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ABC Officially Responds to Stephanopoulos-Emanuel Phone Call Questions

rahm_2-5.jpgSince last week’s Politico story about the regular phone calls between former Clinton White House’ers Rahm Emanuel, George Stephanopoulos, Paul Begala and James Carville, several conservative outlets have raised the question of a conflict of interest.

Media Research President Brent Bozell has been one of the most vocal critics (Rush Limbaugh‘s callers also jammed the ABC News phone lines). Bozell, who makes a claim not part of the Politico story that these are “strategy phone calls,” requested ABC respond to the story on Newsbusters and in an open letter. “With each passing day, ABC’s failure to speak to and about this issue tarnishes further the network’s reputation as a legitimate news entity,” he writes.

Today, ABC responded to Bozell and other critics, although they say there have been several prior on-the-record responses ignored by Media Research Center. “To be crystal clear, George Stephanopoulos does not advise Rahm Emanuel nor anyone else in the Obama Administration,” says the letter from SVP of editorial quality, Kerry Smith. “He reports on the Obama Administration. He speaks to Mr. Emanuel, a friend he has known for nearly two decades, as a source, just as he speaks to countless sources across the political spectrum each and every day.”

Politico also later wrote “I don’t think they have the story quite right,” regarding Bozell’s claims.

Click continued to see the full response letter from ABC…


Dear Mr. Bozell,

Thank you for your letter regarding George Stephanopoulos.

To be crystal clear, George Stephanopoulos does not advise Rahm Emanuel nor anyone else in the Obama Administration. He reports on the Obama Administration. He speaks to Mr. Emanuel, a friend he has know for nearly two decades, as a source, just as he speaks to countless sources across the political spectrum each and every day. That is his job as an anchor and reporter and one that he does according to the highest standards.

In your letter and public utterances you falsely assert that ABC News has been silent on this matter. That is simply untrue. Upon reading your press release last week, we reached out to the MRC to make it abundantly clear that you had totally mischaracterized the Politico story written by John Harris last Tuesday. Indeed, Politico posted a story last Friday by Ben Smith pointing out exactly how badly you had mangled the facts. In that post, Harris stated that, ” The calls are certainly a fascinating Washington ritual, but by no means do I think that George Stephanopoulos is participating in strategy sessions. To my mind, he established his journalistic bona fides more than a decade ago, even as the Clinton administration was still underway, when he showed his willingness to report aggressively on Democrats as well as Republicans.” To give further lie to your claim that ABC News has not responded to your distortions, our senior vice president was quoted in the Politico story saying, “George speaks to Emanuel, but he speaks to plenty of conservatives and Republicans every single day — that’s part of his job. The idea that there is some kind of daily conference call that George hops on is just nonsense and not true.”

Furthermore, last Friday, a reporter from CNS News, which was founded by you and continues to be directly affiliated with the MRC, contacted our media relations staff

for a piece he’d been assigned to write on this very topic. We cooperated immediately and provided him an on the record response. We have since learned from your reporter that his story was killed.

You have said, “if the charges are false, provide the evidence. We will gladly accept it and consider the matter closed.” From the moment you issued your first press release on the Politico story last week – and numerous times since – we have made it clear to you and your staff that your assertions regarding Mr. Stephanopoulos and ABC News are false and based on a willful and knowing distortion of John Harris’ original story.

Sincerely,

Kerry Smith
Senior Vice President, Editorial Quality, ABC News

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