Dozens of Benghazi Stories — Why Not This One?

August 4th, 2014 · No Comments · Congress, journalism, Washington

By Denise Tessier

For a while there, the Albuquerque Journal was running something about Benghazi pretty much every day.

Correction: For a while there, the Journal was running stories about what Republicans were saying about Benghazi pretty much every day.

But last week, when it was reported that the House Intelligence Committee – led by Republicans – concluded there was no deliberate wrongdoing by the Obama administration in the 2012 attack, the Journal was silent.

To read that report, Journal readers must go to a different newspaper, the San Francisco Chronicle:

(08-01) 11:42 PDT WASHINGTON — The House Intelligence Committee, led by Republicans, has concluded that there was no deliberate wrongdoing by the Obama administration in the 2012 attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, that killed Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans, said Rep. Mike Thompson of St. Helena, the second-ranking Democrat on the committee.

This news was revealed in a report that had been classified, but was discussed with the press by Thompson after the committee voted to declassify the report last Thursday. From the Chronicle:

The panel voted Thursday (July 31) to declassify the report, the result of two years of investigation by the committee. U.S. intelligence agencies will have to approve making the report public.

Thompson said the report “confirms that no one was deliberately misled, no military assets were withheld and no stand-down order (to U.S. forces) was given.”

I’m going to emphasize the next paragraph about the report’s findings:

That conflicts with accusations of administration wrongdoing voiced by Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Vista (San Diego County), whose House Government Oversight and Reform Committee has held hearings on the Benghazi attack.

According to this report, the GOP committee led by Issa has concluded that what Issa has been saying was wrong. Because this finding conflicts with what Issa has been saying, which is what the Journal has been reporting, it conflicts with what the Journal has been delivering to the public.

As we’ve noted before, Benghazi has been politicized by the GOP to the point that the word itself is short-hand for “cover-up” perpetrated by Democrats – President Obama, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, current SOS John Kerry, take your pick.

Offered a steady stream of “Benghazi cover-up” stories, it’s no wonder a reader was inspired to write this letter to the Journal, which ran in a Talk of the Town group of letters (this is five down in the queue) on May 13:

LOOKS LIKE THE inept mainstream media is finally catching on to the administration’s shameful Benghazi cover-up.

It’s fun to watch a press conference where you have some media, other than just Fox News, pushing for the truth — or even suggesting they care about the truth where this administration is concerned. We should be very appreciative of (Sen.) Lindsay Graham, Fox News and others who refuse to go away or be intimidated by the Obama regime.

To borrow a summary from an AP report one year ago this week, at the time the first sealed indictment related to the consulate attack was reported:

Since Obama’s re-election, Republicans in Congress have condemned the administration’s handling of the matter, criticizing the level of embassy security and questioning the talking points provided to U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice for her public explanation of the attack.

The year 2014 started with the release of a Senate Intelligence Committee report that laid blame for the deadly assault with the State Department, U.S. intelligence and the military, and the Journal ran that report on the front page. At the time, Senate Intelligence Chairman Dianne Feinstein, a Democrat, said she hoped the report would put to rest conspiracy theories about the attacks. At the time, the State Department said the report largely reaffirmed findings reached a year before by the Benghazi Accountability Review Board, headed by a former ambassador.

But Issa’s House committee persisted in looking for ways to blame the Obama administration, and got plenty of space in the Journal for its efforts (and no criticism from the editorial board). Some of the headlines in the Journal in 2014 (partial list):

“House panel holds Benghazi hearing but gets few answers” (April 3)
“Dems: End Benghazi probes” (April 10, four paragraphs)
Cartoon on editorial page shows Obama on top of a whale labeled “Benghazi lies” (May 3)
“House plans Benghazi probe” (May 3)
“Gen.’s Benghazi comment draws rebuke (from Issa)” (May 2)
“Democrats open to having a role in Benghazi inquiry” (May 7)
“Vote today on Benghazi probe committee” (May 8)
“House approves committee to prove Benghazi attack” (May 9)
“Benghazi hearings could turn up important info,” Charles Krauthammer column (May 10)
“Kerry subpoenaed on Benghazi” (May 16)
“Dems will take part in Benghazi probe in House; Five will sit on 12-member panel” (May 22)

“As Washington drifts, the public follows,” wrote Dana Milbank in a July 14 column, “Our national dialogue now a series of one-act plays.” Milbank specifically mentioned Benghazi (how could he not?) as one of those plays, which, as he noted, keeps being reprised as new documents surface (and more hearings are held).

As Washington drifts, so too the Journal follows.

In June, reports focused on Hillary Clinton, a potential presidential contender, and carried these two headlines, which like previous Benghazi stories, ran in the A section of the paper:

“Clinton: Benghazi issue is a reason to run (for president)” (June 10)
“Clinton fends off questions on Benghazi” (June 16)

Then, U.S. special forces seized a “key leader” of the Benghazi attack. The Journal ran that story on the front page (June 18), but after such intensive coverage, a bigger splash would have seemed in order. Instead, the Journal allowed only three inches of the story on the front – “U.S. seizes Benghazi suspect” was the headline – and the story jumped to the back page of the A section, where it ran down a complete single column, topped with thumbnail-size pictures of Obama and Hillary Clinton, the latter whose caption read: “GOP has targeted her actions.”

The downplay of the story, the pictures and that caption all carried the implication for readers not to forget that “wrongdoing” still merited attention.

Post-capture, coverage moved to a federal courtroom, where Ahmed Abu Khattala pleaded not guilty and it was hoped that criminal proceedings would shed new light on the 2012 attacks. The Journal ran Associated Press stories June 29 and 30.

Stories about Benghazi continued to run in July, as the Libyan capital remained a hot-bed of rival militia clashes. On Aug. 1, a short dispatch reported that Islamic hard-liners, including the group believed responsible for the 2012 attack, had claimed control of Benghazi.

But as of the writing of this post, the Journal had yet to run the exculpatory report from Issa’s House Committee. Its exclusion is puzzling.

Is the Journal waiting for “U.S. intelligence agencies . . .to approve making the report public?” Will the Journal run it at all?



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