New York Times reporter Nicholas Confessore knows he has one goal in his professional life: not to help Rush Limbaugh’s radio show. After a tough front-page story Wednesday (with Amy Chozick) on the financial mess that is Bill Clinton’s foundation, Confessore appeared briefly that night on MSNBC’s Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell.
O’Donnell warned that Limbaugh loved the Times article and would use it as anti-Clinton grist. Confessore shot back that Limbaugh handled his work with his “usual level” of factual ineptitude, that his take was "unrecognizable in terms of my piece":
LAWRENCE O'DONNELL: Nick, Rush Limbaugh has been calling the Clinton Foundation a slush fund for Bill Clinton for years. He now thinks in his article he has that proof. I read your article, I didn't see that proof. But what do you think are the elements of your report that -- the most difficult ones for Hillary Clinton to deal with, should this come up, that she might have to deal with as a candidate?
NICK CONFESSORE: You know, I think the clips I heard from Rush’s show were the usual level of factual accuracy [O’Donnell laughs]. I mean, it is unrecognizable in terms of my piece. But look, the foundation has long under-paid a lot of people. There is no one working there who is getting rich off the foundation.
Confessore’s right that the Times expose is never specific about the kind of money the Clintons are raking in. It says Clinton became a paid advisor to Teneo, a consulting firm strongly linked to the foundation without saying how much pay. Near the end, there’s a mention of Hillary’s memoir of her State Department years, but the Times never vulgarizes the Clintons with any personal specifics.
When Hillary's book deal was announced in April, "financial terms were not disclosed." Shouldn't reporters be getting that sum on the record, considering she drew $8 million for the first memoir? Memo to Confessore: get on it. Maybe the advance is much smaller this time?
Limbaugh said on Wednesday, “This piece essentially points out that this thing is losing money left and right, it raises money out the wazoo, it's running deficits, and the Clintons are getting rich.” All of that is true, except the Clintons’ riches don’t depend on the foundation – even if it helps with money and good-guy “branding.
Notice that Confessore the Scold of Accuracy shifted the question of who was enriched to the Clintons' underlings, not the Clinton themselves. Limbaugh wasn't talking about the pay for secretaries.
One obvious question for the Times: why wait until 2013 for a big story on the Clinton Foundation? On Thursday, Limbaugh suggested it could be timed to be the least harmful to the Clintons. (Let's guess they can sell the narrative that Hillary and Chelsea will be "fixing it.") It can become another "old story" that can be dismissed:
That story on the Clinton Global Initiative was to get it out of the way, so that when scandal about it erupts during Hillary’s candidacy for the presidency in 2016, they can say “Oh! That’s an old story. That’s been dealt with. There’s nothing to see there. That happened two years ago, and here I am. I’m on the verge of winning the nomination.” That’s why that story ran, and that’s why that reporter is out there, doing damage control in the way he thinks people like me are mischaracterizing it.
Like other liberal outlets, the Times blithely noted this foundation could be used to help someone campaign for president -- without any reference to the IRS raking the Tea Party over the coals for potentially helping someone's campaign with their nonprofit groups.
The Times story just relayed, "In the coming months, as Mrs. Clinton mulls a 2016 presidential bid, the foundation could also serve as a base for her to home in on issues and to build up a stable of trusted staff members who could form the core of a political campaign."