PR & Ethics — Stephanopoulos and Clinton Foundation


A bit of a brouhaha has erupted over George Stephanopoulos‘ reported $75,000 gifts to the Clinton Foundation. Actually, that’s sort of a misstatement, since the gifts were unreported despite the fact that ABC News, presumably, was reporting on the investigations into the Clinton Foundation. Frankly, although George changed his stripes when he went from being a political advisor and communications director for a president to a political commentator and then news anchor, it should have come as no surprise that he would make contributions to the foundation.  After all, ABC pays him millions and he did work for President Clinton for a number of years. He probably thinks he owes it to Bill to throw some money at the foundation, right?  What possibly could be wrong with supporting a non-profit intended to “strengthen the capacity of people throughout the world to meet the challenges of global interdependence.”

Frankly, there isn’t a problem with George contributing money to the foundation.  The problem is not issuing a disclosure statement when reporting on stories about the foundation and possible issues with how it was spending the contributions others had made to it.  By not reporting on his gift, George doubled down on what was probably a non-issue.  People would understand his contributions to his former boss’s foundation.  They wouldn’t understand why he decided to keep it a secret.   Maybe ABC had something to do with this.  Perhaps he wanted to disclose but ABC did not want to provide FOX News with fodder to support claims of liberal bias.  That’s a double down by ABC on a bad bet.  ABC’s PR department may have doubled down on that bet again by deciding to drag its feet when responding to a conservative news outlet’s request for comment on this issue while feeding the story to another news outlet that it felt could be better managed.

I studied journalism in college and anyone else who did knows there are certain rules about what you can and cannot do as a journalist if you wish to remain unbiased in the eyes of your readers or viewers. You cannot become a part of the story.  That was George’s first mistake.  Again, understandable, since even his co-workers don’t think he’s really a journalist. He studied political science, not journalism at Columbia. PR has a code of ethics, too, although many who reportedly practice PR don’t know that.  For good reason, people distrust journalists, public relations professionals AND politicians.  It’s a pretty rare feat for one person to make the mistake of being all three at once, but somehow Stephanopoulos has managed to do just that!

Author: Robin

Communications professional with more than 25 years' expertise in PR, crisis communications, social media, community relations, marketing communications and more!

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