The contribution scandal isn’t the first time ABC anchor George Stephanopoulos apparently breached ethical guidelines.
Back in his White House days in 1994, Mr. Stephanopoulos obtained a questionable mortgage loan of $668,000, or more than five times his annual salary when he was on the Clinton payroll. The formula banks use to determine how much they will lend you generally stands at 2.5 times income to the loan amount. That would mean he should have received an estimated maximum of $312,500, or less than half of what he got.
Mr. Stephanopoulos got the money from NationsBanc Mortgage Corp. at a phenomenal rate just above prime. At the time, the head of the bank’s holding company was a close friend of President Clinton.
All of this information comes from the American Spectator and the late columnist Jack Anderson.
“Stephanopoulos got a great deal,” one banking source told the American Spectator. “He should’ve known NationsBanc wasn’t giving him this deal because he was Joe Schmoe off the street. He was given this deal because of who he was.”
Although Mr. Stephanopoulos’ loan probably violated government ethical standards, he received no punishment.
As I have reported, other members of the media elite joined the ABC anchor in participating in the Clinton Global Initiative — perhaps not crossing ethical boundaries, but skirting them nonetheless.
Those listed as “featured attendees” included PBS and CBS’s Charlie Rose; CNN’s Fareed Zakaria, who appeared at least three times; the New York Times’ Nicholas Kristof; PBS anchor Judy Woodruff; and Tina Brown, former editor of several prominent magazines.
Mr. Kristof, who participated in the 2012 event, asked his Facebook followers to comment on his participation.
“To me, moderating a panel feels journalistic (as long as we retain skepticism and distance, ask tough questions and are completely transparent as I’m trying to be here) — but I’m wondering what you think,” he wrote.
Mr. Rose also attended the 2012 meeting to moderate a discussion with former British Prime Minister Tony Blair and to interview Mr. Clinton. “He has never received an honorarium from the Clinton Foundation nor has he ever made a charitable donation to the organization,” a spokesperson for “CBS This Morning” said.
Another list expands the media stars involved with the Clinton Global Initiative. The list of “notable past members” includes Mr. Stephanopoulos; Katie Couric, then of CBS; CNN’s Christiane Amanpour, Anderson Cooper and Mr. Zakaria; Fox News’ Greta Van Susteren; NBC’s Tom Brokaw and Matt Lauer; PBS’ Ms. Woodruff; and The New York Times’ Matthew Bishop, Thomas Friedman and Mr. Kristof.
A membership usually costs $20,000 a year, although the media heavies apparently did not have to pay.
Mr. Stephanopoulos’ former ABC colleague Carole Simpson told CNN that the network’s chief political correspondent and others, including suspended NBC anchor Brian Williams, had committed serious ethical breaches.
“I am sorry that again the public trust in the media is being challenged and frayed because of the actions of some of the top people in the business,” said Ms. Simpson, who spent 25 years at ABC,
Media curmudgeon Jack Shafer bemoaned the state of ethics in the news industry. “One reason Stephanopoulos made such a graceful switch from pol to pressie is because there isn’t much to making the switch. As long as you can do the work, the journalism profession doesn’t care if your last port of call was a federal penitentiary,” he wrote in Politico.com.
I hope the memo has gone out to all journalists from their media outlets to steer clear of any future participation in the activities of the Clinton Foundation.
• Christopher Harper is a longtime reporter who teaches journalism at Temple University. He can be contacted at email@example.com and followed on Twitter @charper51.