Allen added that “we didn’t do the interview with Chelsea Clinton and would never clear our questions. But the e-mail makes me cringe because I should never have suggested we would.”
On one hand, the note from Allen is a more thorough fess-up than anything he or Politico offered at the outset. Allen told The Fix last week that he didn’t remember sending the e-mail to Reines, a Hillary Clinton aide, and emphasized that he never has and never would provide questions in advance. Now, Allen is taking full ownership of the e-mail and admitting he was wrong to send it.
On the other hand, his explanation has the convenient quality of being impossible to prove or disprove. Allen’s readers are supposed to believe that this was simply a momentary lapse — that he offered the Clinton camp a chance to help formulate questions, even though he’s never done so before, and that if Chelsea Clinton had agreed to the interview, his good sense would have returned and prevented him from following through on the cozy Q&A arrangement.
Even Allen might not know for sure whether this is true. Had Clinton said yes to Allen’s proposal, he would have faced an ethical dilemma: move ahead as discussed or go back on the promise of question control and risk losing the interview altogether. As with any hypothetical decision, it’s impossible to know with total certainty what you would choose to do.
In the end, Gawker’s story and Allen’s response probably won’t move the needle much. The readers who have come to trust Allen’s work over many years of solid reporting will likely believe him or forgive him. Those who think Politico and the rest of the mainstream media have a liberal agenda might feel vindicated, but their minds were made up long ago.
And those who believe this sort of backroom dealing is part and parcel of politics and media will either continue to accept what they consider an unpleasant reality or remain as turned-off as ever.