CNN and the Clinton Foundation — partners in fake news

The Hillary Clinton campaign, the Clinton Foundation, CNN, and Media Matters have been falsely claiming that the Clinton Foundation received a “platinum rating” from Guidestar, a nonprofit “information service” which reports on other US nonprofits.

Here is the problem, Guidestar does not give ratings, they are not a watchdog nor a ratings agency. They merely post the data they are provided by nonprofits without verifying any of it.

Some background information on Guidestar. Their about us page claims that:

Many people think that we are a charity evaluator or a watchdog. We aren’t. Instead, we are a 501(c)(3) public charity that collects, organizes, and presents the information you want in an easy-to-understand format while remaining neutral.

In an email with Jacob Harold, the CEO of Guidestar, he stated , “We do not endorse candidates or political parties. GuideStar is a neutral data platform. We do not consider ourselves a watchdog or a ratings agency.

Guidestar has, however, created the “Platinum Seal” program, which allows a nonprofit to submit any metric they like, whether they choose one of the 700 metrics already listed or can simply make up their own custom metric.

Guidestar’s description of the Platinum program states that:

Some of these metrics are as simple as “number of donors” or “number of first time donors”.

However, an organization is also free to make up their own metric, such as “number of Jedi Knights saved from death at the hands of Darth Vader” or “number of Sasquatches fed, clothed and returned to the wild unharmed”. None of this is checked for accuracy or monitored by Guidestar according to their website, and the organization refused to return numerous emails questioning this program or their policies concerning nonprofits falsely claiming that Guidestar had awarded them a platinum rating.

In other words Guidestar’s “platinum seal” has set the bar so low it’s buried in the ground and any organization that bothers to set up an account on their website and enter in a few “metrics” can be sure not to trip over it.

The Clinton Foundation, in their neverending quest to promote the Clintons as humanitarians by any means necessary, seems to have made a concerted effort to misrepresent this platinum seal as a platinum rating. Hillary Clinton’s official campaign website repeated the same false claim that Guidestar has given this organization a “platinum rating” as well.

Next we have Donna Shalala, CEO of the Clinton Foundation spreading this false claim that GuideStar has given the foundation a Platinum rating, and has lauded the foundation for its “commitment to transparency” in an opinion piece posted on USA Today. In addition to being the CEO of the Clinton Foundation, Shalala also a member of the board of directors of Gannett, the company that owns USA Today.

This exact same talking point ”lauded the foundation for its commitment to transparency” has been used by Clinton Foundation Chief Communications Officer (and Clinton campaign consultant) Craig Minassian on Medium as well as the Clinton Foundation’s official website!

One week later, we have a public statement from President Donna Shalala on Sept 1, 2016:

Here is the text of that statement:

“Today, we heard yet again from highly-respected experts that the Clinton Foundation ranks among the most effective and well-regarded charitable organizations in the world. We are proud to be rated four stars by Charity Navigator for the strength of our operations and transparency. Having also received an ‘A’ rating from American Institute of Philanthropy’s CharityWatch; and the highest Platinum rating from Guidestar, Charity Navigator’s four star rating is another clear indication of our ongoing commitment to driving transparency and accountability while improving the lives of millions of people here in the U.S. and all around the world.”

The next day, Sept 2, 2016, Shalala posted this false claim again on the Clinton Foundation’s blog repeating the “platinum rating” claim.

Here’s the Clinton Foundation’s twitter account spreading this misleading statement to their 737,000 followers.

Here it is again on their website, listed as “the facts”!

Unfortunately, CNN appears to have taken the Clinton Foundation at their word, and failed to independently verify these claims on their own. In this clip from CNN, host Ashleigh Banfield refers to the Clinton Foundation and erroneously claims that “Guidestar gave it a platinum rating” and then goes on to claim “people in your business of rating these charities, who are not politically motivated [sic], say it is stellar”. Media Matters, has posted this very misleading clip on it’s website.

Next we have another link from CNN, this time purporting to be a “Clinton Foundation Explainer” in which national security reporter Nicole Gaouette purports to look into the stories of the Clinton Foundation in detail.

It is interesting that instead of having a writer who covers politics or nonprofits and would be familiar with this topic, CNN instead chose to use a national security reporter to write this article about the Clinton Foundation.

From the leaked Podesta emails, we have learned that at least one time in the past the Clinton Foundation contacted Gaouette in order to solicit a story favorable to the Clinton campaign, so perhaps she brought this story chock full of Clinton talking points to her bosses at CNN who ignored all basic fact checking principles and printed the story without even bothering to check whether Guidestar was a ratings agency or whether they gave ratings at all!

In this article, we see that once again, CNN has misrepresented Guidestar’s “platinum seal” as a “platinum rating”, and in addition she claims that this demonstrates that the philanthropic world holds the Clinton Foundation in high esteem. Following the standard Clinton Foundation talking points in this story, Nicole also misrepresents Guidestar as a “watchdog group that judges charities”.

The next example is a blog post published on Sept 1, 2016 by ThinkProgress, one of the most popular blogs in the US. Thinkprogress is owned by the Center for American Progress, which is controlled by John Podesta, Hillary’s campaign chairman and longtime associate of the Clintons. Podesta also took over for Bruce Lindsey as Chairman of the Board at the Clinton Foundation after Bruce Lindsey had a stroke. Thinkprogress did not disclose this conflict of interest when publishing this post.

In this post, written by the editor, Judd Legum, once again Guidestar’s platinum “seal” is misrepresented as a platinum “rating” and the bogus “explainer” from CNN is quoted verbatim.

Stranger still, a few days after the Clinton Foundation and CNN spread these bogus claims, the CEO of Guidestar, Jacob Harold, wrote a blog post to compare the Clinton Foundation and the Trump Foundation. Shockingly, Harold didn’t include any of the well known criticisms of the Clinton Foundation in this post, for example Hillary paying Sidney Bluementhal $120,000 a year from the Clinton Foundation. Even more surprising, in his research Harold failed to discover the fact that the Clinton Foundation and CNN had been falsely claiming that Guidestar had awarded the foundation a platinum rating.

Clearly there is something rotten at CNN, and there is a reason they are known for publishing “very fake news” that fits their agenda. Despite having contacted the CNN “journalists” responsible for spreading these bogus claims multiple times through multiple mediums, none of them bothered to respond to me or make any attempt to correct these errors. Jacob Harold, CEO of Guidestar, did return my emails but refused to answer questions about these false claims from CNN and the Clinton Foundation.

The lesson from this seems to be, anyone who is interested in running a fake charity who needs some bona fides to boost their presence and ability to hoodwink prospective donors can feel free to give themselves a platinum “rating” from Guidestar and even if the CEO finds out about it, they apparently make little to no attempt whatsoever to stop nonprofits from misleading the public and claiming ratings from Guidestar. — Guidestar- About Us. — falsely claimed platinum rating. — Guidestar — What is Guidestar Platinum. — Shalala false claim in PR piece for USA Today. — Clinton Foundation PR person Craig Minassian claiming fake rating on Medium post. Clinton Foundation PR person Craig Minassian claiming fake rating on foundation’s website. Shalala’s fake claim of platinum rating posted on foundation’s website, Sept 1, 2016. Shalala’s fake claim of platinum rating posted on foundation’s website, Sept 2, 2016. Clinton Foundation fake “rating” talking point for twitter users. — CNN fake news “explainer” repeated the Clinton Foundation’s false claim that they were “awarded” a platinum “rating”