CNSNews.com rarely posts original articles over the weekend, but it did so Feb. 7, with an article by Fred Lucas that -- if you scroll way to the end -- addresses ABC's allegation that CNS killed a story that would have contained ABC's response to Media Research Center chief (and CNS president) Brent Bozell's accusation that ABC "This Week" host George Stephanopoulos was engaging in "a clear violation of journalistic ethics" by holding daily talks with longtime friends James Carville, Paul Begala and Rahm Emanuel.
The article starts off with ABC's denial that Stephanopoulos is "advis[ing]" Emanuel or the Obama White House and disputing the tone of the Politico article that launched this, and Bozell still insisting that Stephanopoulos is and essentially calling ABC spokeswoman Emily Lenzner a liar: "If the story is not true, one would expect George Stephanopoulos and ABC to loudly, unequivocally, immediately and unrelentingly denounce Politico for running an untrue story. Instead, they’re attacking me for simply repeating what Politico said."
But it's not until the 22nd paragraph of the article that we get to the real meat of this story: that ABC did, in fact, criticize the Politico story in its comments to CNS that were not published at the time they were made -- and are, presumably, the comments that lead off this Feb. 7 article. The article then addresses ABC's specific allegation against CNS:
The ABC letter also noted that CNSNews.com, as part of its own reporting on the issue, had been in contact with the network’s media relations staff. Smith said ABC “cooperated immediately” with an “on the record response,” but had “since learned from your reporter that his story was killed.”
Terry Jeffrey, editor-in-chief of CNSNews.com, said in a statement Friday, Feb. 6, why a CNSNews.com story on the ABC statement did not run earlier.
“I decided on Friday, January 30, that I did not want to run a story about a dispute between CNSNews.com’s parent organization and ABC News because it presented a conflict of interest for us,” Jeffrey said. “I made the decision in consultation with our managing editor.”
“I did not discuss this decision with MRC President Brent Bozell, nor did I inform him about the fact that we had considered running a story and not done so, or of the substance of the statement ABC provided to reporter Fred Lucas until the afternoon of Thursday, February 5,” Jeffrey said.
Lucas and Jeffrey work in the same office, yet Lucas has to rely on an apparently prepared statement from Jeffrey to tell CNS' side of the story? Jeffrey's statement was not released publicly, as far as we know.
Further, Jeffrey did not let Bozell know about ABC's statement to CNS "until the afternoon of Thursday, February 5" -- that is, after ABC's letter pointing that CNS had killed the story was sent and, perhaps more to the point, posted by Politico's Michael Calderone.
There's also no direct admission by Bozell that he erred in claiming that ABC has been silent on the issue, and that perhaps his left hand should have known what his right hand was doing. Indeed, this article is the only place within the MRC empire that this issue has even been addressed -- buried at the bottom of a report posted on the slowest readership day of the week. Yet the MRC front page still features Bozell's bogus attack on ABC with the headline: "Bozell to ABC President: You Must Publicly Address Stephanopoulos' Apparent Conflict of Interest."
Also, Jeffrey's claim that CNS reporting on the Bozell-ABC spat 'presented a conflict of interest for us" rings a bit hollow, since CNS generally has little problem promoting corporate initiatives -- indeed, CNS news stories have regularly repeated claims made by MRC and its sister organizations, and its mission statement touts that "Study after study by the Media Research Center, the parent organization of CNSNews.com, clearly demonstrate a liberal bias in many news outlets." Isn't the whole point of CNS to help promote the conservative agenda of its owner? It's a little too late for Jeffrey -- who, as we've noted, has a long conservative pedigree -- to declare independence and fret about journalistic ethics now.
It seems that CNS was willing to sit on the truth of ABC's response, which proved a key contention by Bozell wrong, until ABC called them out on it. That's a more serious ethical breach than the purported "conflict of interest" between CNS and Bozell.