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Monday, November 19, 2018

The mere prospect of Hillary Rodham Clinton running for president again is evidently provoking outrage among old adversaries – from Rush Limbaugh and Fox News to Maureen Dowd – whose appetite for bogus “Clinton scandals” will never be sated. With the fizzling of Benghazi after an official State Department probe found no wrongdoing by the former Secretary of State, her critics have moved on, casting a gimlet eye on the charitable foundation built by her husband, the former president, over the past decade. Although Hillary has mostly been very busy elsewhere, the foundation provides an ample target for speculation and spite — s0 long as critics ignore what it actually does for people around the world.

When the New York Times assigned two reporters to examine the finances and administration of the Clinton Foundation, which recently added the names of Hillary and daughter Chelsea to its official title, the results were all too predictable: a front-page article ominous in tone, rife with insinuations and gossip, and distorted by major errors. Such is the habit of the newspaper of record, where the phony Whitewater “scandal” originated in a similarly flawed story more than two decades ago. That journalistic disgrace, spurred forward by dozens of Times editorials and op-ed columns, distracted the nation for years, harmed many innocent people besides the Clintons, and cost the Treasury more than $50 million — a troubling episode for a great newspaper.

Now the Times is suggesting that the Clinton Foundation, a charitable organization responsible for saving and improving millions of lives every year, has been financially mismanaged and misused for personal enrichment, among other problems. And those accusations have been amplified not only by the Clintons’ traditional enemies on the Republican right, who mortally fear a Hillary 2016 electoral juggernaut, but in a rather deranged column by Dowd as well.

The article that the Times published on Aug. 13 jumbled together a string of alleged concerns and anonymous accusations, largely lacking in substance.  The story indicated, for example, that Douglas J. Band, former counselor to President Clinton who has since left the foundation to build a consulting firm, is guilty of serious conflicts of interest – without specifying a single actual conflict.

A number of companies impressed by Band’s creation and management of the Clinton Global Initiative — one of the premier venues for corporate social responsibility on the planet today — have hired his firm to advise them. He has also apparently persuaded companies to support CGI with money and other commitments. Exactly how did such activities compromise CGI or the Clinton Foundation, or harm anyone at all? Readers would find no clear answer in the Times. Instead, its reporters dished out unflattering, largely irrelevant anecdotes about Band and Ira Magaziner, whose work at the Clinton Health Access Initiative has provided vital drugs, tests, and medical services to millions of patients across Africa and around the world.

Furthermore, someone told the Times reporters that Band and Magaziner had quarreled about various issues. Plainly, the notion that personal or professional conflict might occur in a worldwide organization with thousands of employees shocked the Times. (But when similarly nasty and pointless newsroom gossip about Jill Abramson erupted in Politico, the top Times editor and her friends felt deeply offended.)