Political reactions to ABC News chief anchor George Stephanopoulos’s admission of donations to the Clinton Foundation continued on Friday, with questions centering on whether the former Clinton strategist was fit to moderate presidential debates.
Most 2016 Democratic presidential hopefuls shrugged off questions about a possible conflict of interest after Stephanopoulos revealed he donated $75,000 to the foundation from 2012 to 2014, which he did not disclose during a recent interview with the author of an anti-Clinton book.
But former Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee’s spokeswoman said Stephanopoulos breached journalistic ethics.
“Governor Chafee believes it is a clear violation of the Society of Professional Journalists’ Code of Ethics,” said Debbie Rich. “When asked about whether journalists should engage in political activity, the SPJ Ethics Committee says the simplest answer is ‘No.’ Don’t do it. Don’t get involved. Don’t contribute money, don’t work in a campaign, don’t lobby, and especially, don’t run for office yourself.”
Vermont Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders, the only declared Democratic candidate besides Hillary Clinton, told Brianna Keilar on CNN’s “State of the Union” in an interview scheduled to air Sunday that Stephanopoulos should have made the donations public earlier.
But, Sanders added, “I don’t – between you and me – I don’t think it’s the biggest deal in the world.”
Lis Smith, former Gov. Martin O’Malley’s top aide, said that Stephanopoulos’ Clinton ties don’t worry their operation. “We have immense respect for him, and he has always been fair,” she said.
And Craig Crawford, former Sen. Jim Webb’s spokesman, said in an emailed statement that he can’t see Stephanopoulos’ ties “making any difference to Jim.”
Chafee, O’Malley and Webb have not announced whether they will run or not. O’Malley is expected to run and will announce his decision on May 30 in May.
Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus called the donations issue “obviously troubling” on Fox News’s “Hannity” on Thursday night.
Most of the Republican candidates for President have stayed quiet about the controversy so far, but Rand Paul said on “Hannity” Thursday night that “he’s too close to the Clintons to really give an objective interview.”
Wisconsin Republican Rep. Paul Ryan, also speaking on CNN’s “State of the Union,” added that he thought Stephanopoulos has shown a liberal bias in his previous moderations of Republican debates.
“Look, I got no issues with George,” Ryan said. “He’s a nice guy. But you know, he has – everybody has political views.”
Stephanopoulos told CNN that he would not moderate ABC’s planned Republican presidential primary debate, but that he would continue covering the 2016 race. In a conversation with CNN’s Brian Stelter on Thursday, the anchor said his only remaining relationship to the Clintons is a journalistic one.
Stephanopoulos was one of former President Bill Clinton’s top aides during his 1992 presidential campaign and remained a close adviser in the White House. He left the Clinton administration after the first term and became a political analyst for ABC shortly thereafter.
CNN’s Brian Stelter contributed to this report.