By: Roger Aronoff
Accuracy in Media
While the left is blasting Leon Panetta for being disloyal to President Obama for citing his failures in Iraq and Syria in his new book, and many on the right are praising him for finally speaking the truth, he has partly come clean on the issue of Benghazi. Panetta, the former CIA Director and Defense Secretary went on Bill O’Reilly’s show this week and admitted that he had told the President of the United States that the Benghazi attacks were an “attack by terrorists” that very night, on September 11, 2012.
President Obama has admitted to O’Reilly that he was told that night that it was an “attack.” It turns out that President Obama’s response on Benghazi was, once again, misleading. He told O’Reilly for his pre-Super Bowl appearance that he was briefed that there was “an attack on our compound” and that they were still trying to ascertain who was responsible. Panetta’s more recent account contradicts Obama’s dissembling.
But it is useful to note that in Panetta’s just-released book, Worthy Fights, he pulls his punches and writes, “We told him that some kind of attack had taken place that threatened our ambassador and compound in Benghazi, but we also cautioned that these were very preliminary reports.” So when did “some kind of attack” become an “attack by terrorists” in Panetta’s mind—before or after the cameras were turned on by Fox News?
In reaction to Panetta’s revelation, two members of the Annex Security Team were asked by Sean Hannity on his Fox News show Wednesday night whether our government was lying and covering up on Benghazi. Their response: that’s the only conclusion that can be drawn at this point. But the mainstream media aren’t interested in hearing their stories, or their conclusions.
We have learned through a confidential, trusted source that there is a memo at NBC Universal that instructed its staff at NBC, MSNBC, and other subsidiaries not to cover developments in the story of the book, 13 Hours: The Inside Account of What Really Happened in Benghazi, and the members of the Annex Security Team who wrote the book, and served in Benghazi, Libya during the attacks. Therefore it is not surprising that NBC and MSNBC have refused to allow the members of the security team, who first spoke about it publicly on a Fox News Channel special last month hosted by Bret Baier, onto shows on their networks.
This media blackout is also taking place at CBS and ABC, which refuse to bring on the Annex Security Team.
CNN’s Jake Tapper was willing to interview the Annex Security Team to review their story after Bret Baier’s special—why not the rest of broadcast media?
The American people are clearly interested in hearing about the heroism of these brave men in the face of dangerous terrorist attacks. At the end of September, 13 Hours topped the New York Times Bestseller list in “combined print and e-book nonfiction.” It stayed there in early October, and as of this writing still makes it into the top five “combined print and e-book nonfiction” books. Clearly, their story has staying power and is not going away despite the media blackout.
Hillary Clinton’s Hard Choices was a number one bestseller as well, and it received non-stop news coverage as the presidential hopeful booked interview after interview with the different broadcast and cable news networks.
It has become apparent, once again, that stories which damage the official narrative of what happened in Benghazi, that hurt Hillary Clinton’s chances to run for president, or that may sully President Barack Obama’s reputation are ignored by our agenda-driven mainstream media, particularly the broadcast channels. Stories that report on real-life events, demonstrate courage in the face of danger, and are apolitical, must bow to the liberal media’s overriding need to ensure the Democratic Party’s political fortunes, especially in an election season.
The security contractors who co-authored 13 Hours were personally responsible for helping save the lives of over 20 people at the CIA Annex in Benghazi. And they note in their book that 13 Hours “is not intended to support or satisfy one side or the other in resolving the [Benghazi] controversies that remain. By telling their story, the Benghazi operators hope that the battle and their actions will be understood on their own terms, outside of partisan or political interests.”
However, their assertion that they were told to “stand down” three times by CIA Chief of Base “Bob,” and their belief that the deaths of Ambassador Chris Stevens and Sean Smith were preventable had they left the CIA Annex sooner, make the Obama administration overall, and CIA, in particular, look bad because these entities have repeatedly denied that a stand-down order was ever given.
“I understand that this might just be semantics,” said Jake Tapper on his CNN show, “The Lead.” “But their argument is that Bob wanted to make sure that they got Intel, wanted to make sure you had enough weapons, wanted to make sure there was enough backup. It wasn’t a political decision.”
The assertion that there were multiple stand-down orders also contradicts the official narrative. The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence concluded last January that “Although some members of the security team expressed frustration that they were unable to respond more quickly to the Mission compound, the Committee found no evidence of intentional delay or obstruction by the Chief of Base or any other party.”
As we have reported, 13 Hours reveals that CIA Chief of Base “Bob” had apparently entrusted the lives of Tyrone Woods and another operator to the nonexistent protection that was the 17 February Martyrs Brigade in a run-in with Ansar al Sharia before September 2012. The brigade did not provide help, but “[Tyrone Woods] talked his way out of the standoff,” according to the book.
“Had it escalated, the outnumbered and outgunned Americans would have stood little chance,” states 13 Hours. Woods would eventually give his life in service to his country.
Perhaps, since Fox News took the lead, the other networks are not willing to cover developments that in their world have become Fox News stories. But that’s not what is going on here. The problem is that any exploration of this topic would be damaging to the Obama administration, and to Hillary Clinton’s plans for the White House.
The Obama administration’s attitude toward Fox News, especially on Benghazi, has been outrageous. Fox News was excluded from State Department and Central Intelligence Agency media background meetings regarding Benghazi, according to Greta Van Susteren. “A few weeks later, when reporter Jennifer Griffin said she was told that there was a stand-down order at Benghazi, I got a weird call from the Obama administration trying to pressure me to get Jennifer to back down on her report. I thought the call from the Obama administration was dirty,” said Greta.
Stories that do emerge but question the official narrative on Benghazi must die, and die quickly, according to a mainstream media which must compete for favor with the administration if it’s going to be allowed to do any reporting on other controversial topics. This conflict of interest is unhealthy, and the press should do as James Risen suggests, and “do even more aggressive investigative reporting.”
But the mainstream media are simply following the administration’s lead: trying to shut down all stories that contradict the official narrative, and casting Benghazi, once again, as a “phony scandal.” Maybe if they repeat this myth often enough, even more members of the media might actually believe it themselves.