Buried deep beneath the Michael Flynn hysteria this week was Judicial Watch’s release of newly obtained State Department documents related to the Benghazi terrorist attack on September 11, 2012. One email confirms—again—that the Obama administration knew the day after the attack it was not a random act of violence stemming from an anti-Muslim video. That was the excuse shamefully propagated by top Obama administration officials (including the president himself) and swallowed whole by a media establishment desperate to help Obama win re-election six weeks later.
According to the summary of a call on September 12, 2012 between State Department Under-Secretary Patrick Kennedy and several congressional staffers, Kennedy was asked if the attack came under cover of protest: “No this was a direct breaching attack,” he answered. Kennedy also denied the attack was coordinated with the protests in Cairo over the video: “Attack in Cairo was a demonstration. There were no weapons shown or used. A few cans of spray paint.”
It’s somewhat ironic—galling?—that this email was disclosed the same day the anti-Trump universe was spinning into the stratosphere over Flynn’s resignation as President Trump’s national security advisor. It begs for a little trip down memory lane, to a kinder, gentler time when the media gave a great big pass to another national security advisor in the days after four Americans, including an ambassador, were murdered in Libya by Islamic terrorists under her watch.
Lying to Us Only Matters If We Dislike You
Fun fact: While Trump press secretary Sean Spicer fielded 55 questions on February 14 related to the Flynn debacle, Obama’s press secretary Jay Carney received only 13 questions from reporters on September 12, 2012, three of which were set-ups to blast Mitt Romney’s criticism of the administration after the attack. 55 to 13.
So as we now suffer through yet another patch of media mania, conspiracy theories, and unsubstantiated claims about how Trump hearts Russia, as well as the daily beatings endured by Spicer, let’s reminisce to when the media and Obama’s press flaks spun, deflected—even joked about golf and “Saturday Night Live!”—less than a week after Benghazi.
The day after Hillary Clinton’s deputy had that call with key Capitol Hill staffers, including advisors to senators Durbin, Feinstein, and McGaskill, to dispute the notion the attack was about an anti-Muslim video, here’s what Carney said: “I think it’s important to note with regards to that protest that there are protests taking place in different countries across the world that are responding to the movie that has circulated on the Internet. As Secretary Clinton said today, the United States government had nothing to do with this movie. We reject its message and its contents. We find it disgusting and reprehensible.”
On September 14, hours before the remains of the Benghazi victims would arrive at Andrews Air Force Base, Carney was still blaming the video. Just steps from the Oval Office, Carney opened his briefing with this: “First of all, we are obviously closely monitoring developments in the region today. You saw that following the incidents in response to this video, the president directed the administration to take a number of steps to prepare for continued unrest.”
Carney went on to mention the video/film/movie another 30 times during his briefing. He stuck with his story even after some reporters pushed back, citing other sources who said it was indeed a pre-mediated attack. One reporter said several senators admitted the “attack on Benghazi was a terrorist attack organized and carried out by terrorists, that it was premeditated, a calculated act of terror,” and asked Carney, “is there anything more you can — now that the administration is briefing senators on this, is there anything more you can tell us?”
Carney: “Again, it’s actively under investigation, both the Benghazi attack and incidents elsewhere. And my point was that we don’t have and did not have concrete evidence to suggest that this was not in reaction to the film. But we’re obviously investigating the matter…” Who cares, Sean Spicer called Justin Trudeau Joe, OMG!
Susan Rice’s Audacity of Trope
But of course nothing matches the audacity of trope by one of Obama’s top national security advisors, then-United Nations Ambassador Susan Rice, on September 16, 2012. Rice went on several Sunday shows to peddle a story she knew was completely phony, one that was already quickly unraveling even as most in the media and administration tried to keep it intact.
You can read most of her comments here, but Rice repeats the line that Benghazi attack was not premediated and was connected to the demonstrations in Cairo over the video (a document obtained by Judicial Watch last year shows Hillary Clinton met with Rice a few days before her television appearances). Which presidential administration is fact-challenged, again?
In a press gaggle on Air Force One the next day, guess how many times Deputy Press Secretary Josh Earnest was asked about Rice’s comments? Ten? Five? One? Not once. Let me repeat that. The day after an Obama national security advisor was on five news programs to blame a terrorist attack on a YouTube video, not one reporter asked the White House about it. I actually had to re-read the transcripts several times, even checking the date over and over, to make sure this was accurate. Her name did not even come up.
No discussion about the investigation. No discussion about emerging evidence from around the world that Benghazi was indeed a terrorist attack. (The only time it was mentioned was when Jen Psaki criticized Mitt Romney’s comments about how the administration handled Benghazi and questioned whether he was ready for “primetime.”)
Here’s what they did discuss: Debate prep, Occupy Wall Street, and the Chicago’s teachers strike. An actual human reporter asked this: “It was a beautiful weekend for golf and he wasn’t out on the course. Is it safe to assume maybe he was doing some preparation at the White House?” WHAT? Then they joked about football and “Saturday Night Live.”
Sometimes the hypocrisy, double standard, and outright lies by the media under the Trump presidency is funny. Sometimes it is infuriating. But never was the media’s complicit sheep-like coverage more evident than it the days after Benghazi, behavior you can never imagine now. They have yet to admit their mistakes and failures, even as more evidence is revealed.
Remember that the next time you want to worry about how Trump is responsible for undermining the media’s integrity and credibility.
Correction: This article previously implied Rice was held the national security advisor title at the time of the Benghazi attack. At the time she was a national security advisor who served on Obama’s National Security Council, but took that specific title in July 2013.