NBC Casts Benghazi Arrest as 'Victory Lap' for Obama; It 'Opened Old Political Wounds' for Hillary

On Tuesday night, CBS and NBC  led their evening newscasts with the arrest of the supposed mastermind of the September 11, 2012 terrorist attacks on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya while ABC reported it right after two short stories on devastating tornadoes in the Midwest. 

To their credit, CBS and ABC made a serious attempt at bias-free reporting but NBC’s Nightly News fell short. On top of that, the peacock network continued their biased perspective this morning on the Today show. [See video below. MP3 audio here]

 

On NBC Nightly News, host Brian Williams and NBC chief foreign affairs correspondent Andrea Mitchell began the just over four minute segment by praising the arrest as a “victory” for President Obama and his administration: 

BRIAN WILLIAMS: Good evening, just when the eyes of the world were diverted to this changing situation in Iraq, U.S. Special Operations Forces swooped in and apprehended the Libyan militant alleged to be the ring leader of the attacks on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi. He was captured over this past weekend by U.S. troops working for months in conjunction with the FBI. It's being called a victory for the Obama administration's efforts to bring those responsible to justice. Four Americans were killed on that night, including the U.S. Ambassador. Once again, U.S. Special Forces have pulled off a raid without incident and in a dangerous place. And now this story comes here, along with the suspect. We begin tonight with NBC's Andrea Mitchell. 

ANDREA MITCHELL: Nearly two years after the attacks that killed Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans, the president in Pittsburgh today took a victory lap. 

Later in the coverage, Mitchell brought up Hillary Clinton, making NBC the only broadcast network to mention the former Secretary of State in their coverage: 

MITCHELL: Keeping the pressure on Hillary Clinton, who can't seem to shake the controversy. Tonight criticized by the distraught mother of Sean Smith, one of the men who died in Benghazi.

Meanwhile, ABC World News devoted two minutes and five seconds to its story while the CBS Evening News devoted 3 minutes and 55 seconds to its report on the arrest Ahmed Abu Khatallah. 

CBS was the only network to not include comments from Patricia Smith, mother of slain foreign service information officer Sean Smith, who was one of the four Americans who died in the attack. Substitute anchor Jeff Glor, did, however, speak with CBS News correspondent Elizabeth Palmer, one of many journalists who were able to interview Khatallah in Benghazi shortly after the deadly attacks. The media’s ready access to Khatallah contrasted with the slowness of response by the Obama administration in apprehending him is, of course, a point of contention for many Benghazi watchers dissatisfied with the Obama administration.

Returning to NBC’s Mitchell, she appeared on Wednesday’s Today and continued her promotion of the arrest as a victory for, not those who lost loved ones, but for President Obama. Along with co-host Savannah Guthrie, the two harped on how the development was a victory for President Obama but sadly one which “opened old political wounds” for Hilary Clinton:

SAVANNAH GUTHRIE: Now to the capture of the alleged ringleader of the 2012 Benghazi terrorist attack and the lingering fallout for then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. NBC’s Andrea Mitchell has all the latest on that. Andrea, good morning to you.

[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: U.S. Captures Benghazi Suspect; Officials Now Interrogating Him on Navy Ship]

ANDREA MITCHELL: Good morning, Savannah. The capture of the Benghazi suspect was hailed as a victory by the White House, but it has opened old political wounds for Hillary Clinton, still defending her handling of the Benghazi attack.

....

MITCHELL: A much-needed foreign policy victory for the White House, but an issue that won’t go away for Hillary Clinton. When asked about the administration’s contradictory explanations for the attack on Fox News --

CLINTON: This was the fog of war. You know, my own assessment careened from, you know, the video had something to do with it, the video had nothing to do with it.

....

MITCHELL: Clinton and the White House hope that the capture of the alleged Benghazi ringleader, who will now be interrogated for as long as a week before arriving on U.S. soil, will silence critics. They insist that it is far more effective to try him in U.S. courts, which have a very good track record of convictions in these cases, than sending him to Guantanamo as some Republicans have been demanding. Savannah and Matt.

GUTHRIE: Alright, Andrea Mitchell in Washington, thank you.


Here are the  relevant transcripts from each NBC segment below.

NBC

Nightly News with Brian Williams

June 17, 2014

7:01 p.m. Eastern

BRIAN WILLIAMS: Good evening, just when the eyes of the world were diverted to this changing situation in Iraq, U.S. Special Operations Forces swooped in and apprehended the Libyan militant alleged to be the ring leader of the attacks on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi. He was captured over this past weekend by U.S. troops working for months in conjunction with the FBI. It's being called a victory for the Obama administration's efforts to bring those responsible to justice. Four Americans were killed on that night, including the U.S. Ambassador. Once again, U.S. Special Forces have pulled off a raid without incident and in a dangerous place. And now this story comes here, along with the suspect. We begin tonight with NBC's Andrea Mitchell. 

