In Reporting On Hillary Clinton, Media Get Facts Wrong On Colin Powell’s Private Email Use
Published with permission from Media Matters for America.
Journalists are suggesting that a recent State Department report proves that Hillary Clinton was the first secretary of state to exclusively use a private email account for government work, contradicting Clinton’s statements. In fact, the report states that former Secretary of State Colin Powell also used a personal email account “on an exclusive basis for day-to-day operations.”
State Department OIG Report: Clinton, Powell Both Exclusively Used Private Email
Office Of Inspector General Report: Powell “Did Not Employ A Department Email Account.” According to a report from the U.S. Department of State Office of Inspector General (OIG) on email records management and cybersecurity requirements: “During Secretary Powell’s tenure, the Department introduced for the first time unclassified desktop email and access to the Internet on a system known as OpenNet, which remains in use to this day. Secretary Powell did not employ a Department email account, even after OpenNet’s introduction.” [U.S. Department of State Office of Inspector General report, “Office of the Secretary: Evaluation of Email Records Management and Cybersecurity Requirements,” May 2016]
OIG Report: Clinton And Powell Both “Used Non-Department Systems On An Exclusive Basis.”According to the OIG report: “OIG identified many examples of staff using personal email accounts to conduct official business; however, OIG could only identify three cases where officials used non-Departmental systems on an exclusive basis for day-to-day operations. These include former Secretaries Powell and Clinton, as well as Jonathan Scott Gration, a former Ambassador to Kenya.” [U.S. Department of State Office of Inspector General report, “Office of the Secretary: Evaluation of Email Records Management and Cybersecurity Requirements,” May 2016]
Clinton Campaign: Clinton “Thought It Was Allowed, As Commercial [Account] Was For Powell.” On Twitter, Clinton press secretary Brian Fallon stated: “Our take on State IG report being misreported in places so want to explain. When we liken Clinton’s email use to other secretaries… We mean that just as she used nongov’t account for work, so did others at State. And that’s bc rules did not bar use of nongovt email … Having said that, it’s true her nongovt account was on her family’s server, as opposed to commercial email account. That was distinct … But she still thought it was allowed, as commercial acct was for Powell. Now, though, State says it would’ve urged against that setup … To which we say, we agree it was a mistake. If she had chance to do it again, she would have used a state.gov account.” [Twitter.com, 5/26/16]
But Andrea Mitchell, Chris Cillizza Falsely Claim Clinton’s Comments Are Misleading Because She Was “First” To “Exclusively” Use Private Email
Wash. Post’s Chris Cillizza: “This Is Really Important, Clinton Is The First Secretary Of State To Ever Use Private Email Exclusively To Conduct Her Business. Period.” Supposedly showing “indisputable facts” that Clinton “got wrong” in her response to the OIG report, Washington Post reporter Chris Cillizza disputed Clinton’s statement that her use of “personal email” was “not at all unprecedented.” He commented in a May 26 blog post (emphasis original):
Er … yes, previous secretaries of state have used personal email addresses while in office — Colin Powell most notably and extensively. But, and this is really important, Clinton is the first secretary of state to ever use a private email address exclusively to conduct her business. Period. That was and is unprecedented. [The Washington Post, The Fix, 5/26/16]
MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell Repeatedly Claimed Powell Used Government Email. Purporting to “fix the record” during an interview with Clinton surrogate Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell claimed that the OIG report showed Powell “used both personal and official email.” [MSNBC, Andrea Mitchell Reports,5/26/16]
Cillizza: “Very Important Difference” Between Clinton And Past Secretaries Is Clinton Was Only One To “Exclusively Use A Private Email Address.” Cillizza claimed that the OIG report showed that “Clinton is the first and, to date, only secretary of state to exclusively use a private email address and server to conduct her business as the nation’s top diplomat” and claimed that Powell “maintained both a private and a government-issued email address.” From a May 25 blog post (emphasis original):
There are two very important differences among Clinton, Secretary of State John F. Kerry, and former secretaries Powell and Condoleezza Rice when it comes to email practices.
The first is that Clinton is the first and, to date, only secretary of state to exclusively use a private email address and server to conduct her business as the nation’s top diplomat. All of the other names above maintained both a private and a government-issued email address. That alone doesn’t make her guilty. But it does make her unique. [The Washington Post, The Fix, 5/25/16]
Photo: Democratic U.S. presidential candidate Hillary Clinton applauds at a campaign event in San Jose, California, U.S., May 26, 2016. REUTERS/Stephen Lam