Kevin McCarthy, Benghazi And The Journal’s Twelve Day Gaffe Gap

October 22nd, 2015 · 2 Comments · Congress, Fact Check, journalism, Washington

By Arthur Alpert

Last time out, I copped to my masochism in reading the Albuquerque Journal closely for five years, shared my initial shock and eventual acceptance of the fact that management deliberately and routinely substitutes political decisions for what are, at respectable newspapers, news decisions, and wrote:

“I can no longer extend the benefit of the doubt to Journal editors. Yes, I keep an eye out for the innocent mistake, one wants to forgive, but my operative question as I unfurl the paper at breakfast is, how low will they go today?

“Which brings us to Hillary Clinton and Benghazi and, lately, her emails.”

Sorry for the cliffhanger, but today, finally, we’ll look at the daily’s treatment of those stories. After this brief digression on partisanship, that is.

Because we’re dealing with Journal coverage of a partisan story, you could take my adverse criticism of it as evidence of my partisanship. Please don’t. Partisan? I don’t even accept the horizontal paradigm that places Democrats and Republicans in mortal combat. From my hierarchical perspective, the parties seem to have lots in common, including subservience to Corporate America.

My job here, in any case, is to advance good journalism and its core value, fairness, and make a fuss when they’re missing.

OK, let’s look at how the Journal has covered Benghazi, Hillary and her private email server.

You know the background. After the death of four American diplomats in Benghazi, seven Republican-led House committees investigated. The current inquiry led by Rep. Trey Gowdy, R., SC, is number eight. (Two bipartisan Senate committees did likewise.)

For a probe-by-probe recap, however, please read Clayton Youngman’s excellent work for politifact.com under the rubric “Clinton: 7 Benghazi probes so far” dated Oct. 12, 2015.

You certainly are aware, too, that when John Boehner said he doesn’t want to be Speaker anymore, his second-in-command, Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, (R., Ca.) said he’d like the job. But in a friendly interview with Fox’s Sean Hannity Sept. 29, McCarthy boasted:

“Everybody thought Hillary Clinton was unbeatable, right? But we put together a Benghazi special committee, a select committee, what are her numbers today? Her numbers are dropping, why? Because she’s untrustable [sic]. But no one would have known any of that had happened.”

Furor. Outrage. Dismay. Gnashing of teeth. To gauge the Right’s unhappiness, read conservative Kathleen Parker’s Oct. 2 column in the Washington Post, headlined “The New McCarthyism is dead on arrival”. The Journal chose not to reprint it.
Journal columnist Charles Krauthammer also was very upset on TV (Fox) and in a column the Journal published Saturday, Oct. 17, where he called McCarthy’s frankness the “gaffe of the decade.”

This widespread anguish was not because Rep. McCarthy speaks a poor approximation of English. Nor was it because he lied; there’s almost 100 percent agreement he spoke truth. His mistake was saying out loud what anybody with s scintilla of skepticism understood – this Benghazi committee’s purpose was to cut candidate Clinton down to size.

What a fantastic political story! Naturally, it blew up in print and broadcast and digital mediums, wherever juicy political gossip is savored.

Except in the Albuquerque Journal. What I’m about to write is hard to believe but true. Our local daily didn’t mention McCarthy’s truth telling for 12 days! Not a word, even as it kept tabs on the House GOP’s effort to get as new Speaker as conservatives and Tea party extremists feuded.

Let me be very specific. McCarthy told it like it is Sept. 29. The Journal ignored it Sept. 30, Oct 1, 2 3,4, 5 and 6. (That Tuesday, Oct. 6, the editors ran a couple of paragraphs about Speaker Boehner and his presumed successor, but there was no mention of what McCarthy’s gaffe.)

No McCarthy story appeared Oct. 7 or 8. Next day, Oct. 9, the editors ran Erica Werner’s big AP piece on McCarthy’s abrupt withdrawal from the race, but she didn’t cite his truth telling as a factor. Next day, the 10th, they printed Werner’s account of the draft Paul Ryan effort; this story also contained not a word about the purpose of the Benghazi committee.

I’m tracking this, understand, perplexed beyond belief and filled with wonder. How long will the commissars hide this riveting national news? How long can they? Then I saw it.

McCarthy’s crime, remember, dated back to Sept. 29. Well, the Albuquerque Journal told readers about it Sunday, Oct. 11.

