CNN’s Erin Burnett Rushes To Defend Hillary Clinton During Interview With Ted Cruz

CNN host Erin Burnett did her best to provide cover for former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on the issue of Benghazi during a highly combative interview with Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX).

Cruz appeared on Erin Burnett OutFront on Tuesday, June 17 and was immediately met with a barrage of questions from the CNN host in which she defended Ms. Clinton from numerous criticisms over Benghazi. [See video below.]  

Burnett began the confrontational interview by wondering “Do you think you're emboldening her by continuing with these investigations?” before laying into Cruz. The GOP senator insisted:

The truth isn't partisan. They're basic questions that haven't been answered, and she views it as criticism. to ask what happened that night, why were we attacked by terrorists? Why didn't we prevent it? Why didn't we have assets in place to save those four Americans? And why did the administration tell the American people a story that was demonstrably false?  

The CNN host quickly defended Ms. Clinton by maintaining:

Well, I mean, you have to understand they were saying part of the reason they didn't want to talk to reporters is they wanted to understand more about what happened. They didn't want it to be politicized, they wanted to come out with a more accurate story. Maybe that was a poor public relations way of handling it. But it makes sense. If she says I still need answers, isn’t that enough for you?

The back-and-forth continued: 

SEN. TED CRUZ: We don't have the answers, though. 

BURNETT: She's admitting I don't have them all. I’m not trying to say I’m blameless. I’m trying to get answers.

SEN. TED CRUZ: But she's not trying to get answers. She's trying to block the answers from ever being answered. Her most famous comment on this is, what difference does it make? She views this purely through the lens of partisan politics. We owe our men and women serving this nation, our diplomatic corps. Ambassador Stevens was the first ambassador killed in the line of duty since 1979. We owe it to the men and women serving this country to get to the bottom, not to play politics with it. 

BURNETT: How has she played politics with it? 

SEN. TED CRUZ: By having her political aide instruct career foreign service officers do not talk about what happened. Do not answer questions from congress or the media. And indeed, The White House, Erin, lied to the media. You'll recall The White House told the media, we did not change the talking points at all about what happened in Benghazi. 

BURNETT: There are still questions about where those talking points got altered. as we both know. 

SEN. TED CRUZ: Erin with respect there are no questions, there are 11 edits that they’ve admitted now they did change. So there’s no dispute that they changed it and there’s no dispute that they lied–

As the interview continued, Burnett continued to defend the Obama Administration’s Benghazi talking points: 

I know neither I or you want to have a whole interview about Benghazi, but Al Qaeda itself is a controversial term. Maybe they took the words out because that took from directions from Al Qaeda to the border. There were reasons to take those terms out that made complete respect. 

For his part, Cruz refused to accept the CNN host’s defense of Clinton:

With all respect, no, they didn't. they didn't just take out Al Qaeda, they took out any reference to radical Islamic terrorism. the most consistent error of the Clinton/Obama presidency is the failure to understand the nature of our enemies.

See relevant transcript below. 


CNN

Erin Burnett OutFront 

June 17, 2014

7:06 p.m. Eastern

ERIN BURNETT: And joining me now is Republican Senator Ted Cruz, joining us exclusively. And great to have you with us, senator. You know, I know you heard some of that. But I wanted to play a bit more for you about what Hillary Clinton said about an issue you've talked a lot about, that, of course, is Benghazi. 

HILLARY CLINTON: 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. 

BURNETT: It sounds like you and the Secretary agree, that you are both still looking for answers.

SEN. TED CRUZ: Well, I was certainly encouraged when she said that. And I hope that that means Secretary Clinton will support the resolution that I filed in the U.S. Senate along with 24 other senators to have a joint select committee to investigate what happened in Benghazi. The House has created a Select Committee. I've asked the Senate to do so. And indeed just a few weeks ago when I stood on the senate floor and asked for unanimous consent for the senate to do our job, to answer the questions that Secretary Clinton rightly noted are still there. Bob Menendez, the senator who is the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee stood up and objected.

And, you know Erin his response was striking. In the course of objecting he said, I have no idea whether President Obama was awake or asleep the night that our Americans were under attack. And he went even further. He said. I have no idea whether there was anything President Obama could have done to saved the lives of those four Americans. But we don't need to answer those questions. Well, with respect, I think those questions are important to all the men and women serving in our nation and we ought to get to the bottom of the truth. 

