George Stephanopoulos & The Clintons Go Way Back, Which Includes Donations To The Family's Foundation

It's sometimes easy to forget that George Stephanopoulos and the Clintons were pretty chummy at one point. But on Thursday, Stephanopoulos admitted he previously donated $75,000 to the Clinton Foundation, causing the ABC News correspondent to recuse himself from moderating a Republican presidential debate next February, according to The Associated Press. Questions about a conflict of interest regarding Bill and Hillary Clinton have dogged Stephanopoulos since Clinton's first successful run for the presidency in 1992.

Stephanopoulos was communications director for Clinton's 1992 campaign, during which he openly expressed his admiration for the then-Arkansas governor. In a PBS Frontline special "The Clinton Years," Stephanopoulos described the first time he realized what a gifted orator Clinton was.

And what I immediately went back to — and maybe it was just something I was just wishing for — but I thought, "My gosh, this is our Bobby Kennedy. This is the guy who can bring blacks and whites together the way that Bobby Kennedy promised to do back in 1968."

After Clinton won his presidential bid, Stephanopoulos became a White House communications director and later a policy advisor. He and fellow Clinton campaign strategist James Carville were the focus of the 1993 film The War Room , which looked at how they had run Clinton's successful campaign for president.

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But that high esteem for Clinton appeared to fall after Stephanopoulos left the White House in December 1996. Stephanopoulos wrote a book titled All Too Human: A Political Education, in which he had harsh words for the Clinton administration, according to a 1999 New York Times review. One excerpt from the book describes Stephanopoulos as "mystified" by what he calls the Clinton paradox, writing:

How could a president so intelligent, so compassionate, so public-spirited, and so conscious of his place in history act in such a stupid, selfish, and self-destructive manner?
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In the years since joining ABC News, Stephanopoulos has earned the respect of his colleagues while fielding objections of many in the Republican party for being "circumstantial," according to The Times. In response to critics, Stephanopoulos often points to a 2008 presidential debate he moderated, during which he asked Hillary why "six in 10 voters" did not consider her trustworthy. He has continued to stand by his ability to ask the hard questions to Hillary and other Democrats despite his past association with Clinton.

In light of Stephanopoulos' donation disclosure, ABC News said it "accepts his apology." And for his part, Stephanopoulos said he was sorry. "I don't want anything to compromise my integrity or the standards of ABC News," he told the Times. "I don’t want to do anything that would raise questions in the minds of our viewers."

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