George Stephanopoulos has withdrawn from moderating ABC’s Republican debate in February after revelations surfaced that he made donations to the Clinton Foundation without disclosing so to the network and its viewers.
The ABC anchor told Politico that although he feels he can moderate a debate fairly, and has done so in the past, he won’t moderate the GOP showdown.
“I think I’ve shown that I can moderate debates fairly. That said, I know there have been questions made about moderating debates this year. I want to be sure I don’t deprive viewers of a good debate,” he said.
Sen. Rand Paul, who’s been critical of the Clinton Foundation’s financial dealings and could square off against Hillary Clinton in the general election, said the ABC anchor shouldn’t be able to moderate any 2016 presidential debates.
“It’s impossible to divorce yourself from that, even if you try,” Paul told The New York Times prior to Stephanopoulos’ decision. “I just think it’s really, really hard because he’s been there, so close to them, that there would be a conflict of interest if he tried to be a moderator of any sort.”
Stephanopoulos acknowledged that he shouldn’t have donated, although he did so “for the best reasons.” He apologized for not disclosing his donations to viewers, particularly during an interview with conservative author Peter Schweizer, whose book “Clinton Cash” alleges shady financial dealings by the Clinton Foundation linked to Hillary Clinton’s time as Secretary of State.
“In retrospect, I probably shouldn’t have, even though I did it for the best reasons,” Stephanopoulos said. “At the time I did not perceive the problem, but in retrospect, as much as I support the very good work that’s been done by the foundation, I should have gone above and beyond any guidelines to make sure that there wouldn’t be any appearance of any conflict,” he said.
Schweizer called the ABC anchor’s lack of disclosure “a massive breach of ethical standards.”
“He fairly noted my four months working as a speechwriter for George W. Bush. But he didn’t disclose this?” Schweizer told Bloomberg.
Stephanopoulos also says his donations to the Clinton foundation have totaled $75,000, from contributions in 2012, 2013 and 2014. The original number ABC revealed was $50,000.
“I should have gone the extra mile and disclosed [the donations] to the viewers,” Stephanopoulos said. “I now realize I should have done that.”