‘Oh My Lord,’ ‘Come On’: ‘Morning Joe’ Panel Spars Over Schweizer’s ‘Clinton Cash’

Bloomberg Businessweek National Correspondent Joshua Green, New York Times reporter Jeremy Peters, MSNBC hosts Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski, and former Vermont Governor and DNC Chairman Howard Dean engaged in a lengthy debate over Peter Schweizer’s forthcoming book “Clinton Cash” on Thursday’s “Morning Joe” on MSNBC.

Green said, “I interviewed the author of “Clinton Cash” yesterday, Peter Schweizer, author of the controversial book, supposed right-wing hit man. He’s actually working on a similar investigation of Jeb Bush’s finances with a team of researchers that’s going to be published this summer. … he’s doing the same thing to Jeb Bush, and Jeb Bush’s financial dealings.” Green added that this “complicates the narrative that liberal interest groups and Clinton supporters have been making that Schweizer is just kind of this partisan warrior simply out to get Hillary Clinton.”

Dean responded, “Ted Cruz doesn’t like Jeb Bush any more than he likes Hillary Clinton.”

Host Joe Scarborough added, “what also undercuts that narrative, too, is that we had Schweizer on this show, remember, Willie, when he came on with Steve Kroft. He did that explosive ’60 Minutes’ investigation that showed all the insider trading on Capitol Hill. Again, this is what the Clinton team does. They — if you say anything negative, they come after you viciously, and anything to distract from the facts.”

Co-host Willie Geist added “he [Schweizer] shared his information, Josh, with the New York Times and the Washington Post. So, to believe that conspiracy, you then have to believe the reporters from the Times and the Post also have an anti-Hillary Clinton agenda, and now an anti-Jeb Bush agenda.”

Green then clarified that Schweizer told him he “had reached out to certain investigative reporters at these news agencies and said not ‘just take what I’ve written and publish it,’ but ‘take this, essentially, as a lead. Go out, do your own investigative reporting, add to the story and let’s essentially get more sunlight, more information into some of the shady foreign financial dealings.’ And I think that’s what you see in Jo Becker’s piece in the New York Times this morning.”

Dean responded, “first of all, i think the accusations are somewhat different between Bush and Clinton, assuming this is what’s going on. The accusations about Hillary are that she — that the Clinton Foundation took nonprofit cash, none of which went into their pocket, and then in quid pro quo, she supposedly did something for all these donors that gave to these causes.”

Scarborough responded that the Clintons also received payment for giving speeches, not just donations to the Clinton Foundation. Dean then said, “I think that’s a legitimate inquiry. But the allegation about Jeb Bush, and I’m not saying any of these are true, is that he personally made money by dealing with all these folks. Nonetheless, this is the problem here. I’m not going to accuse the New York Times of having bias. They do, everybody has bias. But there is — the author is getting money from donors, big donors, billionaires in Texas who support Ted Cruz. That is a problem.”

Scarborough then reacted, “you’re going back to the author?” And “that has nothing to do with the New York Timesthe New York Times, Newsweek, other publications are following these leads. You can try to trace it back to an author, but you’re actually going to have to condemn the New York Times, Jo Becker and Mike McIntire, because they’re the ones that wrote this story.”

Dean then said, “first of all, I haven’t seen the story and neither have you.” Scarborough corrected Dean that he had seen the story.

Dean then argued, “I will say that there is a — an epidemic of really sloppy reporting that goes from the top to the bottom, about people who put stuff in before they’re ready to get all the facts. And I’d like to see what all the facts are here because so far we haven’t really –” Scarborough cut in to ask, “why don’t you read the story before you accusing the New York Times of being sloppy.”

Dean responded, “because in general, the New York Times has been sloppy, particularly their political writers. I use the New York Times as an example in journalism classes, because by the fifth paragraph in any political story, we could probably find one right here, whatever the political story on the front page is, by the fifth paragraph, they’re substituting their judgment–”

Scarborough argued, “I think it is unbecoming for you to come on this show, and to just reflexively attack everybody that tries to bring up any information that goes against what you want people to hear about Hillary Clinton.”

Jeremy Peters then asked Dean, “would you say that I’m a sloppy political New York Times journalist? i think that is an overly broad generalization that maligns my colleagues, and I really think it’s quite unfair of you. Because, I know, — I’ve dealt with you an awful lot and I don’t think you would call me sloppy.”

Dean told Peters, “I would not, but there are plenty of people who write for the New York Times, and every other paper, that I think are incredibly sloppy, and I could name a lot of them. Including some — correspondents, well-known correspondents on various networks, one of which covered this story who basically put up stuff — I have been threatened by reporters that they were going to run a story that they knew wasn’t true, and I knew wasn’t true unless I produced evidence to prove that it wasn’t true. That’s what you learn when you run for president.”

Dean, after being asked by Scarborough, admitted that he has not had a bad experience with Becker and McIntire in particular. Host Mika Brzezinski then asked Dean “do you think that Bill Clinton should take $500,000 for a speech in Moscow while all these other dealings are going on and Hillary Clinton is Secretary of State?” Dean replied that he didn’t know what the circumstances were. Brzezinski then followed-up if it was at least a legitimate question, to which Dean told her “I have no idea, you have to know what the circumstances are.”
Brzezinski responded “oh my Lord…come on,” although Dean later conceded it was legitimate.

Washington Post opinion writer Jonathan Capehart said that one of the reporters in the Times story, Jo Becker, is a “solid reporter.” But, cautioned that there is an “information void” in the discussion because the article had just broke and “Clinton Cash” hasn’t been released yet.

Green argued that it is “worth remembering” Schweizer is “a serious guy, who’s done serious work that’s led to a serious article. And to Jonathan’s point, the one thing we really haven’t seen is anybody from the Clinton world come out — and rebut the charges and say ‘here’s why they’re wrong, here’s why we took this money, here’s why we didn’t disclose it.'”

He added, “I don’t think there’s any question that Schweizer’s a conservative. And I think people should read the book and make up their minds for themselves. But most of what is in there, and most of what’s in the Times story is out there in the public record. People knew about some of these characters in the book, various newspapers have done individual reporting. As I understand it, what the book really does is kind of collect all this stuff and put it together. But I don’t — think it’s quite accurate to portray Schweizer as simply a Republican with a grievance against Democrats, or he wouldn’t be out doing this big investigation of Jeb Bush.”

Dean then wondered why, if the Clintons financial dealings are correct, why questioning Schweizer’s financial dealings isn’t also legitimate. Brzezinski replied, “you can do that, but the question is, ‘is it a fact that he received that money, and is that okay?’ and I will just say, my brother serves as an Ambassador. His wife is a blogger, a writer, and she has a career. She has to check everything she does with the State Department, and she does so willingly, supportingly of him. And she has to put her career in check, literally, in support of her spouse. I can’t — I think these are more than legitimate questions, this could be a problem…so, forget the author at this point, let’s make sure — if the facts are true, we need to pursue that. You can go on your little jihad against the author, but it’s not going to change the facts.”

Follow Ian Hanchett on Twitter @IanHanchett


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