Networks Punt on Obama Administration Revising Position on Hillary’s E-Mail Investigation

October 16th, 2015 4:09 PM

While the “big three” of ABC, CBS, and NBC all prominently touted on Monday President Obama’s defense of Hillary Clinton on her e-mail scandal in a 60 Minutes interview, none of the three dared to report later in the week how the Obama administration largely walked it back by declaring that Obama believes Clinton’s private e-mail server “does not pose a threat to national security” “based on what has been made public” so far.

In the President’s interview with Steve Kroft of CBS’s 60 Minutes, Obama ruled that Clinton’s decision to not use a government e-mail account was “not a situation in which America’s national security was endangered” and commended her for admitting it was a mistake.

Nearly 48 hours later on Tuesday, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest provided a different response [emphasis mine]: 

[W]hat the President – based on what the President knows now, and that’s what all of us know now, the President wasn’t speaking based on any information that has not yet been made public.  But based on what has been made public and based on the public pronouncements of Secretary Clinton herself, that’s how the President arrived at the conclusion that this has not and does not pose a threat to national security.

Referring to the FBI investigation into the e-mail server and Clinton’s conduct, Earnest added that, when it comes to federal investigations: “The President has a healthy respect for the kinds of independent investigations that are conducted by inspectors general and, where necessary, by the FBI.”

As Townhall’s Guy Benson noted, this qualifies as what one can call “the official walk-back” but still “doesn’t,” however, “pass the laugh test.” Rather, Obama’s comments come cross as him “making a political-motivated statement, entirely divorced from publicly-available information.”

With the networks out to lunch on this story, the Fox News Channel (FNC) program Special Report with Bret Baier offered a full report from White House correspondent Kevin Corke on Wednesday’s show about this clarification by the administration (see video above).

For a sampling of what the networks covered instead of this, the CBS Evening News used a tease and news brief on Thursday to tout the latest photos made public by the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library of the former President and his family. 

On ABC’s World News Tonight, Wednesday’s “The Index” segment included anchor David Muir showing viral video of a bear wandering the halls of a school in Montana. 

Finally, Thursday’s NBC Nightly News capped off a newscast without this story by giving free press to a campaign by the British edition of Elle magazine to photoshop men out of pictures of elected officials across the globe.

The relevant portions of the transcript from FNC’s Special Report with Bret Baier on October 14 can be found below.

FNC’s Special Report with Bret Baier
October 14, 2015
6:31 p.m. Eastern

BRET BAIER: President Obama's team is walking back his recent comments which seem to give Hillary Clinton political cover over her e-mail scandal. Correspondent Kevin Corke is at the White House with what is being said now and why. 

HILLARY CLINTON: Well, I've taken responsibility for it. I did say it was a mistake. 

KEVIN CORKE: It was all too familiar. Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton telling the audience watching last night's Democratic debate that though it was a mistake to use a private e-mail server during her time in office, the level of scrutiny her decision has gotten is unwarranted. 


CORKE: Plainly, there wouldn't be a need for more transparency had Clinton, like everyone else in the Obama cabinet, used a secure government server and while it’s true Clinton has turned over 55,000 pages of emails from that server, investigators from the FBI, State Department, and House Benghazi Committee continue to look into whether she sent or received classified material, a violation of federal law something Clinton denies. This, as the State Department struggles to hire enough staff to review the emails. Officials there telling a federal court yesterday, that despite a goal of 50 additional staffers to do the job, it's been able to find fewer than three dozen applicants to make offers to. 

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA [on CBS’s 60 Minutes, 10/11/15]: I can tell you that this is not a situation in which America's national security was endangered. 

CORKE: When President Obama told 60 Minutes, he didn't think Clinton's email scandal compromised national security, it reinforced the fear among many on Capitol Hill that the Obama Justice Department would be hesitant to prosecute Clinton. 

WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY JOSH EARNEST: The President has a healthy respect for the kinds of independent investigations that are conducted by inspectors general and where necessary by the FBI. 

CORKE: Last month, Texas Senator John Cornyn asked Attorney General Loretta Lynch to appoint a special counsel to take up the investigation. Critics point to the DOJ’s response to the tea party IRS scandal and a lack of prosecution in the fast and furious gun program as examples of selective enforcement, but DOJ sources say prior investigations into former Senator John Edwards and New Jersey Senator Bob Menendez, both Democrats, prove the department's impartiality. Of course, most Americans, Bret, learned a lot about that private email server during the Select Benghazi Sommittee investigation. Speaking of, one week from today, Clinton is expected to testify before that committee on Capitol Hill. It should make for a very interesting day.