Reporter Took Orders from Hillary Clinton’s Staff, Down to Specific Adjective

Hillary and Staff AP

A newly revealed email exchange shows a reporter for a major political magazine agreeing to use the exact word suggested by a member of Hillary’s staff to write positive coverage of her speech.

The email exchange between the Atlantic‘s Marc Ambinder and Hillary Clinton’s aide at the State Department, Philippe Reines, took place in 2009. It was published Tuesday by Gawker.

Ambinder wrote to Reines asking for an advance copy of a speech Hillary was set to deliver to the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR). Reines replied that he would make the speech available on three conditions:

1) You in your own voice describe them as “muscular”

2) You note that a look at the CFR seating plan shows that all the envoys — from Holbrooke to Mitchell to Ross — will be arrayed in front of her, which in your own clever way you can say certainly not a coincidence and meant to convey something

3) You don’t say you were blackmailed!

Ambinder immediately responded, “got it.” As promised, Ambinder wrote coverage of the CFR speech which opened:

When you think of President Obama’s foreign policy, think of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. That’s the message behind a muscular speech that Clinton is set to deliver today to the Council on Foreign Relations. The staging gives a clue to its purpose: seated in front of Clinton, subordinate to Clinton, in the first row, will be three potentially rival power centers: envoys Richard Holbrooke and George Mitchell, and National Security Council senior director Dennis Ross.

Asked about having Hillary’s PR people write his columns, Ambinder now claims he does not remember the exchange and adds that he is not interested in defending it. “It made me uncomfortable then, and it makes me uncomfortable today,” he tells Gawker.

The Atlantic is not the only news site which covered Clinton’s CFR speech exactly as her staff wanted it covered. In an amazing coincidence, Mike Allen of Politico wrote about the speech in a piece that opened, “In a muscular first major address as secretary of state….” And midway through the story Allen writes, “A look at the CFR’s guest seating chart shows that arrayed in the front row will be top members of her team — the envoys she has called her “force multipliers”: Richard Holbrooke, George Mitchell, Dennis Ross, Philip Goldberg and Stephen Bosworth.”

Similarly, the New York Times’ Mark Landler seemed to be working from the same script. In his second paragraph he writes, “But with its muscular tone and sweeping scope, it was also an effort to recapture the limelight….” And in his fourth paragraph, he mentions the attendees, “She even marshaled a cheering section of special envoys and other senior American diplomats in the first few rows at the Council on Foreign Relations.” Neither of these details appeared in the Associated Press story about the speech which the New York Times linked.

There’s no proof that Allen or the Landler spoke with Reines or anyone else working for Clinton before filing their stories, but the details are remarkably similar. And, in the case of Politico‘s Mike Allen, other emails show he has willing to offer a guaranteed “no risk” interview of Chelsea Clinton, seemingly as a way to ingratiate himself with Hillary Clinton.


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