By: Roger Aronoff
Accuracy in Media
Regardless of the outcome of the presidential election on November 6th, the most outrageous media malpractice of the election has been coverage of the terrorist attack in Benghazi, Libya on September 11th that killed Ambassador Chris Stevens and three others, including two former Navy SEALs. From the outset, Obama and other people speaking for the administration claimed that the attack was the result of a spontaneous demonstration sparked by anger from an anti-Islamic video made in the U.S. But that was just the beginning.
That argument was made repeatedly. UN Ambassador Susan Rice went on five talk shows the following Sunday morning claiming that their best intelligence at that point was that it was sparked by the video, rather than a planned terrorist attack on the anniversary of 9/11. President Obama, speaking before the UN General Assembly on September 25th, cited the videotape six times.
As the story unfolded, we were reminded that there had been a series of attacks in April and June of this year in Benghazi by so-called “militants” carried out on the U.N., the Red Cross, the U.S. consulate, and the British consulate. There had been requests for additional security by Ambassador Stevens and others who worked there, but they were denied. The evidence shows that President Obama and his national security team were able to watch part of the attack in real time, but failed to call in back-up support.
Within two hours of being notified that there was an attack under way at the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi, the White House received an email from the State Department stating that a specific terrorist group with ties to al Qaeda had taken credit for the attack.
Fox News, and in particular Jennifer Griffin and Catherine Herridge have led the way in reporting on the story. The evidence, including classified documents leaked to Fox News, and reported on October 31st, showed that the U.S. Mission in Benghazi had “convened an ‘emergency meeting’ less than a month before the assault that killed Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans, because Al Qaeda had training camps in Benghazi and the consulate could not defend against a ‘coordinated attack,’ according to a classified cable reviewed by Fox News.” Calls for additional security went unheeded. Yet the administration had continued to argue that the attack came without warning.
The rest of the media largely stayed away from the story, deflecting it on numerous talk shows by changing the subject, and rarely, if at all, treating it as an Obama administration scandal. Brian Williams spent two days with Obama for a long feature story on NBC’s Rock Center on October 25th, asked him one softball question about Benghazi, which Obama answered with his standard delay-until-after-the-election answer, with no follow-up.
Here was the exchange:
BRIAN WILLIAMS: Mr. President, since we’ve been airborne, a person or persons of interest picked up in Tunisia in connection with Benghazi. The question becomes: Have you been happy with the intelligence, especially in our post 9-11 world? The assessment of your intelligence community, as we stand here, is that it still was a spontaneous terrorist attack and were you happy with what you were able to learn as this unfolded? It went on for several hours.
PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, as I’ve said, Brian, we’re going to do a full investigation. Obviously, when four Americans are killed, you know, you have to do some soul searching in terms of making sure that all our systems are where they need to be. And that’s what we are going to find out. But what I’m confident about is that we will be able to figure out who perpetrated this act, that we’ll be able to bring them to justice and we are confident that we’ve got the cooperation of the Libyan government. We’re going to continue to make sure that we figure out what intelligence was coming in when, how was it gathered, how was it analyzed? And my expectation is that as a consequence, we’re going to be able to make sure something like this doesn’t happen again.
Sec. of Defense Leon Panetta explained why no troops were sent in to attempt to save or rescue Ambassador Stevens and the others: “The basic principle is that you don’t deploy forces into harm’s way without knowing what’s going on, without having some real-time information about what’s taking place,” he said. “And as a result of not having that kind of information…[we] felt very strongly that we could not put forces at risk in that situation.”
But as Maj. Gen. Patrick Brady, U.S. Army (ret.) wrote in WorldNetDaily, “On its face, that is a remarkable, indeed incomprehensible, change from America’s doctrine in past wars. By that standard, there would have been no Normandy or Inchon. In fact, I can’t think of a war we fought in which we didn’t go into harm’s way without real-time information or to save lives—something the president refused to do in Benghazi.”
Brady, a retired general who has received the Medal of Honor, the highest military decoration one can receive, continued his critique: “To fully understand the doctrinal change, one has to understand President Obama. He has a dearth of understanding of our military and military matters. We hear he is uncomfortable in the presence of ranking military and seldom meets with them. He is not a person who can make decisions, and he takes an extraordinary amount of time to do so…He cowers from crisis decisions. He is a politician who thinks only in terms of votes and his image…I believe he is risk-averse—fearful of risk—and that is the basis of the Obama-Panetta doctrine.”
As William McGurn, chief editorial writer for The Wall Street Journal wrote, “Libya was supposed to be the Obama success story, showing how this president achieves our goals abroad without committing American troops or treasure. However ridiculous it might have been to blame the whole thing on a YouTube video, politically the tactic was far preferable to admitting that the president who boasts about getting us out of war in Iraq and Afghanistan might have a whole new one brewing in Libya.”
The Washington Post finally editorialized on November 2nd that Benghazi “increasingly looks like a major security failure.” They argued that “sooner or later the administration must answer questions” about it and “the policies that led to it.” The Post even cited Fox News’ reporting.
The Wall Street Journal wrote in an editorial that the Obama administration had tried to avoid accountability by offering “evasive, inconsistent and conflicting accounts about one of the most serious American overseas defeats in recent years.” The editorial continued: “Unresolved questions about Benghazi loom over this election because the White House has failed to resolve them.”
Claudia Rosett, writing for Pajamas Media, pointed out the conflicts in the timeline put out by the State Department versus that of the CIA. The administration has been caught in significant lies and contradictions, and has managed to kick the full consequences of their actions, and inactions, down the road, past the election.
CBS withheld a snippet of their September 12th interview with Obama that could have cleared up the question that became famous in the presidential debate moderated by Candy Crowley as to whether or not he considered the attack to be a planned, terrorist attack, or a spontaneous attack resulting from the video. That day, during the CBS interview, the same day he had used the term “act of terror” in his Rose Garden comments, he refused to identify it that way. But for some reason, CBS chose to hold that back until less than two days before the election.
What should have been a full blown scandal before the election was largely swept under the rug by the mainstream media, certainly up until the last week or two before the election. And even then, its coverage was limited and tepid. Obama certainly owes a debt of gratitude to his media allies who covered for him the best they knew how.
Roger Aronoff is the Editor of Accuracy in Media, and can be contacted at [email protected].