A Special Ethics Alarms “Fake News” Friday Bulletin: Obama Calls The Hacked DNC E-Mails “Gossip” [UPDATED]

gossip

As I write this, President Obama is using his press conference to spin the Russia-Wikileaks hacked e-mails story. In addition to snidely implying that Americans are idiots for allowing such relative trivia to sway their votes when so much of substance was at stake (note that there is no evidence that any votes were thus swayed), the President referred to the content of the DNC e-mails as “gossip.” Gossip is generally defined as “casual or unconstrained conversation or reports about other people, typically involving details which are not confirmed as true.” Calling the contents of Podesta’s e-mails and others “gossip” is deliberate disinformation by Obama—a lie. The most important revelations were definitely not “gossip.” Like these:

  • A 12-page memo written by Doug Band,  longtime aide to Bill Clinton, describes using his consulting firm to raise money for the Clinton Global Initiative as well as direct personal income for the former president. It describes how Band rallied clients of his firm, Teneo, to contribute directly to Mr Clinton for “in-kind services for the President and his family – for personal travel, hospitality, vacation and the like” referring to that fund as “Bill Clinton Inc”.

The memo confirmed that several companies directly paid the former president for his speeches or advice, while making contributions to the Clinton Global Initiative.  One client, Coca Cola, received a face-to-face meeting with the former president at his home in 2009, after contributing millions to the non-profit foundation.

Verdict: Not gossip, but smoking-gun evidence of Clinton influence peddling.

  • On the fateful day that news of a private email server broke, John Podesta emailed Neera Tanden, who worked for the Clinton campaign in 2008 and has remained a close adviser, to complain, saying, “We’ve taken on a lot of water that won’t be easy to pump out of the boat”, he wrote in September 2015 as Clinton staff feared that Vice President Joe Biden would join the Democratic primary race. “Most of that has to do with terrible decisions made pre-campaign, but a lot has to do with her instincts. Almost no one knows better [than] me that her instincts can be terrible.” In the email exchange, Mr Podesta also complained that Clinton’s personal lawyer David Kendall, and former State Department staffers Cheryl Mills and Philippe Reines “sure weren’t forthcoming here on the facts here”. Mrs Tanden responds “Why didn’t’ they get this stuff out like 18 months ago? So crazy.”

Tanden later answered her own question saying, “I guess I know the answer. They wanted to get away with it.”

Verdict: Not gossip. These were assessments of those who know Clinton best, and their questioning her judgment was significant, as is the last comment, which completely undermines the year-long Clinton camp denial that there was anything amiss with Hillary’s handling of e-mail at State. It would be admissible in court to show state of mind and that the Clinton camp had lied.

  •  President Barack Obama told an interviewer that he first learned of Mrs Clinton’s private email server at the “same time everybody else learned it, through news reports.” Immediately,  the Clinton campaign emailed each other to say that the president was not telling the truth. The evening after the interview aired, Clinton spokesman Josh Schwerin emailed to say “it looks like POTUS just said he found out HRC was using her personal email when he saw it in the news”.

Clinton’s former chief of staff Cheryl Mills responded, “We need to clean this up…He has emails from her – they do not say state.gov.”,, meaning that Obama was aware that Clinton was using a private email server rather than her State Department-issued email account.

Verdict: Not gossip. The e-mails strongly suggest that Obama was caught in a lie.

  • Huma Abedin wrote about the ethical problems caused by a Clinton Foundation summit in Morocco. At the time of the 2015 meeting in Marrakesh,  Clinton was no longer Secretary of State, but she was about to announce her candidacy for President. Four months before the summit took place, Abedin voiced concern about Clinton not attending.  “If HRC was not part of it, meeting was a non-starter,” she warned. “She created this mess and she knows it.”

The leaked emails suggest that a $12m donation from the king of Morocco was dependent on Hillary Clinton attending the summit. “Her presence was a condition for the Moroccans to proceed so there is no going back on this,” Abedin wrote to campaign manager Robbie Mook in a November 2014 email.

Verdict: Not gossip. It was direct evidence that the Clintons were selling access, using the Clinton Foundation.

  • Another leaked set of emails showed that Clinton told a Goldman Sachs conference in 2013 that she would like to secretly intervene in Syria. The comment was in answer to a question from Lloyd Blankfein, the bank’s chief executive, in a speech  after she left office as secretary of state. “My view was you intervene as covertly as is possible for Americans to intervene,” she told employees of the bank in South Carolina, which had paid her  $225,000 to give the speech. “We used to be much better at this than we are now. Now, you know, everybody can’t help themselves. They have to go out and tell their friendly reporters and somebody else: Look what we’re doing and I want credit for it.”

Verdict: Not gossip. Clinton’s unreleased speeches to Goldman Sachs were a campaign issue. The transcripts finally surfaced in the hacked e-mails.