BURNETT: It is truth, of course, on Benghazi, that there need to be answers, people need to be held accountable regardless of the politics around it. But the politics have taken center stage. You've been a big part of that. And as you know, Hillary Clinton recently in an ABC interview said Republican criticism, a lot of it coming from you -- she didn't say that, but I’m noting for our viewers, you've been very critical. Her handling of Benghazi has incentivized her to run for president. I mean, do you think you're emboldening her by continuing with these investigations? 

SEN. TED CRUZ: You know, Erin, the truth isn't partisan. They're basic questions that haven't been answered, and she views it as criticism. To ask what happened that night, why were we attacked by terrorists? Why didn't we prevent it? Why didn't we have assets in place to save those four Americans? And why did the administration tell the American people a story that was demonstrably false? Now, what we do know is even though Secretary Clinton today is telling CNN there are a lot of answers that need to be answered, we know that in the aftermath of Benghazi her chief political aid Cheryl Mills told career foreign service officers don't talk to reporters, don't talk to Congress, don't talk about what happened. And it is not partisan to simply say we should get to the truth. That should be a bipartisan objective, but unfortunately, Secretary Clinton from the beginning has stonewalled on this rather than acting as a partner getting to the bottom of the what happened. 

BURNETT: Well, I mean that's interesting. I know they were saying part of the reason they didn't want to talk to reporters was they wanted to understand more about what happened. They didn't want it to be politicized, they wanted to come out with a more accurate story. Maybe that was a poor was from public relations way of handling it. But it makes sense. If she says I still need answers, isn’t that enough for you? 

SEN. TED CRUZ: We don't have the answers, though.  

BURNETT: But she's admitting I don't have them all. I’m not trying to say I’m blameless. I’m trying to get answers.

SEN. TED CRUZ: But she's not trying to get answers. She's trying to block the answers from ever being answered. Indeed, her most famous comment on this is, what difference does it make? She views this as purely through the lens of partisan politics. And we owe the men and women serving this nation, we owe our diplomatic corps, we owe our ambassadors. Ambassador Christopher Stevens was the first U.S. ambassador killed in the line of duty since 1979. We owe it to the men and women serving this country to get to the bottom, not to play politics with it. 

BURNETT: How has she played politics with it? Her specifically, what has she done? 

SEN. TED CRUZ: By having her political aide instruct career foreign service officers do not talk about what happened. Do not answer questions from Congress or the media. And indeed, The White House, Erin, lied to the media. You'll recall The White House told the media, we did not change the talking points at all about what happened in Benghazi. 

BURNETT: Well, there's still questions as to where those talking points got altered. as you and I both know that's a complicated trail. . 

SEN. TED CRUZ: Erin with respect there are no questions, there are 11 edits that they’ve admitted now they did change. So there’s no dispute that they changed it and there’s no dispute that they lied--

BURNETT: But there are questions about whether it was about tone or honesty. I want to get at this point, though – 

SEN. TED CRUZ: It wasn't tone or honesty. what they did specifically -- there's a broader point. the edits they made is they edited out every reference to Al Qaeda and radical Islamic terrorism. And the problem with the Obama/Clinton foreign policy -- you know, throughout this town hall, Secretary Clinton said everything was a hard choice. This was a hard choice. that was a hard choice. There's a reason everything appears to be a hard choice because -- 

BURNETT: Yes, but let me just make this point. I know neither you or I want to have a whole interview about Benghazi, but Al Qaeda itself is a complicated term. Maybe they took the words out because that would imply directions straight from Al Qaeda headquarters on the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. There were reasons to take those terms out that made complete Sense. 

SEN. TED CRUZ: Erin with respect, no, they didn't. Because they didn't just take out Al Qaeda, they took out any reference to radical Islamic terrorism. And the most consistent error of the Clinton/Obama presidency is the failure to understand the nature of the people we're dealing with of our enemies. It is striking that neither President Obama nor Hillary Clinton in this discussion tonight are willing to utter the words "radical Islamic terrorism." They do not understand the radical religious extremism of individuals committed to jihad who had pledged to murder Americans and they leads them to keep making the mistakes over and over and over again whether it is releasing five senior Taliban terrorists without understanding that these individuals will likely return to active warfare against the United States. Whether it is in the case of Iraq, not understanding the threat posed by ISIS. I'll tell you a great question we ought to be asking right now is whether the administration has armed ISIS, these radical Islamic terrorists, whether they've armed them in Syria. Because we know they're arming some of the rebels. And we haven't had an answer as to which rebels they're arming and which they're not. And you cannot win a battle against radical Islamic terrorism if you're unwilling to utter the words "radical Islamic terrorism." If you don't acknowledge the character. 

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