Fair, honest and open journalism plays a vital role in our political system and our society as a whole. Unbiased and impartial reporters work tirelessly to bring accountability and transparency to elected officials, who in turn, understand that the media is not pursuing any objective or ideological goal, save the facts and unvarnished truth.
Unfortunately, the recent fiasco surrounding George Stephanopoulos’ financial connections to the Clinton Foundation imperils the credibility and future of journalism, both in the 2016 presidential election and beyond. Last week’s revelation from ABC News’ chief anchor that he had previously donated $75,000 to the Clinton Foundation raises serious concerns.
As a candidate for Senate in New Hampshire last year, I experienced a similar incident with Stephanopoulos when he was announced as a co-moderator of the final debate of the campaign. When pictures surfaced in the media of Stephanopoulos campaigning alongside my opponent, Jeanne Shaheen, at a “Women For Clinton” event in 1996, I grew concerned about his ability to moderate impartially, knowing that he had been an open and unabashed partisan supporter of my opponent. It is not a position any candidate should be placed in.
The latest episode is another reminder that Stephanopoulos used to earn his living as a fierce Democrat partisan who worked on behalf of many Democratic candidates, including former Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis, former majority leader of the U.S. House of Representatives Dick Gephardt and, most famously, as a spokesman for both candidate and President Bill Clinton.
Stephanopoulos’ current controversy confirms the suspicions and fears of many, especially Republicans, that he never truly shed his partisan leanings and stripes. That’s despite his and ABC’s best efforts to convince us otherwise.
As Clinton’s lead hatchet man, Stephanopoulos rose to fame as a hardball tactician, highlighted by his starring role in the 1993 documentary "The War Room," which has become the gold standard for aspiring operatives learning the hyper-partisan tools of the trade, that have helped to erode the spirit of bipartisanship so desperately needed in our country right now.
After Clinton’s election, Stephanopoulos served as one of the administration’s top spokesmen and served as his public face throughout Clinton’s first term in office.
Stephanopoulos’ current controversy confirms the suspicions and fears of many, especially Republicans, that he never truly shed his partisan leanings and stripes. That’s despite his, and ABC’s, best efforts to convince us otherwise.
Further, last month Stephanopoulos aggressively interviewed Peter Schweizer, author of the widely-discussed new book "Clinton Cash," and attempted to use the latter’s own connections to the Bush administration to discredit his forthcoming book. Despite the massive conflict of interest his financial donations posed, at no point did Stephanopoulos acknowledge his hefty contribution to Schweizer, or to his viewers. He conducted the entire interview about controversial practices regarding the Clinton Foundation, to which he had knowingly and willfully donated $75,000, without disclosing his own donation.
Perhaps most damning part about the entire episode was Stephanopoulos’ appearance on "The Daily Show" two days after his interview with Schweizer. During his discussion with Jon Stewart, Stephanopoulos said that, “everybody also knows when those donors give that money—and President Clinton or someone, they get a picture with him—there’s a hope that it’s going to lead to something. And that’s what you have to be careful of.”
Using his own words and arguments, Stephanopoulos is guilty of seeking influence from the Clintons through his donations to their foundation.
ABC News' only option to make this current situation right: Announce that George Stephanopoulos will not be participating in any 2016 related political news coverage or debates. Given his role as a partisan attack dog for the Clintons, and many other Democrats, there is simply no way he can be viewed as an objective reporter or journalist.
Candidates – whether they are Hillary Clinton’s Democratic challengers in the primary, or the ultimate GOP nominee in the general election – need to be reassured that they are going to receive unbiased fairness from debate moderators. This is now an impossible feat for Stephanopoulos. Viewers of ABC’s day-to-day news coverage also need to be confident that the news content is free of any bias or political agenda.
With his close connections to the Clintons, and the recent controversy over his donations still simmering, it’s clear that George Stephanopoulos is the wrong person to deliver on either of these necessities.
The profession of journalism, and the American voting public, deserve better.
Scott Brown served as the U.S. Senator from Massachusetts
from 2010-2013. He is a FOX News contributor.
Scott Brown served for three years as the Senator from Massachusetts. He was a Ranking Member of Armed Services and Homeland Security and also served on the Veteran’s and Small Business Committees. He is a Contributor with Fox. Follow him on Twitter @senscottbrown.