Donald Trump’s candidacy represented such a unique threat to democratic norms that the Fourth Estate decided it had an obligation to overcome its supposed objectivity in 2016. Both putatively objective reporters and Trump’s opponents protested the extension of reportorial neutrality to someone they regarded unfit for the Oval Office, and that pressure surely colored broader coverage of the race. Well, barring a dramatic twist, that threat will be neutralized by 11 p.m. Eastern Standard Time. The question now for reporters and editors, programmers and producers, is how do they respond after Hillary Clinton’s foe is vanquished?
Reporters will have quite a bit of catching up to do when it comes to holding Hillary Clinton to account for what Americans discovered over the course of this campaign.
The results of a series of foreign-directed hacks into the email accounts of Democratic committee and Clinton campaign officials have all revealed an appearance of corruption that must be more thoroughly examined by reporters. What’s more, much of it seems to involve links between the Clinton-led State Department and the Clinton Foundation, which the family has so far refused to shutter if Hillary Clinton wins the White House.
Among those revelations was the discovery that Clinton’s State Department was asked by Foundation officials to prioritize relief for VIPs who were dubbed “FOB” or “Friends of Bill” when determining candidates to provide disaster relief to earthquake-stricken Haiti in 2010. Americans learned that Hillary Clinton had “a public and a private position” on matters related to Wall Street, trade, financial regulatory reform, and global commerce. The Clinton campaign allegedly received a “tip” from a source within the State Department regarding the timing of Foggy Bottom’s release of Clinton emails related to the Benghazi attacks. Where did that tipoff come from? To what extent were the State Department and the Clinton campaign in contact over the course of the campaign?
The emails from Clinton’s unsecured server on which she conducted sensitive American diplomatic affairs somehow found their way onto sexting addict Anthony Weiner’s computer, to say nothing of those emails marked “confidential” that Hillary Clinton directed her maid Maria to print for her. The FBI might not have found anything classified in the emails that they discovered on the computer of sexting addict Anthony Wiener, estranged husband to Clinton’s closest aide, Huma Abedin. That slip exposed the extent of the carelessness with which Clinton handled American diplomatic affairs and provided bad actors backdoor access into her server.
We have learned about the scope of what Teneo principal and Clinton Foundation chief Doug Band proudly boasted about “Clinton Inc.,” the operation in which he sought out and secured “for profit” opportunities to enrich Bill Clinton. In one email, Band boasted about the “many expensive gifts” lavished upon the 42nd President by Foundation donors, one of whom was the government of Qatar. That Gulf nation’s government gave a $1 million gift, which the Clinton Foundation received in 2009 without notifying the State Department (where Hillary Clinton served as chief diplomat).
Finally, and perhaps most important, the WikiLeaks emails reveal the casual relationship between the Clinton campaign and the allegedly adversarial press tasked with covering it. It is true that reporters must develop working relationships with subjects and sources or they wouldn’t be especially good reporters. It is also true that reporting on material obtained via WikiLeaks and, thus, Russian military intelligence presents a moral conundrum. Yet all of the scandalous conduct above isn’t going to be forgotten. The toothpaste isn’t going back in the tube. Furthermore, millions of Americans who were previously mistrustful of the press and believed that they had an unjustifiably cordial relationship with Democrats in Washington now have what they regard to be proof. Reporters dismiss that at their own peril.
The press will have a lot of catching up to do beginning on Wednesday, assuming the softly spoken mission of shielding America from the terrors of a Trump presidency is a success. We will soon know if this alleged sense of civic duty was truly an exception or a convenient excuse to observe a longstanding rule.