On CNN’s Reliable Sources Sunday, host Brian Stelter who stuck up for Hillary Clinton last weekend did so again. This time he set his sight on the Associated Press for daring to publish a story which exposed how big money donors to the Clinton Foundation received special meetings with her while she was Secretary of State. Stelter questioned why they would even publish the story following a six and a half year investigation, “did you feel the pressure to publish SOMETHING even though so many critics have said it didn’t amount to much?”
Stelter sat down with AP’s Executive Editor Kathleen Carroll to discuss the investigation, and he was hostile even before they started speaking. “And there are wider questions about why the AP published the story at all,” Stelter stated in the introduction to the segment, “They had conducted a long investigation; did they just want to show they had done the work, did they just want to show they found something, even if it didn't amount to much?”
Carroll kept her cool and explained that the calendars of public officials, especially for those running for president, needed to be scrutinized. “The question for me is, why has the State Department and the Clinton administration--- I mean the Clinton State Department and beyond -- fought so hard to keep these calendars from us,” she asked to Stelter. She also informed him it took them over six years, a court battle, and a judge’s ruling to receive only Clinton’s first two years’ worth of calendars.
The CNN host parroted the Clinton campaign arguing that many of the 154 people the AP named would have received meetings with other secretaries of state, not just Clinton. Carroll told Stelter that Clinton didn’t want to be held accountable. “She wouldn’t answer any questions,” she informed her host, “If she could have told us that before we did the story we’d have been glad to include that.”
But Stelter wasn’t having any of it and continued to question AP’s reporting:
But saying they didn’t respond to your requests, does that give you the ability to just go ahead and publish it and mislead people? …
Sometimes a story can leave a misleading impression with people though, even if the story isn't exactly false, right? By focusing so heavy on something you give the impression that there's a fire there, when really there’s only smoke.
AP’s executive editor didn’t back down and defended the work of her reporters. “I don’t think the story was fiery at all,” she countered Stelter, “If you read it, it’s very measured and it spends a lot of time at the very top of the story explaining what we're writing about, what we're not writing about.”
He even took a swipe at Carroll’s age while they were discussing “clumsy” tweets the AP has made in the past. “[Tweets are] probably a problem or a challenge YOU didn't face when you took over the AP years ago,” he sniped, but Carroll took it all in stride.
August 28, 2016
11:16:21 PM Eastern
BRIAN STELTER: Hillary Clinton, guilty or not guilty. Clinton supporters feel like Clinton's been on trial for this entire campaign season. First it was Benghazi, then her mishandling of e-mails, and now it's allegations that she had a hand in blurring the lines between where the State Department begins and the Clinton Foundation ends.
This week an Associated Press investigation had everybody talking. It's said here this is the lead. “More than half the people outside the government who met with Hillary Clinton while she was Secretary of State gave money either personally or through companies or groups to the Clinton Foundation.” Now, this is based on a review of Clinton's State Department calendar. A review that the AP had to fight for in court.
Now the story was scrutinized, but this tweet was especially scrutinized. Really widely criticized. It said:
Breaking: AP analysis: More than half of those who met Clinton as cabinet secretary gave money to Clinton Foundation.
There’s no link to a story there. And the tweet, I would say is inaccurate. The Clinton campaign and several other media outlets have scrutinized the tweet. They said it was wrong. And there are wider questions about why the AP published the story at all. They had conducted a long investigation. Did they just want to show they had done the work, did they just want to show they found something, even if it didn't amount to much?
Let’s ask the Executive Editor of the Associated Press, Kathleen Carroll. She joins me now for an exclusive interview. Kathleen great to see you.
KATHLEEN CARROLL: Nice to see you too Brian.
STELTER: Do you disagree with anything I said there in the introduction?
CARROLL: Well, I think the idea of scrutinizing calendars of public officials is pretty normal procedure. And is people who are aspiring to the highest land in the office, who have held public office, they ought to have their calendars scrutinized and taken a look at. The question for me is, why has the State Department and the Clinton administration--- I mean the Clinton State Department and beyond fought so hard to keep these calendars from us?
STELTER: And so to explain to the viewers at home. You filed for what is call a freedom of information act request trying to get the calendars, this was years ago.
CARROLL: Six and half years ago.
STELTER: Eventually we had to go to court to compel the government to release the calendars.
CARROLL: Right. And when we finally got the calendars, there were discrepancies between those calendars and between the information that was in her emails. So we went back and said, “Are there any other schedules that the secretary might have been operating under?” And they said, “Oh, you want all of it?” So they’ve been releasing, under a judge’s orders, little drips and drabs of the rest of her schedules. That total schedule for her first two years in office was what this story was based on. A review of who she met with.
STELTER: Because you spent so much time working on this story, did you feel the pressure to publish SOMETHING even though so many critics have said it didn’t amount to much?
CARROLL: Well, I do think it’s interesting. We didn't say it amounted to, you know, the end of the world. We said this is an important and interesting thing that people should know about, Clinton's tenure in the highest office she's ever held, secretary of state. Who she met with? Who were those people?
We deliberately left out all of the US employees and government officials from other counties that she would have met with in the normal course of her duties as secretary of state.
STELTER: But the Clinton campaign would say some of the people you left in, the 154 you named, some of them would have gotten meeting with other secretaries of state as well.
CARROLL: We would have been delighted is Secretary Clinton would have subjected to our questions for that. She wouldn’t answer any questions. If she could have told us that before we did the story we’d have been glad to include that.
STELTER: But saying they didn’t respond to your requests, does that give you the ability to just go ahead and publish it and mislead people?
CARROLL: I don’t think it was misleading. We don’t know why she met with them. She said so after words. I think the issue about conflict of interest is not whether there’s an actual quit pro quo, it’s the proximity. It’s the impression that people have that, “Maybe they got the meeting with her because they donated, maybe they didn't.”
STELTER: Sometimes a story can leave a misleading impression with people though, even if the story isn't exactly false, right? By focusing so heavy on something you give the impression that there's a fire there, when really there’s only smoke.
CARROLL: I don’t think the story was fiery at all. If you read it, it’s very measured and it spends a lot of time at the very top of the story explaining what we're writing about, what we're not writing about. Why we excluded people who she would have met with in the normal course of her duties, because frankly that would have been unfair for us to do that.