Inspectors General Want Criminal Probe Re: Republican Presidential Candidate

(Not really. It’s Hillary Clinton who is targeted…)

The following is a news opinion and analysis

I call it the “Substitution Game” in my book Stonewalled. It refers to how the news media sometimes disparately treats comparable news, depending on the subject and how the news outlet or reporter feels about it.

According to the New York Times, “Two inspectors general have asked the Justice Department to open a criminal investigation into whether sensitive government information was mishandled in connection with the personal email account Hillary Rodham Clinton used as secretary of state, senior government officials said Thursday.”

That’s a serious matter for anyone– but especially for a candidate seeking the nation’s highest elected office. And certainly the New York Times–after being provided the information by unnamed “senior government officials” in the Obama administration–is giving the story its due.

Substitution Game.

How would many others in the news media treat the same story if a few names were changed? For example, these hypotheticals:

“Inspectors General request criminal probe surrounding Ted Cruz’s handling of sensitive government information.”

“Criminal probe requested into Bernie Sanders’ use of personal email account for official government business.”

“Two Inspectors General suspect criminal wrongdoing involving sensitive government information and Donald Trump’s personal email account.”

“Jeb Bush’s personal email account the subject of Inspectors General request for criminal probe.”

Based on experience, my assessment is that many would be declaring the candidacy of the above-mentioned politicians dead in the water. There wouldn’t even be a question. Some in the news media would repeat it over and over and over until the candidate dropped out under the insurmountable weight of the foregone conclusion.

This is not to say that would or wouldn’t be the appropriate way to go about the story; it’s simply my way of raising the question as to whether Clinton’s circumstances will be treated the same way by the same actors. Will the ones who headlined Trump’s disparaging statements about John McCain and declared it to be the death knell to his candidacy lead their discussions and publications with the Clinton news day after day, predicting that she is no longer a viable candidate? Perhaps. Perhaps not.

Will the news media revisit their nearly universal decision to ignore or disparage former Clinton Deputy Assistant Secretary Raymond Maxwell, who told me last September that he witnessed a Benghazi document scrubbing operation in the State Department basement apparently overseen by top Clinton officials? Does anyone care that nobody from the State Department, FBI, Inspector General or any other police body even bothered to call Maxwell to try to investigate the extremely serious nature of what he reported?

Read the Raymond Maxwell story here


Former Deputy Asst. Secretary Raymond Maxwell on left in an interview last September about document operation in State Dept. basement

Interestingly, most in the news media declared the reports of Clinton’s behavior a non-story…until the New York Times began breaking news on it some months ago. It’s an example of the news media’s sometimes-pack-mentality that tends to follow the editorial lead of the Times and the Washington Post.

(According to the Times, a spokesman for Mrs. Clinton’s campaign released a statement on Twitter: “Any released emails deemed classified by the administration have been done so after the fact, and not at the time they were transmitted.”)

The New York Times article on Clinton continues:

“The Justice Department has not decided if it will open an investigation, senior officials said.”

Substitution Game.

What would be the reaction of some in the news media if a few circumstances were changed? For example, these hypotheticals:

“The Bush Justice Department has not decided if it will open an investigation into Dick Cheney’s handling of classified material on a personal email account.”

In my view, based on experience, some in the news media would be expressing great outrage over the Republican Justice Department’s supposed indecision on “obvious mischief by a top Republican.”

Lastly, the Times reported:

“The inspectors general also criticized the State Department for its handling of sensitive information.”

Substitution Game.

Considering all of the critical, sensitive information that the State Department deals with on an hourly basis, this is an extremely serious finding. Will some in the news media treat this with the same sense of outrage as they might have if it were the Reagan State Department?

Defense of all; not one

For those who believe this discussion is a defense of or attack on a particular candidate, they misconstrue… much as some misconstrued this Fact Check of the Washington Post’s statement on Trump’s criticism of McCain. The point is to defend expectations that the news media treat people similarly under similar circumstances: whether its people they do or don’t like. Whether it’s Clinton or Trump or you or me.

Even as we may criticize somebody like Donald Trump for his statements, we are obliged to characterize what he said accurately rather than adding a word he didn’t use in a particular sentence. One can argue that Trump’s actual statements about McCain weren’t much better than the incorrect one that the Post attributed to him in their lead sentence–but that’s a different discussion than this one focusing on media reporting.

It isn’t always easy for us as reporters to divorce ourselves from our personal thoughts and opinions when reporting the news. But when we are able to accurately characterize even those issues and people about which we have strong feelings, it can be among most important public services we commit.


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17 Responses to “Inspectors General Want Criminal Probe Re: Republican Presidential Candidate”

  1. mike gentles
    July 24, 2015 at 2:57 pm #

    The question not being asked is: How did you control your private server from “not” recieving classified information to you and others using your private server. What did you do with thoses in bound e-mails that were classifired and did you are any of your other users respond to these e-mails

  2. Taft
    July 25, 2015 at 2:48 am #

    More people should be reading Sharyl Atkisson…I know I’m getting the real story and the truth.

  3. Eric
    July 25, 2015 at 7:17 am #

    Most interesting part of the NYT article – and buried halfway down-

    “Exactly how much classified information Mrs. Clinton had on the server is unclear. Investigators said they searched a small sample of 40 emails and found four that contained government secrets.”

    4 out of 40?! Have to think her server needs to get subpoenaed now?

  4. buddy belk
    July 25, 2015 at 9:18 am #

    Let’s get this done! The fact its taken big government so long to get to this point is all you need to know. So big and obese, to move an inch is nothing short of a miracle. Great piece Sheryl…thanks for keeping us informed.