ANDREA MITCHELL: Nearly two years after the attacks that killed Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans, the president in Pittsburgh today took a victory lap. 

PRESIDENT OBAMA: It's important for us to send a message to the world that when Americans are attacked, no matter how long it takes, we will find those responsible and we will bring them to justice.

MITCHELL: The operation planned for months, was carried out late Sunday night near Benghazi by U.S. Special Forces aided by the FBI. Officials say Abu Khatallah is now on a Navy ship being questioned by a specialized intelligence team, on his way to the U.S. to face prosecution. 

....

MITCHELL: Keeping the pressure on Hillary Clinton, who can't seem to shake the controversy. Tonight criticized by the distraught mother of Sean Smith, one of the men who died in Benghazi. 

PAT SMITH: My son is dead, she can stand up and say, it was my fault, I blew it. I'm sorry. I blew it. I made the wrong decision. And that is the kind of person I do not want to be president. Ever. 

MITCHELL: Tonight, Clinton responded on CNN. 

HILLARY CLINTON: I can see why she and others are inconsolable. There have been, as you know, a number of investigations, including the independent one that the State Department commissioned, as well as many in Congress. There are answers, not all of them. Not enough, frankly. I'm still looking for answers, because it was a confusing and difficult time. 

MITCHELL: Officials tell NBC news that Abu Khatallah was caught at a beach resort on the run from both the U.S. and Libyan officials, but the U.S. did not trust the Libyans, so to not tell them about the operation until it was all over. Brian? 

WILLIAMS: Andrea Mitchell in our D.C. Newsroom starting us off tonight. Andreas, thanks.

 

NBC 

The Today Show

June 18, 2014

7:04 a.m. Eastern

SAVANNAH GUTHRIE: Now to the capture of the alleged ringleader of the 2012 Benghazi terrorist attack and the lingering fallout for then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. NBC’s Andrea Mitchell has all the latest on that. Andrea, good morning to you.

[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: U.S. Captures Benghazi Suspect; Officials Now Interrogating Him on Navy Ship]

ANDREA MITCHELL: Good morning, Savannah. The capture of the Benghazi suspect was hailed as a victory by the White House, but it has opened old political wounds for Hillary Clinton, still defending her handling of the Benghazi attack. Almost two years after the Benghazi attack that killed Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans, a daring nighttime raid at a beach resort near Benghazi. Without notifying Libyan officials, Delta Force commandos with drones overhead grabbed Abu Khatallah, whisking him off to a Navy warship to be interrogated and brought back to the U.S. for prosecution. 

BARACK OBAMA: It's important for us to send a message to the world, that when Americans are attacked, no matter how long it takes, we will find those responsible, and we will bring them to justice. 

MITCHELL: A much-needed foreign policy victory for the White House, but an issue that won’t go away for Hillary Clinton. When asked about the administration's contradictory explanations for the attack on Fox News – 

HILLARY CLINTON: This was the fog of war. You know, my own assessment careened from, you know, the video had something to do with it, the video had nothing to do with it. 

MITCHELL: On CNN, Clinton pointedly described her disagreement with President Obama's decision not to arm Syria's rebels. 

CLINTON: We pushed very hard, but as I say in my book, I believe that Harry Truman was right, the buck stops with the President. 

MITCHELL: But it was also a chance to try out some potential campaign themes, like appealing to women supporters. 

[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: Hillary Clinton Unplugged; Weighs In On Benghazi, Political Future & Pot]

CLINTON: I used to complain to the men I was running against. We would be meeting before debates and I'd say, "You know, it's really unfair. You guys get up, you take a shower, you shake your head and you're ready."

MITCHELL: And legalizing marijuana. 

CLINTON: I want to wait and see what the evidence is. 

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR: Do you want to wait and try it? You said you've never smoked. 

[LAUGHTER] 

CLINTON: No, that, that – I didn't do it when I was young. I'm not going to start now. 

MITCHELL: Clinton and the White House hope that the capture of the alleged Benghazi ringleader, who will now be interrogated for as long as a week before arriving on U.S. soil, will silence critics. They insist that it is far more effective to try him in U.S. courts, which have a very good track record of convictions in these cases, than sending him to Guantanamo as some Republicans have been demanding. Savannah and Matt. 

GUTHRIE: Alright, Andrea Mitchell in Washington, thank you. 

Curtis Houck
Curtis Houck
Curtis Houck is a news analyst for the Media Research Center's News Analysis Division