PBS ombudsman Michael Getler has called a $250 donation by anchor Judy Woodruff to the Clinton Foundation “a mistake” by an otherwise careful and savvy journalist. The 2010 donation was made to the Haiti Relief Fund, a program of the Clinton Foundation created to help earthquake victims.
Getler described Woodruff as an excellent journalist who should’ve sent money some other way:
Woodruff has had a distinguished, 45-year journalistic career, holding down important positions with CBS, NBC, CNN and PBS. She has always struck me as straight and professional in her approach to the news and, having watched her now for several years, I couldn’t tell you how she’d vote. But there are lots of ways to contribute to Haitian earthquake relief. So the choice of the Clinton Foundation, even in a small amount and with the best of intentions, was a mistake in my book.
Gentler also criticized the PBS NewsHour for failing to cover the scandal surrounding ABC’s George Stephanopoulos and his far larger donation of $75,000 to the foundation:
Was the Woodruff link the reason the NewsHour chose not to cover a story that has generated lots of continuing coverage in The Washington Post, New York Times and many other outlets? It doesn’t look good from where I sit. The program did post an Associated Press story on its web site last Friday but, aside from the Woodruff statement, it has broadcast nothing about the broader story to its viewers. And the AP story did not mention Woodruff.
I asked the NewsHour’s executive producer, Sara Just, for the reasoning behind not covering the Stephanopoulos story on the air. She said: “We had an online piece but for broadcast we didn’t think it met the bar as a story for our limited on-air news hole that day.”