Joe Scarborough Calls Out Fellow MSNBCer Wolffe For Using A ‘Democratic Talking Point’ On Benghazi

Regardless of the facts, some at MSNBC continue to peddle White House talking points surrounding the terrorist attack in Benghazi. Appearing on Morning Joe on May 9, Richard Wolffe, the executive editor of MSNBC.com, gleefully used Democratic talking points in his denunciation of congressional hearings on Benghazi. 

The segment began with co-host Joe Scarborough challenging the White House narrative that Eric Nordstrom, a 22-year State Department veteran who was in Tripoli during the Benghazi attack, was not demoted for speaking to members of Congress about his doubts over the response to the attack.  [See video after jump. MP3 audio here.]

Scarborough, speaking in response to a New York Times piece describing how Nordstrom was verbally harassed by State Department official Cheryl Mills, complained that:

This doesn't pass the sniff test. And you know what? You know what we're about to get into? We're about to get into some very dangerous territory for the administration. They demote this guy, and now they're doing what we've seen too often where you try to now call him a liar.

Regular Morning Joe panelist Donny Deutsch, no conservative he, agreed with Scarborough’s analysis, arguing that:

You started the day going, okay, this is going to be a Republican political circus. And you ended the day going, yuck. This clearly has a yuck factor.

Deutsch  lamented about how this could potentially hurt Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential prospects:

The question going -- the big question for this country in 2016, does it have the sticky factor for Hillary Clinton. I mean, this is obviously going to be the football, Richard, the Republicans don't let go of. The question, the American public has a strange way of deciding what they want to hold on to, and what they don't want to hold on to, vis-à-vis a potential presidential candidate and this is going to be a big question Mark going forward for Ms. Clinton.

While Deutsch and Scarborough expressed genuine discomfort in the State Department's handing of the situation, Wolffe immediately excused the Clinton-led department, producing what Scarborough dismissed as a typical "Democrat talking point":

The treatment of a whistle blower or a senior official talking to members of Congress, you've got to be super careful. She clearly crossed the line. But that is very different that suggesting that Susan Rice who was reading from CIA approved talking points was willfully misleading the American people. It’s very different from talking about the security lapses and especially very different what was most emotional in the hearing was what could have been done differently. Which is what this independent review looked at.

Wolffe’s parroting of Democrat talking points continued:

Could they have scrambled jets, could they have used air power? This is not in the movies here. This was a surprise attack, whatever you think the reason was for it. That overwhelmed the defenses in this place. The few people protecting the ambassador calling in jets from several hours away to have precision target bombs somehow laser guided by some forward air controller that wasn’t actually there. How does that happen?

Seeking to tag-team with Wolffe, liberal co-host Mika Brzezinski attempted to silence Scarborough for challenging him, but Scarborough refused to let Wolffe get away with his partisanship:

Do you think you and I know what would have saved people in Benghazi better than somebody sitting in Tripoli that was an expert, that was the number two guy for the United States State Department? Are we sitting here in the comfort of this studio, in midtown Manhattan, are we just dismissing what Hicks and these other people are saying?

As the new executive editor of MSNBC.com we can expect more of the same from Mr. Wolffe, using his new platform to push Democratic talking points online. Unfortunately, Scarborough is limited to challenging Wolffe only when he appears on Morning Joe, but will likely remain free of criticism at his new job

 

See relevant transcript below. 


MSNBC

Morning Joe

May 9, 2013

8:07 a.m. EST

JOE SCARBOROUGH: So he was in the State Department, Willie [Geist], for 22 years. And for the first time in 22 years he talks to a congressional delegation. You know, they go over and investigate these things. And if you're in the State Department or the Pentagon, you talk to them. And he's getting yelled at for not doing that. He's saying and that’s what "The New York Times" is talking about now, he was effectively demoted. They got pissed off at him for what he said about Susan Rice's testimony. Which was clearly false. I'm not saying that she did it intentionally. We talked about it on this show a lot. She did not. She was handed -- somebody handed her talking points that were false And it appears knowingly false. Because you had people that were over there in the State Department saying it was knowingly false. And this guy is effectively demoted.

WILLIE GEIST: The question that was reinforced yesterday was that, yes, those talking points were made by someone. But they didn't come from the ground. Mr. Hicks said that yesterday. Said he was stunned when he heard Ambassador Rice say that on the Sunday shows, because they had no inkling they were under attack. They didn't know that there was a video. They didn't know that was even a possibility. There was no report from Ambassador Stevens about a protest outside the gates. So the question is where did those talking points come from if they didn't come from the people who actually were on the ground?

SCARBOROUGH: Now you know, Lisa Myers is right now with us from Washington. She's NBC News Senior Investigative Correspondent. You've been following these hearings closely, Lisa. You know, we've been very careful on this program since this happened, since September 11th, to look before we’ve leapt. There have been a lot of people stirring up conspiracy theories without knowing what the hell they’re talking about. Just because it was the Obama Administration. I give them about as much credit this morning as I give people that were against the Iraq War reflexively without knowing the details first. In this case, though, you look at the testimony. Forget the republicans. Forget the congressman. You look at these State Department officials, these professionals, you're absolutely floored by what they're saying. Put this in perspective for us in all your time in Washington, D.C.

