By Lanny J. Davis - 08/21/13 04:39 PM EDT
Not everyone is as apparently obsessed with writing vitriol about the Clintons as Maureen Dowd, the New York Times's op-ed columnist. For example, last Saturday, Dowd compared the Clintons to the self-destructive cartoon character Wile E. Coyote. Her first example of "little explosions" for which she holds the Clintons responsible — I am not making this up — is the tragic and painful experience of Huma Abedin, caused by the conduct of her husband, New York City mayoral candidate Anthony Weiner, whom she loves and forgives. Go figure.
At least it can be said that Ms. Dowd writes opinion on the Op Ed page of the Times. But that cannot be said about the two news reporters, Nicholas Confessore and Amy Chozick, who wrote a 2,839-word front-page article on Sunday, Aug. 13, with the headline that there was "unease" at the Clinton Foundation. Those reporters are supposed to write confirmed facts to support their headline and core conclusions. They did not.
But, as President Clinton pointed out in a published rebuttal, the $40 million assertion is based on IRS Form 990s, which requires multiyear commitments to be reported in the year the commitment is made, not the year the cash actually is received. Thus, he wrote, in 2005 and 2006 as a result of multiyear commitments, the foundation reported a surplus of $102,800,000, though we collected nowhere near that.
“In later years, as that money came in to cover our budgets, we were required to report the spending but not the cash inflow," he wrote. In other words, the 990 can report a paper deficit for a particular year when, in fact, there is substantial cash in the bank or soon to be deposited. Thus, the reporters misled readers by relying on the numbers in the paper 990s without further explanation of the actual cash realities.
Moreover, Clinton stated that for 2012, the reported deficit of $8 million was "inaccurate" because it was "based on unaudited numbers included in our 2012 annual report. When the audited financials are released, they will show a surplus."
The second core accusation in the Times story is that of "potential conflicts" of interest, represented by Teneo, a corporate consulting/public affairs/public relations firm co-founded by longtime senior aide, friend and Clinton Foundation leader Doug Band, and for which Clinton was a paid consultant for a brief period of time.
But then one cannot find a single instance of an actual conflict of interest, which is commonly defined as taking positions adverse to one another or having conflicting loyalties. But the factual examples reported in the Times article demonstrate exactly the opposite: Teneo clients were successfully solicited by Band and his colleagues to contribute money to the foundation, which the Times reports has been used in the hundreds of millions of dollars to help the world's poor and hungry, AIDS victims, and to avoid global warming.
One of the best political reporters in Washington, Politico's Maggie Haberman, posted an op-ed on Aug. 20, unfortunately headlined "The Clinton Drama: Here we go again." In fact, the more accurate headline should have been, "Bogus media-created Clinton scandals: Here we go again."
Remember Whitewater? A 20-year old real estate deal on which the Clintons lost about $40,000, which led to the appointment of Kenneth Starr as independent counsel? Between 1993 and 2001, according to Google, The New York Times mentioned Whitewater 2,290 times and The Washington Post, 3,175 times. I would estimate there were tens of thousands of column inches in both papers and thousands of headlines, all implying wrongdoing by the Clintons regarding Whitewater.
The final result: On Sept. 20, 2000, after seven years and over $50 million of public funds spent by the Office of Independent Counsel, the then-Independent Counsel, Robert W. Ray, successor to Starr, announced the Whitewater investigation had closed without bringing any charges of wrongdoing against Bill or Hillary Clinton involving their Whitewater investment.
Are we all going to go through this all over again in a relived 1990s nightmare, when even great journalistic institutions such as The New York Times allow themselves to rely on anonymous sourcing and more innuendo than confirmed facts to go after the Clintons?
My gut tells me, just as in the 1990s, a majority of the American people will see through this type of journalism and won't allow compulsive Clinton haters and innuendo journalism to change their favorable opinions of Bill and Hillary Clinton.
Davis served as special counsel to former President Clinton and is principal in the Washington, D.C., law firm of Lanny J. Davis & Associates, in which he specializes in crisis management. He is special counsel to Dilworth Paxson of Philadelphia and the author of a recently published book, Crisis Tales: Five Rules for Coping with Crises in Business, Politics, and Life (Threshold Editions/Simon and Schuster).