Hillary Clinton responded sharply Wednesday evening when she was pushed by CNN's Anderson Cooper to answer for a recent Associated Press report showing she met with dozens of Clinton Foundation donors when she served at the State Department.
"I know there is a lot of smoke, and there is no fire. This AP report? Put in it context. This excludes nearly 2,000 meetings I had with world leaders, plus countless other meetings with U.S. government officials when I was secretary of state. It looked at a small portion of my time," she said in a telephone interview.
"And it drew the conclusion, and made the suggestion, that my meetings with people like … Muhammad Yunus were somehow due to connections with the foundation," she said. "That is absurd. These are people I was proud to meet with, as any secretary of state would have been proud to meet with, to hear about their work and their insights."
The majority of the non-government individuals who met with Clinton during her tenure at the State Department were Clinton Foundation donors, the Associated Press reported Tuesday.
Of the 154 non-government officials who met or had phone calls scheduled with Clinton when she worked the top spot at the State Department, approximately 85 either donated directly to the foundation or "pledged commitments to its international programs," the AP reported, citing State Department calendars.
Those 85 donors contributed a combined total of $156 million to Clinton-owned entities.
"At least 40 donated more than $100,000 each, and 20 gave more than $1 million," the AP noted. "Some of Clinton's most influential visitors donated millions to the Clinton Foundation and to her and her husband's political coffers."
The Clinton camp disputed the story Tuesday, and accused the AP of relying on "utterly flawed data."
The news group, for its part, rejected criticism of its investigation, and said in a statement Wednesday it stood by its work.
"AP has been transparent in how it has reported this story," said Vice President and Director of Media Relations Paul Colford.
"This reporting was done by the same AP investigative team that discovered Mrs. Clinton's private email server and traced it to her basement in Chappaqua, New York, and whose reporting last week resulted in the resignation of Donald Trump's top campaign strategist," he added. "AP has been examining issues facing the presidential candidates and will continue to do so."
In her CNN phone interview Wednesday evening Clinton defended her State Department meetings.
"My work as Secretary of State was not influenced by any outside forces. I made policy decisions based on what I thought was right, to keep Americans safe and protect U.S. interests abroad," she told Anderson Cooper. "In fact, the State Department has said itself that there is no evidence of any kind of impropriety at all."
Bill Clinton announced last week that the foundation would stop accepting donations from foreign and corporate entities should the Democratic candidate win the presidency.
Cooper asked Clinton why should the foundation stop accepting foreign and corporate donations if she wins the White House, when they didn't think it was necessary when she worked at the State Department.
The Democratic nominee answered by reiterating the foundation took "unprecedented" steps to act with transparency and to ensure all dealing were above board when she was at State.
Much of the Clintons' network of charitable foundations would be exempt from the self-imposed donation ban, according to the Boston Globe.