It’s been over a month but NPR has finally decided that the Benghazi scandal is worth covering. On Wednesday, May 21 House Democrats chose five members of Congres to participate in the House Select Committee on Benghazi and NPR’s Morning Edition covered the story on Thursday, May 22. NPR didn’t bother giving full a news report to the actual formation of the Select Committee, but deemed the Democratic response worthy of full coverage.
The latest NPR story was the first full news story to air on Benghazi since an April 3. In fact, since February 26, NPR has only aired two full news reports and one news brief on the subject.
The Morning Edition story on May 22 was full of pro-Democratic soundbites as reporter S.V. Date promoted “Lest anybody think she changed her mind about the value of the Benghazi committee, Nancy Pelosi was clear right up front. The Republicans were obsessed with Benghazi she said, and the committee was merely a partisan exercise.”
Date hyped how “Pelosi chose Maryland’s Elijah Cummings, the man who stood up to [Darrell] Issa during those earlier hearings.” The NPR reporter also cheered on Pelosi who “Also appointed Adam Smith of Washington State, known as a sober, pro-military moderate. He’s the ranking Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee. And she named Tammy Duckworth of Illinois, an Army National Guard veteran who lost both legs in the Iraq War.”
In total, Benghazi has been referenced 16 times on NPR since February 26 across 6 different programs, with the majority of segments occurring during non-news segments or on talk-show style programs. Morning Edition was the only NPR program that aired full news reports on Benghazi, while the program referenced Benghazi five additional times during discussions of larger topics.
On February 26, Morning Edition ran a segment on Libya’s struggles to fix its army, without mentioning the terrorist attack. In fact, the only reference to Benghazi came when reporter Leila Fadel mentioned that “One by one, the recruits say their names and where they’re from. They come from Benghazi in the east, Sabha in the south...”
On March 6, Morning Edition ran a segment about the courtroom battle over the anti-Muslim video that the Obama Administration initially blamed the terrorist attack on, yet NPR’s David Greene only said the video “potentially sparked violence in the Islamic world” and Benghazi was only referenced in a soundbite from Corynne McSherry, an attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation.
In addition, Morning Edition made two brief mentions to the attack in Benghazi on May 6 and 12 in reference to the Nigerian girls who were kidnapped by the Islamic terrorist group Boko Haram. Morning Edition did run a full story on Benghazi on May 5, but it was an interview with Cokie Roberts, not a news report, and focused on the formation of the Benghazi Select Committee.
Apart from May 22, the April 3 Morning Edition was the only other full NPR news story on Benghazi. NPR reporter David Welna narrated a story on the GOP convening a hearing on Benghazi in which former deputy CIA director Michael Morrell was the star witness.
NPR’s other flagship news program All Things Considered has not featured a single news report on Benghazi since late May, with the only reference occurring during a May 2 discussion with E.J. Dionne of the Washington Post and David Brooks of the New York Times. Both guests, including the so-called conservative Brooks declared that Benghazi “died about a year ago.”
Nine of the sixteen references to Benghazi occurred on the non-news NPR programs Wait, Wait...Don’t Tell Me, Fresh Air, Here and Now, and Tell Me More. On May 8, Here and Now provided a news brief on Speaker John Boehner’s (R-OH) establishment of a Select Committee on Benghazi.
A full transcript of the May 22 report can be found below.
May 22, 2014
STEVE INSKEEP: Democrats have decided they want to participate after all in a House investigation of Benghazi. In conservative circles, Benghazi is shorthand for the 2012 killing of four U.S. diplomats in Libya. Republicans have focused on that attack for years including the role of Hillary Clinton, who was Secretary of State at the time. There have been eight investigations, and House leaders created a special committee to look again. Many Democrats wanted to boycott that committee but their leader Nancy Pelosi says they will participate. NPR’s S.V. Date reports.
S.V. DATE: Lest anybody think she changed her mind about the value of the Benghazi committee, Nancy Pelosi was clear right up front. The Republicans were obsessed with Benghazi she said, and the committee was merely a partisan exercise. So why take part?
NANCY PELOSI: I could have argued this either way. Why give any validity to this effort?
DATE: But in the end, she said she feared that Americans would get a completely one-sided view of Benghazi much like she says they got from one of the previous committee probes the one run by California Republican Darrell Issa. So to serve as the top Democrat on the new committee, Pelosi chose Maryland’s Elijah Cummings, the man who stood up to Issa during those earlier hearings.
ELIJAH CUMMINGS: I believe we need someone in that room to simply defend the truth. Defend the truth. And that is why I’ve agreed to serve.
DATE: Pelosi also appointed Adam Smith of Washington State, known as a sober, pro-military moderate. He’s the ranking Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee. And she named Tammy Duckworth of Illinois, an Army National Guard veteran who lost both legs in the Iraq War. Perhaps most significant was Pelosi’s decision not to name Florida Democrat Alan Grayson to the panel. Grayson is known as a liberal firebrand and some thought his presence might distract from the message Pelosi is hoping to send. That’s not to say that Democrats are ready to accept the committee’s legitimacy. All five of Pelosi’s appointees agree the committee is a bad idea and shouldn’t be created.
TREY GOWDY: That’s been the public narrative on the other side so I wouldn’t expect them to change. But I’m thrilled that they’re participating.
DATE: That’s Trey Gowdy. He’s the South Carolina Republican chairing the committee. Both Gowdy and Cummings say they like and respect each other and they and they did share a brief private conversation in the Speaker’s lobby behind the House chamber Wednesday. When the first official meeting of the new Benghazi panel might take place though is still uncertain. S.V. Date, NPR News, the Capitol.