  • In another excerpt from one of  the paid speeches to Wall Street bankers, Hillary said: “Politics is like sausage being made. It is unsavory, and it always has been that way, but we usually end up where we need to be. But if everybody’s watching, you know, all of the back room discussions and the deals, you know, then people get a little nervous, to say the least. So, you need both a public and a private position.”

That’s our Hillary!

Verdict: Not gossip. What one says is not gossip about oneself. This was strong evidence, as if more were needed, that Hillary Clinton has at least two faces, and maybe more.

  • Finally, my special favorite: the e-mails showed that Donna Brazile, while a CNN contributor, notified the Clinton campaign in advance of a question she would be asked at a “town meeting” hosted by CNN in March, “From time to time I get the questions in advance,” Ms Brazile, later chair of the Democratic National Committee, wrote in the subject line of a March email to Clinton aides. She went on to paste the text of a question about the death penalty that Hillary  would be asked. The question, with very similar wording, ended up was indeed asked of Clinton. “FYI,”  Brazile wrote to campaign spokesperson Adrienne Elrod, who responded: “Thank you for the heads up on this Donna.”

Verdict: Not Gossip. This was proof that Hillary and the Democrats lie and cheat. Brazile first denied everything, saying in an statement: “I never had access to questions and would never have shared them with the candidates if I did.” Later, another leak showed that Brazile gave another question to Clinton before the Flint, Michigan debate. She was fired from CNN. For her part, Brazile said she was “proud” of her actions, and had no regrets.

There are more, but these make the point. The e-mails weren’t “gossip.” President Obama was lying, spinning, and redefining the news story so it would be misunderstood.

Update: Quoth CNN’s Jake Tapper:

 “We’re hearing this from comments Hillary Clinton made last night and President Obama suggesting “there’s no doubt it contributed [the Russian hacks] to the atmosphere in which the only focus for weeks at a time, months at a time were Hillary’s e-mail, the Clinton Foundation, political gossip surrounding the DNC. That didn’t happen. There was no time during the election where the only thing we heard about was Hillary’s e-mail, the Clinton Foundation, political gossip surrounding the DNC.”

18 Comments

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18 responses to “A Special Ethics Alarms “Fake News” Friday Bulletin: Obama Calls The Hacked DNC E-Mails “Gossip” [UPDATED]

  1. charlesgreen

    Wait a minute. An entire column about “gossip”?

    You say “the President referred to the content of the DNC e-mails as “gossip.”

    No he didn’t! That is a gross example of spinning itself!

    Are you referring to the trivial point in the President’s press conference where he said, “You guys wrote about it every day, every single leak about every little juicy tidbit of political gossip.”?

    If so, you have quoted it entirely out of context. His point was simply to emphasize how thoroughly the press reported all Wikileaks, no matter how trivial, and therefore the press’s hypocrisy in wanting to make the claim that they were bamboozled.

    But even if he DID what you claim, this is TRIVIAL. You are playing the hammer where everything looks like a nail.

    There are a dozen ways to describe this press conference, but “the president lied and mischaracterized points” is not even in the Top 10 – even if you HADN”T mischaracterized it.

    I realize you’re not trying to replicate a news sites’ front page (we have enough of that), and that of course you should have a point of view, but still – this is myopically narrow.

    Everyone else heard in that presser the following things:

    –the last press conference of an 8-year presidency
    –a mostly-gracious deference to the president-elect
    –a dig at the press for headline-mongering (which you misinterpreted)
    –a reported rebuke of Putin
    –reportedly refrained from publicly responding to Russian hacks
    –declaration that the FBI and CIA see it the same way

    I doubt there’s a single blog anywhere besides this one that focuses on this peculiar interpretation of his use of the word “gossip” in the above-quoted passage.

    This is too narrow, IMHO.

    • I find it amazing, Charles, even when confirmation bias can be taken into account, that you, or anyone, could have watched and listened to the segment of the conference I wrote about and think Obama meant anything but to dishonestly represent what was hacked as trivial and non-substantive. From the transcript:

      I am finding it a little curious that everybody is suddenly acting surprised that this looked like it was disadvantaging Hillary Clinton, because you guys wrote about it every day, every single leak about every little juicy tidbit of political gossip, including John Podesta’s risotto recipe.

      This was an obsession that dominated the news coverage. So I do think it is worth us reflecting how it is that a presidential election of such importance, of such moment, with so many big issues at stake and such a contrast between the candidates came to be dominated by a bunch of these leaks.

      What is it about our political system that made us vulnerable to these kinds of potential manipulations which, as I’ve said publicly before, were not particularly sophisticated. This was not some elaborate, complicated espionage scheme.

