Earlier this week, Elise Labott, a CNN reporter, took to Twitter to express her frustration over a House bill that would have “limited” incoming Syrian refugee applications by requiring an additional signature from the FBI, signing off on an application that the Syrian refugees had to complete anyway. Her effort at editorialization cost her a couple of weeks vacation without pay.
But now, thanks to a small cache of emails, published by Gawker, we can confidently say that Labott’s foray into opinion journalism wasn’t an isolated incident. In fact, Labott appears to have an open line of communication with Clinton aide, Phillipe Reines, and, at one point, took direction from the Clinton campaign, attacking Sen. Rand Paul on Twitter at their behest and with their Tweet.
The emails, which were released to the website Gawker, show that Elise Labott, a foreign affairs reporter at CNN, took guidance from Clinton aide Philippe Reines by posting a tweet criticizing Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul for asking Clinton tough questions during a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on the Sept. 11, 2012 Benghazi attacks.
Labott also coordinated with Reines to post a favorable quote from Clinton’s testimony, which she gave just a week before she left office.
Labott is shown asking Reines whether Sen. Paul was at any of the Benghazi hearings. When she received an answer in the affirmative, she Tweeted this out:
She then reported her Tweet back to Reines, following up with, “She was great. Well done. I hope you are going to have a big drink tonight.”
Obviously, its no secret that this sort of collaboration probably happens all the time, and no one is under some bizarre impression that people who work for news outlets, despite the aura of neutrality, don’t have personal lives and, therefore, personal preferences. But there are plenty of people Labott could have gone to to get information on Rand Paul’s attendance record, in an effort to smear him with it, without going to the Clinton campaign directly.
Collaboration with an active campaign, for a mainstream media reporter, is an entirely different animal. If you want to do that sort of thing, there are plenty of openly biased outlets that will hire you; investigative reporters with experience are extremely hard to find, and I’m sure Think Progress would love to have her. But working for CNN? That’s not really even a gray area.