Markos Moulitsas: We need a better media

Markos Moulitsas: We need a better media
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Nothing proves the media’s rampant false equivalency problem this cycle more than the disparate coverage of the Clinton and Trump charitable foundations.

Despite endless coverage and thousands of hours of investigation, the media has yet to unearth anything resembling even a hint of wrongdoing by the Clinton Foundation. Those stories have relied on insinuating that contributions might have had an impact on Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonTrump asks Biden to give Putin his 'warmest regards' Huma Abedin announces book deal Mystery surrounds Justice's pledge on journalist records MORE’s work as secretary of State — yet not a single concrete example of undue influence has been unearthed ­despite exhaustive digging.


On the other hand, a single reporter, David Fahrenthold, at a single media outlet, The Washington Post, has unearthed bucketloads of wrongdoing at Donald TrumpDonald TrumpTrump DOJ demanded metadata on 73 phone numbers and 36 email addresses, Apple says Putin says he's optimistic about working with Biden ahead of planned meeting Biden meets Queen Elizabeth for first time as president MORE’s supposedly charitable foundation.

Let’s recap.

First, there is the lack of personal contributions to the foundation. In his best year, Trump donated $1 million, or 0.01 percent of his supposed $10 billion net worth. But that was anomalous; most years he gave a pittance, and he stopped contributing altogether in 2008. That’s strange for someone who bills himself an “ardent philanthropist,” but it is consistent with his constantly false claims of charitable giving, from the real estate tycoon’s unfulfilled promises to donate proceeds of his book “Crippled America” to charity to his phantom donations to veteran groups in 2015.

Basically, Trump used his foundation as a slush fund to buy himself neat stuff, from a $12,000 autographed football helmet and matching jersey to an undoubtedly tasteful $20,000 6-foot painting of himself.

Even more disturbingly, Trump used his foundation to launder money to support friends and attack opponents.

He illegally donated $25,000 to Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi after she apparently promised to drop a probe into Trump University, then tried to hide it by claiming the donation went to a Kansas-based charity with a similar name. That Kansas charity never received a dime. In another instance, Trump’s foundation donated $100,000 to a group financing a lawsuit against New York state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, who was working on his own probe of Trump’s “university” scam.

So far, Fahrenthold has dug up five charities that didn’t receive a dime that Trump claimed he sent them. That means more hidden donations to — well, we don’t know. What we do have is a proven record of the GOP presidential nominee illegally using his charitable foundation to further his political agenda, then hiding those donations by pretending to give to legitimate charities. In a sane world, other reporters would join Fahrenthold in digging through what are publicly available records to track that money — but instead, did you hear about Anthony Weiner?

Don’t expect any re-examination of priorities, at least at The New York Times. The newspaper’s public editor, Liz Spayd, acknowledged that while the paper’s coverage of the Clinton Foundation “started with a legitimate issue,” some of those stories “revealed relatively little bad behavior, yet were written as if they did. That’s not good journalism.” Yet she still defends the paper’s work as “forceful, honest reporting.” Forceful, honest and not good. Mission apparently accomplished. To Spayd’s credit, she does point to Fahrenthold’s work at the Post as further example of forceful, honest reporting.

No one suggests that the media let Clinton off any hook. She’s the most scrutinized presidential candidate in history, going on four decades in the public glare. But good journalism is like detective work: It follows promising leads while abandoning dead ends. The Clinton Foundation story is objectively a dead end. The Trump Foundation is not. The media should act accordingly.

Moulitsas is the founder and publisher of Daily Kos.