LISA MYERS: Look, this was an extraordinary moment where the raw emotion overtook the politics in the room. Here you had three highly credible career State Department employees who were putting their careers on the line because they believe the full truth has not been told about what happened before, during and after the attacks in Benghazi. They expressed their frustration over inadequate security at the embassy. They expressed their frustration over their inability to get any help for their colleagues in Benghazi that night. And they talked about efforts to suppress in their view the truth. They believe that the independent review that was done was not adequate because it did not examine the decision making and the actions of the most senior State Department officials. And clearly, Hicks believes that there was a concerted effort to shut him up. He was demoted. He was chewed out. And he essentially says he now has a job with no real responsibilities.

SCARBOROUGH: Are you surprised -- I guess as a congressman who's been on these delegations before, are you surprised that a State Department official called and yelled at a 22-year-old -- 22-year Foreign Service diplomat for talking to a congressional delegation?

MYERS: Well, I've been in Washington long enough that I'm not really surprised. Now, I should say that the State Department or people representing Cheryl Mills and Hillary Clinton say that that did not happen. That Cheryl Mills was very supportive of the people in Benghazi and only called to see if they needed more help and to see how they were doing.

MIKA BRZEZINSKI: So are they saying

MYERS: Clearing that is not the message that Greg Hicks took away. What?

BRZEZINSKI: Are they saying he's lying?

SCARBOROUGH: In front of a congressional committee? Are they accusing him now of lying in front of a congressional committee?

MYERS: They're disputing the accuracy of his memory.

SCARBOROUGH: Wow. Donny, Donny. This doesn't pass the sniff test. And you know what? You know what we're about to get into? We're about to get into some very dangerous territory for the administration. They demote this guy, and now they're doing what we've seen too often where you try to now call him a liar.

DONNY DEUTSCH: Well this has clearly--

SCARBOROUGH: Saying he doesn't remember? I don't think this guy will forget the events of September 11th and beyond for the rest of his life.

DEUTSCH: You started the day going, okay, this is going to be a Republican political circus. And you ended the day going, yuck. This clearly has a yuck factor. The question going -- the big question for this country in 2016, does it have the sticky factor for Hillary Clinton. I mean, this is obviously going to be the football, Richard [Wolffe], the Republicans don't let go of. The question, the American public has a strange way of deciding what they want to hold on to, and what they don't want to hold on to, vis-à-vis a potential presidential candidate and this is going to be a big question Mark going forward for Ms. Clinton.

RICHARD WOLFFE: Yeah it is. I mean, I think Democrats after the 9/11 Commission thought they might have something out of that when it came to President Bush. And there was no stickiness to it at all. And let's just compare obviously the scale of the events are different. But the reaction to an official report. This report, this independent review, including people like Tom Pickering. Tom Pickering is hugely respected. Was the U.N. Ambassador for Bush 41 in the Gulf War, first gulf war, these are not lightweight people who came up with this independent review. Now, we've got to separate out how Cheryl Mills, who by the way is well known for chewing out people. I mean the idea that Cheryl Mills was shouting at officials for doing something that transgressed what she thought was her boss's position, not unusual. Not saying that’s justified, but that's Cheryl Mills for you. The treatment of a whistle blower or a senior official talking to members of Congress, you've got to be super careful. She clearly crossed the line. But that is very different that suggesting that Susan Rice who was reading from CIA approved talking points was willfully misleading the American people. It’s very different from talking about the security lapses and especially very different what was most emotional in the hearing was what could have been done differently. Which is what this independent review looked at. Could they have scrambled jets, could they have used air power? This is not in the movies here. This was a surprise attack, whatever you think the reason was for it. That overwhelmed the defenses in this place. The few people protecting the ambassador calling in jets from several hours away to have precision target bombs somehow laser guided by some forward air controller that wasn’t actually there. How does that happen?

SCARBOROUGH: Alright Richard. I keep hearing that and that's a Democratic talking point.

WOLFFE: No it’s not a talking point, it’s reality.

SCARBOROUGH: Yes, it is. It is a talking point. I hear it every day over the past several days.

WOLFFE: So where are those jets going to come from?

SCARBOROUGH: So let me ask you this. Do you think you and I know what would have saved people in Benghazi better than somebody sitting in Tripoli that was an expert, that was the number two guy for the United States State Department? Are we sitting here in the comfort of this studio, in midtown Manhattan, are we just dismissing what Hicks and these other people are saying?

BRZEZINSKI: Joe--

WOLFFE: I’m saying the independent review led by someone like Tom Pickering has a better idea than any of us including the guy sitting in Tripoli. Yes.

Jeffrey Meyer
Jeffrey Meyer
Jeffrey Meyer is a News Analyst at the Media Research Center.