      They hacked into some Democratic Party e-mails that contained pretty routine stuff, some of it embarrassing or uncomfortable because I suspect that if any of us got our emails hacked into there might be some things that we would not want suddenly appearing on the front page of a newspaper or a telecast, even if there was not anything particularly illegal or controversial about it.

      By talking about how what was covered was “every single leak about every little juicy tidbit of political gossip, including John Podesta’s risotto recipe,” he was saying that it was insignificant information. It wasn’t. By comparing the leaks reported to a recipe, he falsely framed it as trivia. It was not trivia.

      By calling it an obsession ne falsely implis it was not newsworthy. It was extremely newsworthy, as I showed. It was a whole lot more newsworthy than, say, what Donald Trump said to Billy Bush when he thought they wee having a private conversation. “So I do think it is worth us reflecting how it is that a presidential election of such importance, of such moment, with so many big issues at stake and such a contrast between the candidates came to be dominated by a bunch of these leaks.” What does that say to you? It says, falsely, that evidence that the secretary of state (in HIS administration…) was having foreign powers give to her family foundation, expecting access in return….evidence that high Democratis officials abused their role with the press to help Clinton cheat in the debates, and she DID cheat…evidence that Clinton admitted that she tells the public one thing and intends to do something else…evidence that her associates doubted her judgment..that they knew her e-mail machinations were inappropriate, and that the President was lying about his knowledge of it. All of this news worthy and important, and Obama says nothing to suggest so, and everything to represent it as otherwise.

      What is it about our political system that made us vulnerable to these kinds of potential manipulations which, as I’ve said publicly before, were not particularly sophisticated. This was not some elaborate, complicated espionage scheme. falsely asserts that information that exposes the corrupt underbelly of his party and candidate is “a manipulation,” as if it is fiction. The truth is not manipulation, Charles. So Obama characterized it as something else. Trivia. Gossip. “John Podesta’s recipes.” LIAR.

      “They hacked into some Democratic Party e-mails that contained pretty routine stuff”—what does that mean? Is he deceitfully mentioning the “routine stuff” but knowing that much of the “stuff” was not routines? Was he saying that its is routine for Democrats to sell influence to foreign power, misuse relationships with the press, and tell Wall Street execs that they are lying to the gullible rubes? Which is it?

      “Some of it embarrassing or uncomfortable because I suspect that if any of us got our emails hacked into there might be some things that we would not want suddenly appearing on the front page of a newspaper or a telecast”—what utter spin! It was embarrassing because it revealed lies, greed and corruption. I can say with absolute certainty that i have never written OR RECEIVED an e-mail that would reveal anything as daming as that, and neither have you. THAT was also a dishonest characterization. “Even if there was not anything particularly illegal or controversial about it.” Incredible. No, lying is not illegal. Influence peddling, however, is, and the appearance of impropriety violated government statutes. No, it should be controversial, because it’s unequivocally WRONG.

      I found that section of the conference disgusting.

      • If Russia releasing hacked e-mails constitutes “interfering” with the election,. then does not what NBC did also constitute “interfering” with the election?

      • charlesgreen

        Sorry – not going to let you get away with that selective misquoting.

        If you look at the context of the president’s answer to the question asked, you’ll see that his use of “gossip” was to characterize as extreme the press’s reaction to “every little detail, including things as gossipy as John Podesta’s risotto recipe.”

        Here’s the almost-full context, including the question to which the president is responding. Anyone can make up their own mind:

        ————

        QUESTION: There’s a perception that you’re letting President Putin get away with interfering in the U.S. election and that a response that nobody knows about (inaudible) don’t cut it. Are you prepared to call out President Putin by name for ordering (inaudible)…

        OBAMA: ..I think that part of the challenge is that it gets caught up in the carryover from election season. And I think it is very important for us to distinguish between the politics of the election and the need for us as a country, both from a national security perspective but also in terms of the integrity of our election system and our democracy to make sure that we don’t create a political football here.

        Now, with respect to how this thing unfolded last year, let’s just go through the facts pretty quickly. At the beginning of the summer, were alerted to the possibility that the DNC has been hacked. And I made (ph) an order, law enforcement, as well as our intelligence teams to find out everything about it, investigate it thoroughly to brief the potential victims of this hacking, to brief on a bipartisan basis the leaders of both the House and the Senate and the relevant intelligence committees.

        And once we had clarity and certainty around what in fact had happened, we publicly announced that in fact Russia had hacked into the DNC. And at that time, we did not attribute motives or you know any interpretations of why they had done so.

        We didn’t discuss what the effects of it might be. We simply let people know — the public know just as we had let members of Congress know that this had happened.

        And as a consequence, all of you wrote a lot of stories about both what had happened and then you interpreted why that might have happened and what effect it was going to have on the election outcomes. We did not — and the reason we did not was because in this hyper-partisan atmosphere, at a time when my primary concern was making sure that the integrity of the election process was not in any way damaged, at a time when anything that was said by me or anybody in the White House would immediately be seen through a partisan lens. I wanted to make sure that everybody understood we were playing this thing straight, that we weren’t trying to advantage one side or another. But what we were trying to do was let people know that this had taken place.

