Berkowitz goes 1 on 3: on NYT’s Maureen Dowd and Carl Hulse and IOP’s David Axelrod

David Axelrod (Director, UChicago Institute of Politics and former Senior Advisor to President Obama, 2002-12): Jeff Berkowitz, you can lead off the “Young at heart,” questioning.

Jeff Berkowitz: … alum of the UChicago Law School and Graduate School of Economics.  Thank you David, for that introduction. So, following up on the last question …haven’t the media and indeed this session given Hillary Clinton a free pass. I mean, as Fox [or, one of its correspondents, Bernie Goldberg] would say, a slobering love affair [between the media and Hillary]. There were all these riffs by the panel this afternoon on Trump and all we hear about Hillary is that she has some paranoia about secrecy

Axelrod: Which sounds very flattering to me-

Berkowitz: But nobody has touched [today] on the major substantive issue about the Clintons i.e., the blending of the Clinton Foundation, Hillary Clinton in the State Department, Bill Clinton Enterprises, all smushed together with major league conflicts—I mean nobody can deny [the material from the Wikipedia leaks]…

Axelrod: Jeff, get to a question-

Berkowitz: …The question is: was … Bill Clinton using the foundation and the State Department to facilitate pay to play? Examples would be the Moroccan Prince giving 12 million dollars to the Clinton Foundation for Hillary to show up [in her capacity as Secretary of State] at a Moroccan event, even though she eventually didn’t; Bill Clinton earning really high speaking fees….the question is, why aren’t the media, other than the Fox News Channel, focusing more on what I just said and why aren’t the panelists here doing so?

Maureen Dowd [NYT columnist]: I am so happy to get a question about why I am too nice to Hillary [big audience laughter] because my whole book tour has been the opposite question and I agree with you, that… because of Trump’s strangeness, bizarreness in this campaign, as I say, a lot of people think Hillary should get a free pass and I have been making the argument that anybody who wants the most powerful job in the world cannot get a free pass and it’s possible to cover Hillary and Hillary’s issues and it’s possible to cover Trump and not equate them and I just think that, yeah, there is a certain school of thought that she should not be criticized right now because as she likes to say in her closing line she is the only thing standing between us and the abyss… And, in my experience, people who get away with things don’t learn their lesson, they just ratchet it up and do it more elaborately.

Carle Hulse [Chief Washington Correspondent Managing Editor, First Draft, New York Times]: I think we’ve done a lot of stories on it, maybe it gets lost somewhat in the Trump stuff; you know, we broke the [Hillary] email story.  The Clintons- you know, their relationship with money has been problematic for a long time- going back to the commodities trading, right? And, I think that some of it does get lost in the craziness of this election. But, I would say the Times has written a lot about the Foundation.

David Axelrod: And, I have been critical of her-

Hulse: Yeah, and they’ve noticed that [Audience laughter].

David Axelrod: But… You know, Jeff… I ask the same question all the time, which is—Hillary, herself said, there’s smoke but no fire. And the problem is smoke follows them around. But, for a quid pro quo to be a quid pro quo, there has to be a quid and a quo– and I keep asking where the quo was? There’s no doubt these are unattractive stories, but at the end of the day, the implication of your question, Jeff, is that there was a payout for it. Yes, the King of Morocco, or whatever, gave 12 million dollars to the Foundation and wanted her to show up at the Event. But, she didn’t show up at the Event. People met with Hillary Clinton, who were donors to the Foundation, but no one’s yet written what they got in tangible reward for it. So, you can’t just imply or impute to them, to these stories, that there was a payoff at the end of the day. And, I am not trying to start a debate with you, nor am I going to give you a chance to respond. [Big audience laughter]. It’s the privileges of the chair, you know what I mean. But… it is true that these stories should be fully vetted. It is also true that you can’t take them beyond where they lead you because you have a particular political point of view.

Ed Note: Since Berkowitz didn’t have the privilege of responding to Axelrod at the program, he will exercise his privilege as editor to note the following: It has been asserted that Hillary and Bill Clinton have used Hillary Clinton’s power as Secretary of State to leverage funds into their Foundation.  Some data indicate that access to Hillary as Secretary of State in terms of meetings, etc. was purchased by significant donations to the Clinton Foundation.  The Moroccan case, reference above, is one such quid pro quo.  It is well documented that Hillary promised to attend the Moroccan event with the understanding that that commitment would elicit a major Foundation donation. The fact that Hillary subsequently reneged on attending doesn’t make the deal any less of a quid pro quo.     

Similarly, excessive fees to Bill Clinton may have purchased access to Hillary as Secretary of State.

Further, significant contractors who got major deals to work on Haiti reconstruction, facilitated by Hillary and her State Department, also made significant contributions to the Clinton Foundation.

The Clintons derive significant power from the size and influence of their Foundation. Further, there have been recent reports that the Foundation may have been used to pay some of the cost of Chelsea Clinton’s wedding and excessive Foundation salaries  for some Clinton friends.

The above referenced allegations contain the requisite quids and quos that Axelrod said were missing.  Moreover, similar allegations have been reported in the Wall St. Journal and Fox News Channel, but are not present in the reporting or commenting by most of the mainstream media, including CBS, NBC, ABC, CNN, MSNBC, PBS, the New York Times or the Dowd columns.

Dowd and the NYT may have had critical pieces about Hillary, but the quid pro quo information about Hillary and the Foundation has been virtually ignored by them, as it was by Dowd, Hulse and Axelrod at the IOP panel discussion until Berkowitz raised it.

And, the media shouldn’t require a conviction to investigate and write about a conflict of interest.  Probable cause or something less should suffice to investigate and write about these conflicts of interest. That was Berkowitz’s point.


The above is a partial transcript of a University of Chicago Institute of Politics (“IOP”) event at the Quadrangle Club in Hyde Park on October 28, 2016. The event featured the New York Time’s Maureen Dowd and Carle Hulse and was moderated by the IOP’s David Axelrod.  You can watch the entire event, including the Q/A by clicking here. To view the above referenced exchange between Berkowitz, Dowd, Hulse and Axelrod, please watch the close of the video, from 51:55 to 57:00 


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