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CBS Pummels McCain; Rushes to Susan Rice's Defense Over Refuted Benghazi Claim

Charlie Rose and Norah O'Donnell took turns hammering Senator John McCain on Wednesday's CBS This Morning over his promise to block any potential nomination of Susan Rice to be secretary of state. Rose grilled McCain after the Republican slammed Rice for blaming a "spontaneous" mob for the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi: "Didn't Susan Rice say that...all the information was not in, and she did not know everything there was to be known....what should she have said, based on what she knew at the moment?"

O'Donnell also tried to shift blame away from Ambassador Rice to a "failure with the intelligence coming out of the CIA." She later pointed a finger at former CIA Director David Petraeus and current Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. When the Arizona senator confirmed that Petraeus and Clinton deserved scrutiny, Rose interjected, "But why not wait for them before you make a judgment about Susan Rice?" [audio available here; video below]

 McCain raised the Benghazi issue as he discussed the former CIA director's resignation with the two morning show anchors: "I'm much more concerned about the loss of four American lives in Benghazi – the President not telling the truth about what happened there, and what he knew and when he knew it, and that's why we need...a select committee, like we did in Watergate; like we did in Iran-Contra...to the bottom of this, because the American people deserve the truth."

Rose followed-up by asking, "Do you think the President misled us?" The veteran senator replied by spotlighting President Obama's answer on the Benghazi attack during a September 12, 2012 interview with Steve Kroft, which CBS buried until two days before the presidential election:

MCCAIN: I know he did. I mean, he either misled us when, in his second debate, he said that he had referred to the...tragedy at Benghazi as an act of terror, which he didn't. But then, we know now that that night, he gave an interview with Steve Kroft saying that they didn't know what was the cause of it, and went...on numerous venues saying...that it was a spontaneous flash mob that had nothing to do with a terrorist act. And so, he didn't tell the truth to the American people at one time or another.

O'Donnell then asked McCain to explain his opposition to Rice, and for the reminder of the segment, she and Rose took turns badgering their guest, while defending the U.N. ambassador:

O'DONNELL: Susan Rice appears to be front-runner now for secretary of state. You told CBS last night that you will do everything to stop her confirmation. Why?

MCCAIN: She's not qualified. Anyone who goes on national television in defiance of the facts five days later – we're all responsible for what we say and what we do....I was on 'Face the Nation' the morning she came on and told that incredible story, and right after, the president of the Libyan National Assembly said it was al Qaeda. We know it was al Qaeda, and yet, she never changed her story-

O'DONNELL: ...The CIA talking points that were prepared on September 15 - the same day that Rice was on all those Sunday shows and 'Face the Nation' - that said the currently available information suggests the demonstrations in Benghazi were spontaneously inspired by the protests at the U.S. embassy [in Cairo, Egypt]. Was the failure with the U.N. ambassador, or was the failure with the intelligence coming out of the CIA?

MCCAIN: Well, within three days, there was additional information which clearly refuted that. That's why we need a select committee...all these conflicting stories, all these different narratives - who said what, whom - but we know that four Americans died – four Americans died; the consulate in Benghazi was turned into a death house; and somebody has to be held responsible....and it begins with the President of the United States.

ROSE: Didn't Susan Rice say that she – all the information was not in, and she did not know everything there was to be known, and isn't that what you would want her to say?

MCCAIN: Not when – not the way you look. She presented the case - absolutely, this was a flash mob. Look at the re-runs, because I happened to have been there that morning.

O'DONNELL: I guess I'm interested, too – why doesn't the CIA director, General Petraeus, and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton also deserve some scrutiny about what went on in Benghazi?
           
MCCAIN: Oh, they do – absolutely. The secretary of state is – is clearly involved in this, and that's – again, that's why we need a select committee to get to the bottom of all this, and there is no confidence....in their rendition of what happened-

ROSE: But why not wait for them before you make a judgment about Susan Rice?

MCCAIN: Because there is four dead Americans. She told the American people, on every major newscast in America...besides not being very bright...it was obvious that this was not a – quote, 'flash mob' – there was no demonstration, Charlie. There was none there. And so – and there was additional information by the time she went on every news show – Sunday show in America.

ROSE: I just got to clear this up: what should she have said, based on what she knew at the moment?

MCCAIN: Well, she should have known within three days, because additional information came out – she should-

ROSE: But what should she have said, when she was asked that question at that time based on what she knew?

MCCAIN: Well, first of all, the casual observer knew that there was no demonstrator – demonstration. There was no demonstration. So, you could have known that to start with. Second of all, you should look into it and the additional information three days later. If you're going tell the American people something, you better make damn sure that it's true.

Both Rose and O'Donnell have a record of conducting hardball interviews of Republicans/conservatives, while going easy on Democrats/liberals. In late October, the CBS anchors hammered former Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour over the possible impact of Republican Senate candidate Richard Mourdock's strongly pro-life stance, that even babies conceived in rape are "God intended." 

— Matthew Balan is a news analyst at the Media Research Center. You can follow him on Twitter here.