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Benghazi Blackout: How the Big Three Networks Have Censored or Spun Obama's Deadly Foreign Policy Failure

On the May 10 ABC World News Jonathan Karl reported the following: “The White House said that information about the [Benghazi] attack was based on talking points drafted entirely by the CIA. And that neither Hillary Clinton’s State Department nor the White House made anything more than stylistic changes. But today, ABC News has exclusively obtained 12 versions of the talking points, showing they went through extensive edits. The early drafts point to evidence that an al Qaeda affiliated group took part in the attack and that the CIA has warned about al Qaeda threats in Benghazi.”

Karl went on to report that “Secretary Clinton’s spokesperson objected, saying in an e-mail obtained by ABC the information quote, ‘could be used by members of Congress to beat up on the State Department for not paying attention to warnings, so, why would we want to feed that?’ After those objections were raised, all references to al Qaeda and the CIA warnings were deleted from the CIA talking points.”  

While all three networks did cover the e-mails, it wasn’t long before they started spinning. On the May 13 CBS This Morning host Charlie Rose asked: “Is this a burgeoning cover up or is it at the same time simply political thing to try to get at Hillary Clinton campaign that might happen in 2016?” To which CBS News Political Director John Dickerson responded that while it “looks like a cover up...let’s not go too far with that language. It looks right now like a sort of normal ass covering that happens in a bureaucratic back and forth....that kind of day to day bureaucratic protecting of turf is different than a highly-orchestrated-by-Hillary Clinton approach.”

When the White House later released more e-mails, after Republican pressure, Dickerson came back on the May 18 This Morning to claim the newly released emails “were helpful to the White House” as they “helped knock back the story that Republicans had been pushing that the administration came up with a kind of false story. And if you look at the emails, the White House’s hand in creating those talking points to inform the press, the White House was not as involved as some Republicans had suggested.”

On May the 14 Today show both NBC’s Chuck Todd and Matt Lauer signaled they were ready to move on from the e-mail controversy. Reporting on Obama’s May 13 press conference, Todd relayed: “Obama defiantly rebutted Republican charges that his administration initially downplayed that the attack had ties to terrorism, calling the controversy a political circus.” Todd then played a clip of the President charging: “The whole issue of this, of talking points frankly throughout this process has been a sideshow.”

In an interview with Donald Rumsfeld, Lauer repeated the “side-show” line to the former Defense Secretary: “Yesterday, the President said there is no there-there, that it’s a side-show and that it defies logic to say there was a cover-up. Do you still think there was?” Lauer then seemed to dismiss the matter as pure partisan politics as he pressed Rumsfeld: “Do you think that the administration has answered enough questions on it? Do you think it’s possible that some Republicans are trying to use this to discredit Hillary Clinton in case she decides to run for president in 2016?”

But as with the Hicks testimony, the networks immediately dropped the e-mail controversy, with the last story coming on the May 18 CBS This Morning.

Total Big Three Network stories/briefs: 30 (NBC 12 stories, CBS 10 stories, ABC 7 stories/1 brief)