Media Critique ABC News' Knee-Jerk Defense Of Stephanopoulos

Media reporters reacted Friday morning to the controversy surrounding ABC News chief anchor George Stephanopoulos, who donated $75,000 to the Clinton Foundation while reporting on the organization, as well as the network's defense of the newsman. ABC News called the incident an "honest mistake" in a statement to Politico.

Washington Post media reporter Erik Wemple said on MSNBC's "Morning Joe" Friday that he was not surprised by how quickly the network came out in support of Stephanopolous.

"He's their chief anchor, he does 'GMA,' he does 'This Week,' he will come in to the anchor chair whenever there's breaking news -- he's the franchise," Wemple said. "He is ABC News."

Co-host Joe Scarborough pointed out how differently ABC News has responded to the incident when compared to NBC News' reaction to the Brian Williams scandal earlier this year.

New York Times reporter Jeremy Peters, on the other hand, said he was stunned by ABC's defense of Stephanopolous, but agreed with Wemple on the network's probable reason to do so: Peters added that the network has invested heavily in Stephanopoulos, so it "can't afford" to allow the controversy to sink his career.

"This is really a corporate branding protection exercise," Peters said. "George Stephanopoulos is ABC News. He is the public face of the network. He is their Matt Lauer, their Chuck Todd and their Brian Williams all wrapped into one."

In light of the revelations, Stephanopolous will no longer moderate one of the 2016 Republican debates as expected.