  5. Windell F. Fisher
    July 25, 2015 at 4:35 pm #

    You are describing what we call in law “Selective Enforcement” of the law and it can destroy any democracy.

  6. Sherry Prosser
    July 26, 2015 at 3:49 pm #

    One of the things I find amazing is the fact the no one has spoken to proper procedure for handling classified information, be it confidential, secret or top secret. DoD minimum requirements involve the security department of the agency or organization involvement at the beginning of production of classified information. Very specific instructions are followed to the letter during production and as far as dissemination, the security department handles that, not the individual producing the classified document, by courier or registered mail. Email is never used to transfer classified information. Computers used in the production of classified information (laptops) are kept in locked safes or the hard drives of desktop computers are removed and retained in locked safes. Mishandling of the lowest form of classified information, confidential, is considered an offense so egregious that fines and imprisonment are the normal course of punishment. The classification involved during Benghazi, for instance, would be far above confidential. Every security officer from every security department of every company performing classified work is watching this scenario with Hillary Clinton play out in absolute disbelief and consternation. After the obvious mishandling of classified information by Hillary Clinton in this case will completely destroy any authority the DoD has in future over these companies if she is granted a free pass. – guaranteed.

  7. Gary Thomson
    July 26, 2015 at 5:04 pm #

    Regarding the Substitution Game, remember when the Washington Post and the NY Times issued open calls to their readers to help them investigate Sarah Palin’s emails from her term as governor of Alaska? Neither newspaper stated a specific item for which they were looking. They just wanted to go on a fishing expedition through Ms. Palin’s correspondence and asked for the help of thousands to go through Ms. Palin’s emails. Now along comes Sec. Clinton with some very specific items to investigate in her emails and the NY Times is doing its best to ignore the situation. The biased manner in which the “elite” media treat conservatives vs. those on the left is stupifyingly wrong and so devoid of journalistic ethics as to be shocking. Yet, it is just business as usual for the NY Times, Washington Post, CBS, NBC, ABC, ….

  8. Paul from Texas
    July 27, 2015 at 12:16 pm #

    With few exceptions, the news media are corrupt and biased, and Attkisson’s ‘Substitution Game’ is the perfect way to expose them.

    Sonia Sotomayor: “I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion [as a judge] than a white male who hasn’t lived that life.”

    Substitution: “I would hope that a wise white man with the richness of his experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion [as a judge] than a Latina female who hasn’t lived that life.”

    The other part is the news medias’ (mis)interpretation of peoples’ statements. So many characterized Trump’s statement(s) about McCain as an attack on ‘all veterans,’ rather than trying to understand what he really meant, that McCain has unfairly benefitted from a false elevated hero status due to being a POW.

  9. John Dotson
    July 29, 2015 at 2:13 pm #

    How is it possible that HC can serve four years as Secretary of State without communicating ANY classified information?

    • Rob Hoffman
      August 11, 2015 at 5:34 am #

      That should be the FIRST question she is asked under oath at her Congressional hearing in October, 2015.

  10. Jim Mooney
    August 4, 2015 at 10:11 pm #

    I think the problem is that the right comes up with such zany stuff, like Obama’s African Muslim citizenship, that when they stumble onto a truth, it is treated the same as their imaginings. The “Boy Who Cried Wolf” syndrome ;’)

    And I am not in love with the Clintons, although a Democrat. Bill “unleashed” the banksters, while gleefully destroying the welfare we needed after they wrecked the economy. He pushed draconian sentencing for nonviolent offenses, cut rotten trade deals, and broke our pledge to not move NATO to the Russian border – leading to the current dangerous “cold war,” and an insane buildup of untruthful and violent rhetoric by this Administration. Poking the nuclear bear at their home is just a bad idea.

    Not to mention fooling with Monica almost ensured a Bush election. Bill was an irresponsible bum – a used car salesman with a lot of charisma, who destroyed populism is his party with the rotten DLC. I admit being fooled by his charisma, except for the destruction of Glass-Steagall, which I headlined at the time in the newsletter at my defunct “You’re In Bad Hands With Allstate” site.

    And Hillary is just Bill in drag – no new ideas there – although she’ll spout some faux populism while wooing banksters, to get elected.

  11. Juan Ortega
    August 9, 2015 at 3:53 pm #

    Just think what it says if her incredible claim not to have read or transmitted classified material on her personal unclass. account is true… it can not be so, but it would mean that she did her job deliberately blinding herself to the classified info her office entitled her to see and comment on… in other words she was either mishandling boatloads of class. info or she just didn’t do her job all that time. Either could generate felony charges.

  12. Mark Talmont
    August 10, 2015 at 6:06 am #

    The most common example relevant to the substitution game is in crime reporting. Depending on the racial/national ID of the perpetrators and victims, the national media treat the same exact crime as anything from instant headlines with reporters speeding to the scene to….nothing. The downplaying or outright ignoring of crimes committed by criminal aliens is probably exhibit A.

    Recently there have been a series of horrific mass killings, all rooted in some aspect of domestic violence. A quintuple homicide in Modesto CA committed by someone under investigation for a previous child killing got zero national coverage and the means of killing has yet to be revealed. Another quintuple homicide in Oklahoma in which siblings killed their family with knives and hatchets similarly left uncovered; now we have the case of the 8 killed in Texas by a repeat domestic abuser; it will be fascinating to see how the mediacracy handles this one as (1) the killer is a racial ID the media does not like to make look bad (giveaway is do they show the mug shot?) while (2) he used a gun and they love gun crime stories.

  13. Josh
    August 22, 2015 at 10:48 pm #

    Really, How about Rick Perry, facing two felony counts, with a trial later this year?
    How about Chris Christie?

    Sorry Sharyl. I call BS.


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