By: Roger Aronoff
Accuracy in Media
We have often pointed out how NBC, along with its cable-news arm MSNBC, are networks that work in the service of the Obama administration. That was never more clear than when National Security Adviser Susan Rice visited a Sunday morning talk show last weekend for the first time since her disastrous and dishonest appearances on September 16, 2012, just days after the terrorist attacks in Benghazi took the lives of four Americans, including the U.S. Ambassador to Libya, Chris Stevens. She of course chose NBC’s “Meet the Press” for her appearance, knowing, whether by pre-arrangement or obvious bias, that there would be no penetrating questions, or anything to put her on the defensive when it came to Benghazi. And she was right. Here were the three questions that MTP host David Gregory chose to ask her:
1.) “As you look back at your involvement in all of that, do you have any regrets?”
2) “The politics of this are still intense. Do you believe it cost you the Secretary of State job?”
3) “Seventeen months later, are we any closer to finding who is responsible?”
Gregory should lose his standing as a journalist after that performance. But, he’s not the only member of the media who has focused on Rice’s supposed aborted chances at Secretary of State.
Let’s take a look at Rice’s answers. She said she had no regrets “because what I said to you that morning, and what I did every day since, was to share the best information that we had at the time. …I commented that this was based on what we knew on that morning, was provided to me and my colleagues, and indeed, to Congress, by the intelligence community. And that’s been well validated in many different ways since.” No, she wasn’t validated. We have shown how the talking points that she used on her five Sunday shows had been scrubbed and altered over the course of several days, including by the White House. The evidence is there for anyone to read, thanks to the release of 100 emails by the Obama administration, a move prompted by Congress.
Also, the President and Secretary of State, and press secretary Jay Carney, were emphasizing that the anti-Islam video was what led to the attack, but they likely knew that the intelligence community had scrubbed the terms terrorism and al Qaeda from the talking points. We also know that minutes into the attack, General Carter Ham of AFRICOM told Leon Panetta and Martin Dempsey that it wasn’t a demonstration—his own words. “Again, sir, I think, you know, there was some preliminary discussion about, you know, maybe there was a demonstration,” Ham said during a previously classified briefing. “But I think at the command, I personally and I think the command very quickly got to the point that this was not a demonstration, this was a terrorist attack.”
His superiors then went into President Obama that night for a 5:00 p.m. meeting. In his pre-Superbowl interview, President Obama admitted that he knew at the time his military advisors were classifying the event as a terrorist attack, even when they just said “attack.” He said to O’Reilly, “Understand, by definition, Bill, when somebody is attacking our compound, that’s an act of terror, which is how I characterized it the day after it happened.”
“So, the question ends up being, who in fact was attacking us?” he continued.
Some additional journalistic questions that Gregory could have asked Rice include:
1.) “It has now come out that the Obama administration knew that this was a terrorist attack within minutes. Was this communicated to your office before you appeared on the five Sunday talk shows, and if not, why not?”
The recently-released House Armed Services Committee report indicates that those Defense officials “most familiar with the events in Benghazi” did not believe the attack resulted from a protest.
2.) “Why was so little military force used to respond to the Benghazi attacks?”
Questions remain over why the administration was so poorly positioned to respond to an attack on the anniversary of September 11th and why nearby available assets were not utilized.
3.) “We now know that the Innocence of Muslims video had little or nothing to do with the attacks, although it was blamed early on. Who in the government was telling you to champion this story when you appeared on the Sunday talk shows? Was it just the CIA talking points, or did the White House give you specific instructions on what to say? President Obama said at a news conference that your ‘presentation’ was done ‘at the request of the White House.’”
As mentioned earlier, House Armed Services Committee Republicans do not believe the YouTube narrative originated from the military. Also, The New York Times’ recently released investigation of Benghazi blamed the video, a point we’ve repeatedly debunked.
After Rice left the set on Sunday, MSNBC conducted a roundtable discussion about it. Once again, Chris Matthews cited the Select Senate Committee on Intelligence report to say that Rice was right all along. “You know, when she was on the program with you, if you go back and look at the bipartisan report of the Senate Intelligence Committee, basically, on the main points that it was a copycat situation, Benghazi, it came out of what happened in Cairo, which itself probably came out of that crazy video out of Los Angeles, but it did track,” said Matthews. “And the language used by her that day, which was ‘extremism’ rather than ‘terrorism,’ had come from the intelligence community. Then the refusal to mention al-Qaeda in that context, was directly a decision by Petraeus, as DCI.” Even the administration doesn’t make the claim that Rice is still right, but here it is proceeding from the mouth of Matthews.
Actually, it was former CIA Deputy Director Michael Morrell (who later served as acting director) who was responsible for the removal of nearly half of the talking points, and he’s come under fire recently for allegedly misleading lawmakers. As we’ve pointed out, the SSCI report does not call the attack a “copycat situation” with Cairo, and faults the CIA for not prioritizing on-the-ground witness accounts, utilizing instead faulty intelligence that relied heavily on incorrect media reports.
Stephen Hayes of Fox News and The Weekly Standard, in an op-ed for The New York Times, wrote that “Beth Jones, acting assistant secretary for Near Eastern affairs at the State Department, sent an e-mail on Sept. 12, 2012, in which she reported, ‘the group that conducted the attacks, Ansar al-Shariah, is affiliated with Islamic terrorists.’ Among those copied on that e-mail were top State Department officials; Patrick Kennedy, undersecretary of state for management; Cheryl Mills, counselor to then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton; and Victoria Nuland, the State Department spokeswoman.” Maybe that explains why then-Secretary Clinton passed on going on those Sunday talk-shows herself.
In contrast to the MSNBC Obama acolytes, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), appearing on CBS’s Face the Nation, was outraged by Rice’s expressed lack of regret. “I’m almost speechless,” said McCain, “because it’s patently obvious, first of all, that Susan Rice had no reason to be on the program, she had no involvement in it [Benghazi],” he said. “We now know that the CIA station chief on the ground sent a message immediately saying, ‘Not-slash-not spontaneous demonstration,’ and of course the information was totally misleading, totally false.” Add to that Carter Ham’s admission at a closed briefing that he told Panetta and Dempsey it was not a demonstration, and it’s a wonder how the higher ups in the administration can continue to claim that the story just naturally “evolved” for them.
But the media is once again calling this just Republican politicking, a common tactic for those members of the mainstream media who are afraid of the truth and would like to ignore these “phony” Obama administration scandals. It’s all just politically motivated and has nothing behind it, these journalists claim. Thus, Katty Kay, on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” February 24, used this as a further example of Republicans still trying to use Benghazi as a political issue, with no suggestion whatsoever that Rice was being disingenuous in her interview. As we’ve reported earlier, Kay also blamed Ambassador Stevens for his own death and the death of three other Americans. Other members of the liberal media followed suit.