ABC News Exec Evades Answering Stephanopoulos Ethics Concerns

Kerry Smith, ABC's Senior Vice President for Editorial Quality, has in an open letter responded to Media Research Center President Brent Bozell's call to publicly address and resolve the apparent breach of ethics of its Chief White House Correspondent George Stephanopoulos. Smith succeeded in delivering distortions and hurling false allegations at Bozell and the MRC, but failed to address the journalistic problems reported in the original Politico story.

While "pleased to see" that ABC did not ignore his concerns, in a letter responding to Smith the NewsBusters publisher denounced as "unfortunate how inadequately, disingenuously and indeed dishonestly" the network brass has chosen to respond to his criticism:

First, it's the original Politico story that reported that for 17 years Mr. Stephanopoulos has been participating in regular strategy calls with fellow Democrats. To quote from the story, "... in any given news cycle, it is quite likely that Washington's prevailing political and media interpretation - at least on the Democratic side - is being hatched on these calls."

That is not my willful and knowing distortion; it's the Politico's reporting. If you believe the story is false, then you have a fight with Politico, not me.

Second, you claim ABC "reached out to the MRC to make it abundantly clear that you had totally mischaracterized the Politico story written by John Harris last Tuesday."  That is simply not true. The only proactive outreach on behalf of ABC was offered by Senior Vice President of Corporate Communications Jeffrey Schneider. He called our publicist to offer denials. When our publicist offered to bring his statement to my attention, he instructed her not to do so, stating "the last thing I want to do is get up in Brent Bozell's hornet's nest about this."  So much for ABC's outreach to me.

Finally and most importantly is the matter at hand - the damaged institutional memory at ABC News, especially apparent among you senior executives.  You suffer from collective amnesia.   Mr. Stephanopoulos, Mr. Begala, Mr. Emanuel and Mr. Carville ran the 1992 Clinton campaign and labored together as Democratic strategists and message makers both before and after Clinton's election.  To not even address this fact, and how there just might be even an appearance of impropriety, suggests your institutional memory only goes back to the day Mr. Stephanopoulos came aboard. 

You are saying with a straight face that since that day Mr. Stephanopoulos became a born-again journalist, his old self had been washed away.  Yet, here he is still on a daily early morning calls with the same Democratic strategists as the new administration begins its service.

For the full text of Mr. Bozell's reply to Smith, click here. The press release accompanying that letter can be found at MRC.org.

For Mr. Bozell's initial letter to ABC News President David Westin, click here. Smith's letter was carried in full by Politico here.

NB Staff
NB Staff