Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign fired back Wednesday after a major Associated Press report raised serious ethical questions over ties between the State Department under Clinton and her family’s charitable organization, with Clinton’s team arguing that the AP data was woefully out of context.
The AP found that of the 154 meetings Clinton held with private officials (i.e., those not in the domestic or foreign governments), 85 of those were with people who “gave money — either personally or through companies or groups — to the Clinton Foundation.”
The finding set off a round of criticism aimed at Clinton for blurring ethical lines and granting access to friends and high bidders. But in the hours that followed, questions began to mount about the presentation of the AP story.
The AP got called out for a misleading (and widely shared) tweet accompanying the report that made it appear that half of all Clinton’s meetings ― not just those with private officials ― had taken place with foundation donors. Vox’s Matthew Yglesias challenged the broader thrust of the AP’s story even further, arguing that the AP framed its findings as more scandalous than they warranted. Though Yglesias acknowledged that potential links between Clinton’s State Department and the candidate deserved scrutiny, he argued that donors who apparently received preferential access actually deserved it and were pushing unobjectionable, noble causes.
The Clinton campaign quickly circulated the Vox article, in addition to noting that some of the relationships that the AP highlighted ― including one with Muhammad Yunus, a Nobel Prize-winning Bangladeshi economist ― existed before Clinton’s tenure at state.
Their frustrations with the AP story didn’t end there, however.
Aides to the Democratic nominee say that the AP has not given them the actual list of the 85 foundation donors who the outlet says got access to Clinton while she was at State, making it hard for them to rebut charges that she engaged in quid-pro-quos. But on Wednesday, they began filling in the holes.
“We have applied the AP’s criteria on our own, cross-referencing publicly available donor info with publicly available schedules of her meetings,” the campaign’s press secretary, Brian Fallon, told The Huffington Post.
Among the names of people they believe the AP is referencing are the late Nobel Prize winner and Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel, former NBA star Dikembe Mutombo and actor Ben Affleck. The latter two have parlayed their fame into global philanthropy campaigns and humanitarian efforts.
The Associated Press declined on Wednesday to disclose the list of 85 people who it reportedly identified as having donated as much as $156 million to the foundation.
“We are still reporting on them ― cross-referencing information and so on,” AP Director of Media Relations Paul Colford told HuffPost, adding that the news organization is “not done with the names yet.”
That is well within their rights, considering how hard the outlet worked to get the data. Along with publicly available information, the news wire based Tuesday’s report on new details about Clinton’s State Department schedule that it obtained after suing the department last year. So far, the AP has received Clinton’s more detailed schedules for half of her four-year tenure.
The AP broadly defended its work Wednesday in a statement published on its website. The news organization, Colford wrote, “has been transparent in how it has reported this story.”
Colford added that the AP hopes to obtain the remaining two years of Clinton’s detailed schedules at the State Department before Election Day.