Networks Add Clinton Aide Huma Abedin in Flynn, Russia Story

Former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn found himself at the center of a White House scandal in February after he misled Vice President Mike Pence on conversations he had with the Russian ambassador.

Flynn made headlines again in March after his lawyer sought immunity in exchange for Flynn’s testimony.

The Senate Intelligence Committee has since denied Flynn’s request.

The retired Army lieutenant general was a fierce, vocal proponent of prosecuting Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton during the 2016 presidential election. Flynn participated in chants of “lock her up” at the Republican National Convention in July.

But it’s this September 2016 interview on “Meet The Press” that’s drawing attention. Commenting on Hillary Clinton staffers receiving immunity to testify about her private server, Flynn said, “When you’re given immunity that means you’ve probably committed a crime.” 

CBS Graphic

On March 31 all three networks covered Flynn’s request and played his statement, but CBS introduced Flynn’s statement over a photo of Hillary Clinton and top aide Huma Abedin.

With the photo on the screen, Major Garrett said: “During the campaign, Flynn said this when Hillary Clinton associates sought immunity in the probe of the Democratic nominee’s server…”

CBS Graphic

Abedin did not request immunity, but her name has been linked to the email controversy. That happened especially after FBI Director James Comey reopened the Clinton email investigation after finding potential evidence on Abedin’s husband’s laptop in a separate investigation.

ABC’s Jonathan Karl said it differently,: “When a low-level Clinton staffer got immunity to testify about her email system, Flynn took it as an admission of guilt.” Abedin also appeared in ABC’s photo but is less noticeable.

ABC Graphic

At the time of Flynn’s “Meet the Press” statement, the Associated Press reported five staffers—not only a low-level staffer—were given immunity, including Clinton’s Chief of Staff Cheryl Mills.

NBC’s Kristen Welker put it this way: “Last year, Flynn was quick to criticize Hillary Clinton’s aides who asked for immunity to testify about Clinton’s emails.” NBC only used images of Flynn and Clinton on stage at separate rallies.

Visuals can be as important as language. Could CBS’s use of Clinton Aide Huma Abedin be misleading?

Not so, says former Boston Globe Editor Matt Storin.

“I do not think 90 percent of viewers, if that, would have identified Abedin in that picture and she was not mentioned, [but] the [line] about a low-level staffer is confusing,” Storin said.

Former editor of New York Newsday James Toedtman disagreed:

“Illustrating the immunity grants to Clinton aides is complicated by her closest aide’s ubiquitous presence. NBC was right [to avoid] any inequity.”

Overall, Abedin’s presence is minor in the CBS and ABC stories, but without explanation and attention to detail, her inclusion raises questions.

Alex Theriot

Alex Theriot is a senior multi-platform journalism major, minoring in global terrorism studies. Previously, Alex served as staff writer, style editor and webmaster for Unwind Magazine, the campus arts and entertainment publication. Alex has held communications internships at the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Department of Homeland Security. She completed her journalism internship at CNN. Upon graduation, Alex hopes to attend graduate school in the Washington, D.C. area, continuing to pursue a career in national security.

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