The Associated Press blasted out a 114-character breaking news alert on Tuesday afternoon with a hot scoop: an analysis of publicly available data showed that while Secretary of State, more than half of Hillary Clinton’s meetings were with individuals who also donated to the Clinton Foundation.
One problem: that statistic is false.
The implication, though never stated, was that in order to get an audience with Hillary Clinton, you had to pay up first.
Tweets that over-promise in the service of stories that then under-deliver is par for the course in journalism these days, but even if a reader wanted to get more details, the tweet has no link to be clicked.
The article they did publish is a lot less flashy than the tweet suggested. As Matt Yglesias outlines in Vox, the actual numbers used by the AP to arrive at their widely shared claim of “more than half” of Clinton’s meetings are cherry-picked down to almost nothing.
First, the AP threw out any meetings with individuals working in some official capacity on behalf of government agencies both foreign and domestic — as in, the overwhelming majority of Clinton’s meetings. They were left with a truncated list of 154 meetings, 85 of which were with people who also contributed to the Clinton Foundation. That’s 85 meetings with Clinton Foundation donors during the first two years of her term as the United States’ chief diplomat.
Clinton Foundation has 7000 donors.
Hillary met with 60 as SoS= ~1%.
Wouldn't have made for a great AP tweet @brianefallon @SheWhoVotes
— Adam Khan (@Khanoisseur) August 24, 2016
The Clinton campaign brought their objections to the AP, and asked them to remove the false tweet. According to her campaign, they refused, arguing that even if the tweet is inaccurate, they stood by their reporting and the story that it links to.
Fine, but what about those 85 meetings? What kind of shady dealings did the AP’s exhaustive analysis turn up? Aside from an occasional assist with acquiring a visa, or meeting with executives from a cosmetics company to talk about ways to curb gender-based violence in South Africa, not much. If Hillary Clinton was abusing the power of her office by running an international multi-million dollar pay-for-play scheme, she did a lousy job of it.
Nevertheless, amidst growing scrutiny around Hillary’s involvement with her family’s charitable organization, the Clinton Foundation has announced plans to spin off those programs which rely on foreign and corporate donors in the event Hillary is elected to avoid any accusations of impropriety.
The media has made a habit of eagerly hyping up anti-Hillary stories for the sake of momentarily deflecting criticism that they coddle the Clinton family. Last year, the New York Times rushed to publish a report about an impending criminal investigation into Clinton’s use of a private email server, only to have to walk back most of their own reporting in a series of corrections and a searing internal review by their public editor.