ABC's Ross Attacks Hillary From the Left; Hits Ties to Wal-Mart

ABC investigative reporter Brian Ross attacked Hillary Clinton from the left on Thursday's "Good Morning America." The correspondent looked into the Democrat's ties to Wal Mart during the late '80s and early '90s. He found the image of a "very corporate Hillary Clinton" and someone who played "the loyal company woman" to the successful business.

However, the news wasn't all bad for Clinton. GMA co-host Robin Roberts led into the piece with an almost apologetic tone. She labeled the New York senator "probably one of the most investigated politicians in American history." Ross began his segment by informing viewers that Clinton "served for six years on the board of Wal-Mart, the huge retailer criticized by many for its treatment of workers and its strident opposition to unions."

Ross also stereotyped anti-union forces by highlighting what seems like the most over-the-statement he could find. He observed that former Wal Mart board member John Tate said this of unions: "Labor unions are nothing but blood-sucking parasites living off of the productive labor of people who work for a living!"

In 2007, Ross developed a habit of focusing his investigative reports on Republicans. During that year, GMA featured four hard hitting segments on GOP presidential candidates and only one on a Democrat. By contrast, in early January of '08, he examined Barack Obama's connections to indicted Chicago political operative Tony Rezko and followed that up with the January 31 look at Clinton's connections to Wal Mart.

However, in questioning whether the former first lady fully supported the liberal mantra of decrying Wal Mart, Ross actually left out some aspects of his GMA report that were highlighted in an online version. The ABC News Blotter highlighted a New York Times piece which pointed out the following:

According to the New York Times, Sen. Clinton "maintains close ties to Wal-Mart executives through the Democratic Party and the tightly knit Arkansas business community." The May 20, 2007 article also reported that her husband, former President Clinton, "speaks frequently to Wal-Mart's current chief executive, H. Lee Scott Jr." and held a private dinner at the Clinton's New York home in July 2006 for him.

Ross skipped this part for the GMA piece.

A transcript of the segment, which aired at 7:31am on January 31, follows:

ROBIN ROBERTS: But first, never before seen video of Hillary Clinton inside the Wal-Mart empire. She is probably one of the most investigated politicians in American history. And this morning, you're going to see her in a way you've never seen her before, serving on the board of Wal-Mart. ABC News chief investigative correspondent Brian Ross is here with details on this. Good morning, Brian.

BRIAN ROSS: Good morning, Robin. Although she makes no mention of it in her official biography, Hillary Clinton served for six years on the board of Wal-Mart, the huge retailer criticized by many for its treatment of workers and its strident opposition to unions. Just how strident can be seen in videotapes ABC News has obtained from the archives of a production company hired by Wal Mart to record its meetings. Now providing a rare glimpse inside the company and a very corporate Hillary Clinton. Wal-Mart's opposition to unions was led for decades by labor lawyer John Tate who, after his retirement, proudly recalled at this company meeting in 2004, what he said was his favorite phrase.

JOHN TATE (Wal-Mart board member 1989-1992): Labor unions are nothing but blood-sucking parasites living off of the productive labor of people who work for a living!

ROSS: Hillary Clinton was not present at this Wal-Mart meeting, but Tate was relied on for years to keep unions out of Wal-Mart, including during the six years from 1986 to '92 when Clinton was on the Wal-Mart board and Tate was either an executive or a member of the board himself. But nowhere on the tape of the four stockholder meetings Clinton attended during the time, did we find any indication she spoke up to defend the role of America's labor unions. And another board member says nor did she do so in any of the 24 smaller board meetings held during her service. Clinton has since denounced Wal-Mart policies but at this 1990 stockholders meeting, she seemed to be very much the loyal company woman.

HILLARY CLINTON (Wal-Mart board member 1986-1992): You know, as a shareholder and director of our company, I'm always proud of Wal-Mart and what we do it and the way we do it better than anybody else.

ROSS: The tapes do show, however, the Clintons sought to play a role in promoting the environment. And advocating for women and management as Sam Walton said answering a question at this 1987 stockholders meeting.

SAM WALTON (Founder, Wal-Mart): Uh, we know we haven't gotten as far as we would like to be advancing women in our company, but we're very conscious of it. And we've got a very strong-willed young lady on our board now. Her name is Hillary and Hillary made it very plain to us yesterday that we need to do certain things to recognize, to train, to advance women in Wal-Mart.

ROSS: But 20 years later, critics say Wal-Mart still lags in promoting women to top jobs and the company is now defending itself in a discrimination lawsuit brought by one and a half million current and former employees.

JOE SELLERS (Plaintiff's attorney): I don't doubt the sincerity of her efforts, but we don't see a lot evidence that conditions for women at Wal-Mart changed much during the late 1980s or the early 1990s.

ROSS: As the wife of then-governor of Arkansas, Clinton also took a role in a buy America program to create American jobs.

CLINTON: One ever the reasons we want to buy America is because we love America.

ROSS: But as I reported at the time for NBC News in 1992, Wal-Mart continued to get most of its products from overseas during its buy America program including from this factory in Bangladesh that used 11 and 12-year-old girls. Some of the foreign made clothing was later found to be sold under made-in-America signs in Wal-Mart stores. [File footage of Ross from '92] Made in Korea, made in China. All at a time Hillary Clinton served on the Wal-Mart board. Clinton now says she did not know about the foreign sweat shops of children or how the made-in the-USA campaign was being run. And as a candidate for president, Clinton, endorsed by more than a dozen unions, has sought to distance herself from Wal-Mart saying she no longer agrees with principles and values and now believes Wal-Mart workers should be able to unionize. Robin?

ROBERTS: We'll see if it comes up again in tonight's debate.

ROSS: It may well. It's a major issue.

Scott Whitlock
Scott Whitlock
Scott Whitlock is the senior news analyst for the Media Research Center and a contributing editor for NewsBusters.org