it be necessary, but the central figures remain untouchable. Usually the central figures have a cloud of inuendo and rumor surrounding them, but no hard evidence. The Clintons, since their earliest days in Arkansas, have had the stench of corruption follow them everywhere they have gone. People fear them with good reason. They never forget an enemy and they are good at the politics of destruction. That is why it is so easy for people to believe stories of corruption and influence peddling about them…they bring with them a reputation, even if unproven, of being for sale for the right (and expensive) price. Even it were proven it isn’t true, that is their reputation.

      So when you demand evidence of “Real evidence of intentional criminal behavior…”, you are demanding something that will probably never exist. But that does not mean intentional criminal behavior is not there. It just means they haven’t been caught.

      • She must be the greatest criminal mind in the history of the planet to get away with so much under the public eye and the right wing scrutiny. And yet…all you keep hanging on to is friggin emails?

        • Emails are just one more thing with the Clintons. There is ALWAYS “one more thing” with the Clintons, which is one of the reasons they are deemed to be so corrupt and untrustworthy. Bill and Hillary are Machiavellian in how they work. They surround themselves with subordinates who willingly accept the blame when things go wrong. They have had a litany of underlings who resigned after accepting blame for problems that arose. They are lawyers and they know the basic lesson of law school: NEVER put it in writing unless you want to see it again in Court. Bill and Hillary are two side of the same coin. “Slick Willy” was impeached for getting caught in lying under oath. Hillary has been a litle smarter, but she is as tainted as he. You don’t see your personal fortune rise from $0 in Arkansas to an estimated $100,000,000 today by working for the Goverment. The Clintons make it easy to assume they are corrupt by their actions and their never ending series of faux paus that smack of unethical, if not outright illegal, behavior. It never ends with them.

  7. I have said it before. What here is crooked? This is how politics works and nothing unethical took place. Anybody want to start talking about Trumps dealings? How about we read Paul Ryan’s emails or the RNC emails? All nonsense. The media needs something to stoke. Got to create news. Not once have I seen or read anything about the Clinton Foundations work. Not since the 60 minutes story last year. Things are more provacative when you just talk about the “shady” foundation. Facts no longer matter. The lazy, profit hungry media in this country is an embarassment. PBS newshour is about the only outlet left that is nonpartisan and investigative. It is shameful what the media has become.

  8. Just FYI…totally O/T , but you know that Prop 123 vote that was the be all and end all? Total raise? $ 0.57

    All that bluster and robbing of the Land Trust for a damn $0.57. What a bunch of crap.

    Hope they’re all proud. Gee, I guess teachers will STILL have to buy their own supplies. This “new found windfall” will sure make things easier!

  9. the donors didn’t “always” get what they wanted! this I can live with the clintons they have always skirted the laws. what problem I have with the media and what makes them corrupt is hillary clintons vote on the iraq war and the media giving her a pass on what she did. that was not common corruption but moral turpitude.

  10. The reason such stories get legs so easily is we are talking about the Clintons. Hillary is likely going to be the next President but she will take office with a significant percentage of Americans believing she and her husband are two of the biggest crooks to inhabit the White House since Nixon. And the difference between them and Nixon is Nixon’s mistakes were political while their issues line their pockets. The Clinton’s have no credibility with a LARGE percentage of Americans and stories like the Clinton Foundation and the accompanying corruption are all too easy to believe. Of course, they have an even LARGER percentage of Americans (accolytes?) who are willing to believe any excuse – no matter how incredible – in order to continue worshipping at the Clinton Altar.

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