Major news outlets — including Fox News, The Washington Post and the New York Times — have hammered out “exclusive agreements” with the author of a forthcoming book about Hillary and Bill Clinton to pursue stories from the book, according to the New York Times’s Amy Chozick. The book carries a long title — “Clinton Cash: The Untold Story of How and Why Foreign Governments and Businesses Helped Make Bill and Hillary Rich” — and comes from Peter Schweizer, a well-traveled writer.
As Chozick shorthands it, “Clinton Cash” exposes how “foreign entities who made payments to the Clinton Foundation and to Mr. Clinton through high speaking fees received favors from Mrs. Clinton’s State Department in return.” It will be released on May 5.
Just what could those agreements entail? The Erik Wemple Blog checked with the three organizations in search of an answer.
Washington Post National Editor Cameron Barr passed along this explanation:
We made an arrangement with Peter Schweizer’s publisher so we could read his book before publication because we are always willing to look at new information that could inform our coverage. Mr. Schweizer’s background and his point of view are relevant factors, but not disqualifying ones. What interests us more are his facts and whether they can be the basis for further reporting by our own staff that would be compelling to our readers. There is no financial aspect to this arrangement.
And Fox News Executive Vice President for News Editorial Michael Clemente issued this statement:
We have secured the television exclusive to report on the forthcoming book, Clinton Cash, as all major news outlets have done for decades with a multitude of books. There is no exclusive arrangement to ‘pursue story lines’ — we have conducted our own independent research and reporting on the contents of the book. This was the same process we used in securing an advance copy of 13 Hours and Things That Matter, which were both the subject of one-hour FOX News documentaries.
The publisher of “Clinton Cash” is HarperCollins, part of News Corp., which is the sister company of 21st Century Fox, the company that houses Fox News. “13 Hours” is the excellent reconstruction of the Benghazi, Libya, attacks authored by Boston University’s Mitchell Zuckoff, along with members of the security team that defended U.S. interests on the night of Sept. 11, 2012. Fox News taped extensive interviews with members of that security team en route to a gritty and impressive special on one of the network’s signature news issues.
The Times’s claim about “exclusive agreements” has stirred a great deal of interest today, for a couple of reasons: One, Hillary Clinton’s campaign for president is just out of the gate, and various news organizations have been focusing on the alleged overlaps between the work of the Clinton Foundation and Hillary Clinton’s 2009-2013 tenure as secretary of state.
Two, Schweizer himself. Possessor of a wide-ranging bio, he has served as the William J. Casey Research Fellow at the conservative Hoover Institution; he has served as a consultant to the speechwriting office in the George W. Bush White House; he heads the Government Accountability Institute (GAI), whose mission is to “INVESTIGATE AND EXPOSE CRONY CAPITALISM, MISUSE OF TAXPAYER MONIES, AND OTHER GOVERNMENTAL CORRUPTION OR MALFEASANCE” (ALL CAPS in original); and he has written some challenged hit pieces on President Obama.
“The conservative author Peter Schweizer has a major credibility problem, though you wouldn’t know it, because this anti-Clinton manifesto is being peddled by some in the media who have essentially reprinted the press release on its publication,” notes a release from Correct The Record by American Bridge, an outfit designed to shield Hillary Clinton from “right-wing, baseless attacks.”
It’s unclear just how well Schweizer substantiates the claims in “Clinton Cash,” though Chozick notes that he “writes mainly in the voice of a neutral journalist and meticulously documents his sources, including tax records and government documents, while leaving little doubt about his view of the Clintons.” “60 Minutes” has used Schweizer’s research extensively for reports on congressional ethics and campaign finance.
And even though the details of these “exclusive agreements” remain a touch murky, they don’t appear to be anything terribly novel. Publishers give early book-peeks to favored media outlets all the time. Should The Washington Post, Fox News and the New York Times put their own names behind any of Schweizer’s allegations, they’ll have to confirm them through their own means. That’s called journalism; nothing wrong with using a book as a tip sheet.