Before we continue, please muse on this much for a few moments. Why did the editors hold the story? What transpired while they did? Did they seek advice perhaps from higher-ups in the political chain of command? (Commissars are middle management, no?) I’ve no idea.

Back to the narrative, which gets better. Or worse. When the Journal did report the McCarthy story, the Journal didn’t, really.

That’s inane so let me explain. On the 11th, the paper ran its regular Sunday syndicated feature, “How Your Congressional Delegates Voted” from Thomas Reports, Inc., on B9. In explaining the resolution “To Continue Benghazi Committee,” the Thomas Reports writer spelled out the basic McCarthy story.

I kid you not. Rep. McCarthy ‘s statement that this eighth Benghazi committee was set up to demean Hillary Clinton entered the pages of the Albuquerque Journal 12 days after the fact via a syndicated feature on B9.

But now that the cat is out of the bag, the Journal is playing it straight, right? Well, not exactly.

It has not reported that a Republican staffer for Gowdy’s Benghazi committee says he was fired after “he developed concerns about the politicized nature of the panel’s investigation.” Air Force Reserve Major Bradley Podliska, the staffer, is a Republican with an intelligence background. (See the Washington Post account by Tom Hamburger and Carol Leonnig, Oct. 10.)

Nor has it informed readers a second GOP Congressman, Richard Hanna of New York, told a radio station “”this may not be politically correct, but I think that there was a big part of this investigation that was designed to go after people and an individual, Hillary Clinton.” Hanna added, “I think that’s the way Washington works. But you’d like to expect more from a committee that’s spent millions of dollars and tons of time.” (See Chris Cillizza’s piece in the Washington Post Oct. 15.)

As for Trey Gowdy, the Republican chair of the Benghazi panel, the poor guy may have let slip the name of a CIA source in the course of accusing Clinton of mishandling classified information. Almost as bad, he had to return cash linked to a political action committee that aired a nasty, anti-Hillary Clinton ad. (You might want to Google the “Stop Hillary PAC.”)

There’s a detailed summary of Gowdy’s travails by Catherine Thompson at talkingpointsmemo.com (Oct. 21). None of its news content has surfaced in the Albuquerque Journal. Guess the Journal, just chockfull of news, ran out of space.

Oh, but there was space Monday, Oct. 19, on A4, for an Associated Press account. Reporter Laurie Kellman led with Rep. Gowdy’s latest charges and placed what we now know is the Benghazi panel’s real purpose about seven graphs down. Maybe that’s where minor details belong.

Meanwhile, Democrats rejoiced at a sweet gift from an unimpeachable source. Candidate Clinton went on the offensive. So did the Democratic minority on the Benghazi committee. They “released excerpts from closed-door committee interviews they said showed there was “no evidence” substantiating “wild Republican conspiracy theories” about Clinton’s response to the Benghazi attacks. (See Rachael Bade’s Oct. 19 report, “Dems tee off on Benghazi panel”, at politico.com.)

Not in the Journal, they didn’t.

Today, however, Thursday, Oct. 22, the editors did publish a three-graph report on A5 that includes a Clinton response to that Gowdy attack, mention of a minority report and a reference to Clinton’s appearance before the committee, also Thursday.

Regular readers will understand that aside from the mind-boggling 12-day-gap, this massaging of the news is not a total departure for the Journal. Still, I checked the Journal web site for context.

Citations galore indicate the daily has been covering Benghazi and Hillary Clinton, in its fashion, for years and with lots of ink.

Search for “Hillary and Benghazi and you get 122 citations. Search “Hillary’s email server” and up come 514 or 899. I don’t fully understand the discrepancy.

Of course, they’re not all stories pummeling the former Secretary of State. For all I know, some may be about that other Hillary, Edmund, who conquered Everest. Yet more than a year ago, August 4, 2014, my colleague Denise Tessier found serious problems:

“For a while there,” Denise wrote, “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.”

Denise wrote that more than a year ago.

So, in sum, the Journal’s recent treatment of Benghazi, Hillary Clinton and her emails is (as TV lawyers often say) consistent with its previous coverage. And, sadly, it’s palpably unfair.

Thus ends this little inquiry. You are now free to draw your own conclusions. Me, I have answered my daily breakfast query. The Albuquerque Journal can go pretty darn low.

It is, in a word, untrustable [sic].

Editor’s Note: This post was originally set to publish on Thursday, October 22, but was delayed due to a technical problem with WordPress. The problem has been fixed. We apologize for the delay.

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