Earlier this week, MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow devoted considerable time to examining the agreements of major media outlets with Peter Schweizer, the author of “Clinton Cash,” a soon-to-be-released book highlighting overlaps between the work of the Clinton Foundation and Hillary Clinton’s tenure as secretary of state. No surprise, said Maddow, that Fox News would be partnering with such an author, who advised Sarah Palin and assisted the George W. Bush White House with speechwriting. Some surprise, said Maddow, that a news org like the New York Times would strike an exclusive agreement with Schweizer.
Now for an even bigger surprise: Not only did the New York Times work with Schweizer; it also worked directly with Fox News!
See the segment below, in which New York Times investigative reporter Jo Becker provides input for the report of Fox News host Bret Baier on a “bombshell rocking the Clinton campaign.” Said bombshell stems from the Schweizer book and relates to an impossibly complicated set of deals, money flows, companies and big-time influentials — notably Bill Clinton and his wife — involving uranium, Kazakhstan, Russia and the United States.
Fully acknowledging the un-abridgeability of the story, Baier said on Fox News, “These stories don’t fit on bumper stickers. They take some time to explain and unwind, but it does not make them any less explosive. The bottom line here is it comes down to tens of millions of dollars donated to the Clinton Foundation and millions of dollars of speaking fees to former president Bill Clinton from foreign governments and businesses that had business or policy issues that would somehow end up in front of Secretary of State Clinton.”
Becker and Mike McIntire have written an extensive story in the New York Times on the matter: “Cash Flowed to Clinton Foundation as Russians Pressed for Control of Uranium Company.” Boiling down the story is, as Baier said, well nigh impossible. But the timeline published by the New York Times helps flesh things out. “Uranium investors’ efforts to buy mining assets in Kazakhstan and the United States led to a takeover bid by a Russian state-owned energy company,” reads a capsule summary in the paper. “The investors gave millions to the Clinton Foundation over the same period, while Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton’s office was involved with approving the Russian bid.”
None of the material about the investments, the donations and the uranium is quite as juicy as what Becker told Fox News in her sit-down interview. She spoke of an effort by Canadian mining businessman Frank Giustra to arrange a meeting of officials from Kazatomprom, a state-run energy concern in Kazakhstan, with Bill Clinton at his home in Chappaqua, N.Y.
“When I first contacted both the Clinton Foundation … and Mr. Giustra,” Becker told Baier, “they denied any such meeting ever took place. And then when we told them, well, we’d already talked to the head of Gazotoprom, who not only told us all about the meeting but actually has a picture of him and Bill at the home in Chappaqua, that he proudly displayed on his office wall, they then acknowledged that, yes, the meeting had taken place.” A Fox News one-hour special stemming from “Clinton Cash” will air Friday night at 10.
That the New York Times and Fox News are both advancing the story of the Clintons’ twisted and money-soaked dealings is a glory of modern journalism. Whether it’s Maddow raising an eyebrow over the arrangements or New York Times Public Editor Margaret Sullivan ripping the “way it looked,” all the hand-wringing about media organizations’ arrangement with the heavily partisan Schweizer finds a rebuttal within the four corners of the stories themselves: Do they withstand scrutiny?
Brian Fallon, press secretary for the Clinton campaign, says no. In a story on Medium, he rips the New York Times piece for failing to furnish the goods. The tightly written opening paragraph:
Relying largely on research from the conservative author of Clinton Cash, today’s New York Times alleges that donations to the Clinton Foundation coincided with the U.S. government’s 2010 approval of the sale of a company known as Uranium One to the Russian government. Without presenting any direct evidence in support of the claim, the Times story — like the book on which it is based — wrongly suggests that Hillary Clinton’s State Department pushed for the sale’s approval to reward donors who had a financial interest in the deal. Ironically, buried within the story is original reporting that debunks the allegation that then-Secretary Clinton played any role in the review of the sale.
Among the many points in Fallon’s piece is an elbow at Becker, for “attacking the Clintons on this matter prior to receiving our responses to her questions.” Becker vacates this line of complaint: In a chat with the Erik Wemple Blog, she says that her Fox News appearance was pre-taped and that she addressed only her reporting from a 2008 story on former President Clinton’s tortuous relationship with Kazakhstan — and indeed her sound bites bear out the point. She updated the interview today with Fox News, and she and other Times staffers have interviewed with other outlets, including NPR and PBS.
Fallon declined to comment beyond his Medium pushback.
Fallon’s larger point against the Times story is that it fails to establish that Clinton was “involved in the State Department’s review of the sale to the Russians.” She was not, he says. “Hillary Clinton herself did not participate in the review or direct the Department to take any position on the sale of Uranium One,” he writes.
Fair point. But: Just because Fox News, the New York Times and Schweizer can’t tie Clinton to specific governmental actions doesn’t mean that investigative journalism around this matter isn’t worthy. It is. As the Becker-McIntire piece explains, “[T]he episode underscores the special ethical challenges presented by the Clinton Foundation, headed by a former president who relied heavily on foreign cash to accumulate $250 million in assets even as his wife helped steer American foreign policy as secretary of state, presiding over decisions with the potential to benefit the foundation’s donors.”
*Updated to include further information from Becker.