Soon after Hillary Clinton became secretary of State, The Atlantic’s then politics editor Marc Ambinder was fishing around for an early look at a speech she was going to give to the Council on Foreign Relations.
Clinton’s spokesman, Philippe Reines, said fine, but added three conditions.
1) You in your own voice describe them as “muscular”
2) You note that a look at the CFR seating plan shows that all the envoys — from Holbrooke to Mitchell to Ross — will be arrayed in front of her, which in your own clever way you can say certainly not a coincidence and meant to convey something
3) You don’t say you were blackmailed!
Turns out, Ambinder did just what he was told. Clinton’s speech, he wrote, was “muscular” and in his “own clever way” Ambinder relayed Clinton’s PR message about the seating arrangement. And nowhere did he mention that he was instructed to say these things.
Gawker dug up the embarrassing exchange, which emerged as a result of its FOIA lawsuit for the release of State Department communications.
There were other embarrassing emails as well. In one, Ambinder told Reines that Clinton “kicked A” on “Meet the Press.” In another, he said that she had “an awesome presser” and “is PITCH f#$*& PERFECT on this stuff.”
Gawker’s efforts had earlier turned up evidence of the press doing Clinton’s bidding. “Politico’s chief White House correspondent, Mike Allen, promised to deliver positive coverage of Chelsea Clinton, and, in a separate exchange, permitted Reines to ghost-write an item about the State Department for Politico’s Playbook newsletter.”
Ambinder wrote to Gawker to defend himself, saying it was all part of what he called “transactional” journalism. That is, wooing sources in order to get scoops.
“The transactional nature of such interactions always gave me the willies,” he wrote. Adding that, “when I look at that email record, it is a reminder to me of why I moved away from all that.”
But normally, journalists woo sources to get information that other public officials don’t want made public. Things like corruption, illicit affairs, deranged leadership. In Ambinder’s case, he was wooing Clinton’s staff so he could, apparently, write even more flattering pieces about her.
Does anyone really believe that reporters send such love notes, much less take direction, from any top GOP official?
This is evidence of bias, pure and simple. It’s too bad Ambinder doesn’t have the guts, or the awareness, to admit it.