It was a fair, professional interview. It doesn’t matter. George Stephanopoulos has a bright, shining, unshakable conflict of interest of long-standing, and both he and his employer, ABC, pretend it doesn’t exist. He is a former Clinton staffer. He has a previous relationship with Hillary Clinton. He withheld the fact that he had contributed $75,000 to the Clinton Promotion Slush Fund And Under The Table Influence Peddling Machine, also known as the Clinton Foundation. In 2006 he was a featured attendee and panel moderator at the annual meeting of the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI). He was also a 2008 panelist at the CGI annual meeting. In 2009, he served as a panel moderator at CGI’s annual meeting. In 2010 and 2011, he was an official member of the Clinton Global initiative.In 2013 and 2014, he served with Chelsea Clinton as CGI contest judges for awards.
This long, obviously close and supportive relationship with the Clintons would dictate Stephanopoulos’s removal from any reporting of the Democratic Presidential competition between his former patron and current favored candidate and Bernie Sanders, if ABC was the least bit interested in promoting fairness, professionalism and objectivity in its journalism. Obviously, it isn’t. It isn’t even interested in avoiding a giant, blinking, neon appearance of impropriety that suggests that the fix is in.
At the very least, Stephanopoulos should have been required to give viewers a full account of his ties to the Clintons, so viewers can decide for themselves how objective he is. At very least, if he was an ethical journalist, George should have done this on his own.
Should Sanders have made an issue of this inexcusable embedded bias, either before appearing or while he was appearing? Of course. Sanders, however, believes that Clinton should be held to account and wants to use whatever ammunition there is to fight for the nomination, except when he doesn’t. Maybe he doesn’t recognize the conflict. Maybe he was waiting to see if Stephanopoulos hit him with a “gotcha!” Who knows what goes through Bernie’s mind? If he had sufficient guts or integrity, he would issue a public statement placing this issue, which will continue into the election campaign if Clinton is the nominee, squarely in the spotlight, refusing to appear on the show unless another interviewer was in charge. That would hardly be difficult, since tephanopoulos shares the program now with Martha Raddatz, she who allowed Joe Biden to break all rules of civil debating in order to bolster his efforts to attack Paul Ryan in their 2012 Vice Presidential showdown. She’s may be a pro-Democrat operative, but at least she isn’t a dyed-in-the-wool Hillary Clinton ally.
The test of a conflict of interest is not whether the conflicted individual clearly demonstrates the bias or not. The test is whether that can be trusted, and whether the possible victims of the conflict understand it and consent to it. ABC’s consent means nothing: it has shown repeatedly that it is in a Clinton-boosting operation. Bernie’s consent is not sufficient either. The harmed parties continue to be the members of the viewing public, and their informed consent has been neither sought nor received.