        And so if you started seeing effects on the election, if you were trying to measure why this was happening and how you should consume the information that was being leaked, that you might want to take this into account. And that’s exactly how we should have handled it.

        Imagine if we had done the opposite, it would become immediately just one more political scrum. And part of the goal here was to make sure that we did not do the work of the leakers for them by raising more and more questions about the integrity of the election right before the election was taking place — at a time, by the way, when the president-elect himself was raising questions about the integrity of the election.

        And finally, I think it’s worth pointing out, that the information was already out. It was in the hands of Wikileaks, so that was going to come out no matter what.

        What I was concerned about in particular was making sure that that wasn’t compounded by potential hacking that could hamper vote counting, affect the actual election process itself.

        And so in early September when I saw President Putin in China, I felt that the most effective way to ensure that that did not happen was to talk to him directly and tell him to cut it out, there were going to be some serious consequences if he did not…

        We briefed all relevant parties involved in terms of what was taking place. When we had a consensus around what had happened, we announced it, not through the White House, not through me, but rather through the intelligence communities that had actually carried out these investigations.
        And then we allowed you and the American public to make an assessment as to how to weigh that going into the election.

        And the truth is, is that there was nobody here who did not have some sense of what kind of effect it might have. I AM FINDING IT A LITTLE CURIOUS THAT EVERYBODY IS SUDDENLY ACTING SURPRISED THAT THIS LOOKED LIKE IT WAS DISADVANTAGING HILLARY CLINTON, BECAUSE YOU GUYS WROTE ABOUT IT EVERY DAY, EVERY SINGLE LEAK ABOUT EVERY LITTLE JUICY TIDBIT OF POLITICAL GOSSIP, INCLUDING JOHN PODESTA’S RISOTTO RECIPE.
        This was an obsession that dominated the news coverage. So I do think it is worth us reflecting how it is that a presidential election of such importance, of such moment, with so many big issues at stake and such a contrast between the candidates came to be dominated by a bunch of these leaks.

        • I’m sorry, Charles. You are wrong. Obama’s entire spin was that the news media focused on trivia, that it was unwarranted, and that it was insignificant. Not a word of what he said implied otherwise. Burying the quote doesn’t excuse it.

          He’s in an impossible position, of course. His ineptitude and weakness allowed this. He wants to claim it doesn’t matter, was de minimus, but his party is trying to make the case that the leaks lost Clinton the election, for which there is no evidence at all. Then there is also the problem that what was revealed, as I documented, was NOT gossip or just “embarrassing,” as Obama deceitfully suggests with his “some of it embarrassing or uncomfortable because I suspect that if any of us got our emails hacked into there might be some things that we would not want suddenly appearing on the front page of a newspaper or a telecast, even if there was not anything particularly illegal or controversial about it.” It was corruption, and stuff the public needed to know to make an informed choice at the polls. It’s a major problem that the RUSSIANS uncovered it, but the fact that the information was revealed was a benefit to the public.

          You really are trying to tell us that this wasn’t a dishonest effort to sweep under the rug the importance of what was in those e-mails?

    • Charles (Obama apologist),
      Obama and nearly every lefty Political Hack and lefty apologist in the United States has been trying to trivalize the email scandal and push it down to the level of nothing buy righty gossip, or witch hunt, since day one all the while ignoring the facts contained within the emails and the actions that Clinton took regarding the email server.

      Was it your intent to show us that you’re showing us that you’re no better than any of those hacks?

      Sometimes people like you just don’t know when to keep their trap shut, instead they spend time writing or saying things that show off their Foot-In-Mouth Syndrome.

  2. Dang it…I was gonna begin my post with “I find it amazing”, just to see the last post written by Jack begins the same way. Oh Well.

    I find it amazing that there are non-sensical accusations on far-right websites that, for some damn reason, paint Jake Tapper as obviously biased and far left. They somehow never fail to overlook quotes like what’s contained in the update above. Partisanism and stupidity shows no party allegiance.

    http://www.dailywire.com/news/6178/jake-tapper-refuses-ask-clinton-about-corruption-robert-kraychik

  3. More fake news.

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/russian-interference-could-give-courts-legal-authority_us_584be136e4b0151082221b9c

    If a court were to actually do this, it would lead to a civil war, with many people killing their neighbors for supporting Hillary Clinton.For they would be enemies of this country.

    It would be bad.

    I do suspect that Alex Mohajer is as trustworthy a source on election law as Ernst Zundel is trustworthy on Holocaust history.

  4. I thought this might be an appropriate addition to this thread…

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