Days after The Associated Press reported on how big donors to the Clinton Foundation got face time with then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, CNN took the wire service to task for daring to publish the bombshell.

On the news network’s “Reliable Sources” show on Sunday, host Brian Stelter suggested it wasn’t a story worthy of publication, and accused AP Executive Editor Kathleen Carroll of running with the story only to justify a six-year investigation.

“And there are wider questions about why the AP published the story at all,” Stelter said. “They had conducted a long investigation; did they just want to show they had done the work, did they just want to show they found something, even if it didn't amount to much?”

The Associated Press report found that at least 85 of 154 people who got an audience with Clinton while she led the State Department had donated to her family charity. Combined, the 85 donors contributed as much as $156 million and included private citizens with business before the government. It’s as close to a “pay to play” smoking gun as has emerged to date.

“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,” the AP wrote. “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.”

While most media outlets who subscribe to the AP published the story, The New York Times did not. But it was unclear whether the “paper of record” passed on the scoop because it was deemed not newsworthy or if it was for another reason.

Stelter made it clear he thought little of the story.

“Did you feel the pressure to publish SOMETHING even though so many critics have said it didn’t amount to much?” he persisted to Carroll.

The AP had sought Clinton’s appointment calendars for several years, and only recently got some of them through a Freedom of Information Act request and a judge’s order. Other calendars will not be released until after the Nov. 8 election, the State Department has said.

“The question for me is, why has the State Department and the Clinton administration-- I mean the Clinton State Department and beyond fought so hard to keep these calendars from us,” Carroll replied to Stelter. She also informed him it took them more than six years, a court battle, and a judge’s ruling to receive only Clinton’s first two years’ worth of calendars.

Also over the weekend, CNN reporter Dylan Byers called the AP story “arguably misleading,” because the journalistic organization sent an “inaccurate tweet” promoting the story by claiming that “more than half” of the people who met Clinton while she was secretary of state had also donated to the Clinton Foundation.

Byers' point was that the calendars cited by the AP did not include other meetings with government employees, foreign representatives, civil leaders, journalists and others.

NewsBusters noted that Stelter’s umbrage at the AP for the damning story seemed to extend to Carroll personally, when he took what seemed to be a swipe at her over the errant tweet.

“[Tweets are] probably a problem or a challenge YOU didn't face when you took over the AP years ago,” he said.

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