AP Defends Their Attack on Clinton Foundation by Compounding the Error

by Mark Sumner –

associated press

The Associated Press has noticed that some people have taken issue with their Tuesday article which maintained “many donors” of the Clinton Foundation met with her at the State Department, and implied the 84 donors who met with Clinton over the course her four years as Secretary of State were in a privileged position.

It’s not that there wasn’t good information in the AP report, which ultimately shows no wrongdoing. It’s that the lede of the story went beyond click-bait, and into the realm of “controversy bait.” The way the story was structured wasn’t just deceptive, the data was filtered, the presentation distorted, and facts that didn’t fit the narrative were selectively omitted in order to create “scandal” out of, if not nothing, then very thin air.

Now the AP has issued a statement defending their article, but that statement has its own problems.

It focused on Mrs. Clinton’s meetings and calls involving people outside government who were not federal employees or foreign diplomats, because meeting with U.S. or foreign government officials would inherently have been part of her job as secretary of state.

The biggest issue with the original story is embedded right there in this paragraph. Meeting with private citizens? That’s not an extracurricular activity. It’s also inherently part of the job of the Secretary of State.

That’s especially true when those people are: A Nobel Prize winning economist and head of an international charity, the head of group that’s been working to bring peace to the Middle East for three decades, and an executive from a charitable organization dedicated to fighting AIDS—the examples provided by AP.

To arbitrarily draw a line between these people, many of whom headed up important non-governmental organizations, is just that: arbitrary. As the AP noted in its own article, some governments had contributed to the Clinton Foundation, but rather than count meetings with representatives of those governments and then factor in the whole calendar, they drew a line in a place where it turned 84 meetings from 4% of Hillary Clinton’s calendar into 53%. They generated an appearance of impropriety by inflating the importance given to foundation donors.

Just because you explain how you stacked the deck, doesn’t mean the deck isn’t stacked.

Even within the relative handful of meetings that Clinton held with foundation donors, the AP fails to show that “foundation donor” was a factor in arranging the meetings. Again, these people included figures like Melinda Gates—someone who is likely to get a meeting when she wants one, simply because of the importance of her foundation.

The AP ignored the fact that some of these people had long connections to Clinton either personally or in her role as a Senator, dating back to well before they donated to the foundation. People tend to talk to people they know, and some of these relationships went back 30 years.

The AP failed to factor out those involved in organizations that already had business before the State Department or the number of groups who were involved in programs with USAID. These, again, are important State Department business, not elective encounters.

A number of the people in the AP’s list, including the Nobel prize winner, made no personal donations to the foundation, but were associated with organizations that did. When that level of second-hand donation is included, it’s hardly surprising that just over half of non-governmental citizens who meet with Secretary Clinton were either donors, or involved with an organization that was a donor, to the Clinton Foundation.

The Clinton Foundation is far-reaching, with programs focusing in many areas and overlaps with many other organizations. An organization working with AIDS is naturally going to approach the Clinton Foundation. So is an organization helping third-world agriculture. So is an organization promoting the education of girls. So is an organization looking to help plan for the effects of climate change.

In short, by cutting the statistics in just the place that they chose to cut them, the AP created an impression of causation. Then failed to find any causation.

But you wouldn’t know that if you didn’t read past the first paragraph. Which is apparently as the Associated Press intended.


Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos