ABC Puts FOB/Ex-MSNBC Chief in Charge of Amanpour's This Week and All Political Coverage

ABC News announced Thursday that Rick Kaplan, a long-time (FOB) Friend of Bill (Clinton) who used his high-level network news positions to protect his friend, will take the helm at ABC's This Week and oversee all ABC News political coverage. "I'm delighted to report that Rick Kaplan is returning to ABC News as Executive Producer of This Week with Christiane Amanpour," ABC News President Ben Sherwood declared Thursday, touting (per TVNewser): "Rick will also oversee our political coverage. His mission: To lead This Week to #1 and to guide ABC News to dominance in the 2012 elections and beyond."

Kaplan was Executive Producer of the CBS Evening News with Katie Couric from early 2007 through last night (Thursday) after a career with stints as Executive Producer of ABC's World News Tonight and Nightline before serving as President of CNN in the 1990s and later President of MSNBC in the Keith Olbermann era (2004-2006).

He has had a long record of friendly relations with former President Bill Clinton, advising Clinton on how to respond to the Gennifer Flowers scandal in 1992 and blocking anti-Clinton stories from appearing on Nightline and World News Tonight. Kaplan has also been hostile to conservatives and, even AFTER memo-gate, declared that disgraced CBS anchor Dan Rather's "legacy" was "the gold standard journalists today have struggled to live up to."

David Margolick observed in a January, 1998 Vanity Fair profile of Kaplan: "If anything, Kaplan was at least as close to Hillary, who shares his Chicago roots; he even hired her to work on coverage of the 1980 Democratic convention."

That profile also recounted how Sam Donaldson said Kaplan's pro-Clinton bias showed, as recounted in this passage about Prime Time Live in 1992:

Ten months later, on the eve of the election, Sam Donaldson did taped interviews with Clinton and President Bush. Donaldson was in what he called "my manic, take-no-prisoners mode," he recalled, and was "equally bad or equally good" with both candidates. But to Kaplan, Donaldson had been much harder on the challenger. "You've got to do a tag line to make it clear that you don't hate Clinton," Kaplan told him. This Donaldson dutifully did ("That's commitment," he stated, referring to Clinton's campaign style), but begrudgingly Donaldson called Kaplan "a terrific Executive Producer," but added, "I think that, without meaning to, Rick was letting his feelings get in the way there." Kaplan insists it wasn't Clinton he was protecting, but Donaldson.

And how Kaplan stopped Whitewater stories from airing on World News Tonight when Kaplan was Executive Producer of the newscast:

In late October 1994, Kaplan killed Jim Wooten's exclusive interview with an Arkansas state trooper who claimed a Clinton aide had tried to muzzle him; after that, Wooten refused to do any more pieces on Whitewater. Wooten clearly likes his former boss, whom he called "a character in an age without them." But on Clinton, he said, Kaplan had "a blind spot." Also convinced that "the bar kept getting higher" for putting Whitewater stories on the program, Chris Vlasto, World News Tonight's investigative producer for Clinton-related stories, would sometimes shop them around to other ABC News shows. True, in February 1994, World News Tonight devoted an extraordinary 18 of its 22 minutes to a primer on Whitewater. But that segment had been held for a month, and ran only after Nightline tried to run it first.

At the News and Documentary Emmy Awards presented by the National Television Academy at a September 19, 2005 ceremony, which honored Dan Rather, Kaplan asserted that "Dan was meticulously careful to be fair and balanced and accurate" during his career. Kaplan then lashed out: "When did we allow those with questionable agendas to take the lead and convince people of something quite the opposite? It's shameful." Kaplan went so far to declare that Rather's "legacy" is "the gold standard journalists today have struggled to live up to."

Video clip of those remarks (Real or Windows Media.)

During a May 16, 1999 commencement address Kaplan delivered at the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana, while President of CNN, he complained that Ken Starr is "putting obsession ahead of the best interests of the nation" while Bill Clinton has had "extraordinary" achievements.

A 45 kbps low quality Real video clip, as well as MP3 audio, of some of what Kaplan told the students.

Kaplan is a "Friend of Bill" (FOB), who ran CNN from 1997 to 2000, after a multi-decade career with ABC News, re-joined ABC News in 2003 as Senior Vice President, the number two slot he held until shortly before jumping to MSNBC in early 2004 where he remained until mid-2006.

While serving as President of CNN, Kaplan played golf with President Clinton, stayed overnight in the Lincoln Bedroom and participated in a mock debate session with Al Gore. When he was Executive Producer of Nightline in 1992 he advised presidential candidate Bill Clinton on how to handle the Gennifer Flowers revelation.

Much more on all of that in a May of 2007 MRC CyberAlert cross-posted at NewsBusters.

- Brent Baker is Vice President for Research and Publications at the Media Research Center. You can follow him on Twitter here.