NEW YORK -– As Hillary Clinton prepares to launch her presidential campaign as early as next month, the Democratic frontrunner isn't getting a free pass from the media.
In recent weeks, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post and The New York Times have all published potentially damaging stories on Clinton, challenging assumptions heard within conservative media and on Fox News that journalists will go easy on the 2016 Democratic frontrunner.
Conservatives are unlikely to renounce long-running claims of liberal media bias just yet, and it remains to be seen if such aggressive coverage of Clinton continues in the event that she's head-to-head with a Republican nominee in the fall of 2016. But the recent spate of newspaper stories, raising ethical and legal questions surrounding the Clinton foundation and Clinton's tenure as secretary of state, certainly don't look like a media coronation.
The Wall Street Journal reported on Feb. 17 that the Clinton Foundation, which Hillary Clinton joined after leaving the State Department, had dropped its ban on accepting foreign donations. Such a decision could fuel perceptions that foreign governments donating to the Clinton Foundation maybe gain influence in a future Clinton administration.
The Post raised more questions last week after reporting how the foundation had accepted millions of dollars from seven foreign governments during Clinton’s four years leading the State Department. The Post reported how a $500,000 donation from the Algerian government had violated an ethics agreement between the foundation and Obama administration.
Reporters have pressed for answers about the donations, and on Monday, the State Department walked back an earlier suggestion that its lawyers had signed off on the foreign contributions during Clinton’s tenure. On Monday, Politico reported that “there are no indications any Clinton Foundation donations were ever sent to the State Department for approval.”
That night, The New York Times dropped a bombshell story that would appear atop Tuesday’s front page.
The Times' Michael Schmidt reported that Clinton “exclusively used a personal email account to conduct government business as secretary of state,” and in doing so, “may have violated federal requirements that officials’ correspondence be retained as part of the agency’s record.”
While government officials have used personal email accounts in the past, along with their government email, the Times revealed that Clinton never even had a government email address in her four years as secretary of state. “Her aides took no actions to have her personal emails preserved on department servers at the time, as required by the Federal Records Act,” Schmidt wrote.
The story exploded on Twitter Monday night, with political reporters amplifying the report and raising new questions. The Times' Nick Confessore also poked fun at suggestions the mainstream media is protecting Clinton.
Why isn't the mainstream media covering these stories I see in newspapers and magazines and on tv?
Why is the biased media reporting all these damaging Clinton stories so early, to get it out of the way?
Why did the biased media wait so long to report this story, so no one would know until it was TOO LATE?
Times reporter Jeremy Peters echoed Confessore’s tweets on Tuesday morning:
After all the bogus claims of Benghazi bombshells and mainstream media looking the other way, @nytimes breaks the biggest story yet.
— Jeremy W. Peters (@jwpetersNYT) March 3, 2015
Clinton veterans would surely scoff at the idea of a media free pass, given the feeding frenzy around '90s Bill Clinton scandals like Whitewater and Monica Lewinsky and the fraught relationship between the 2008 Hillary Clinton campaign and the press. Clinton staffers and surrogates grumbled that then-candidate Barack Obama received better treatment. Clinton herself, prior to the campaign, said The New York Times is “after us.”
Still, some conservatives aren't sold that the Times scoop indicates the press will be covering Democrats more aggressively. Breitbart’s John Nolte seized on the Times' acknowledgment that Clinton's personal emails were discovered by the House committee investigating the 2012 Benghazi attacks.
“If past is prologue," he wrote, "this latest Clinton scandal goes away as soon as the media can pretend a Republican engaged in overreach or a nobody GOP candidate in a flyover state commits a War On Women gaffe."
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