NBC Touts 'Defiant' Obama Dismissing Benghazi as 'Political Circus' While Fox Fact-Checks President's Misleading Claims

While Monday's NBC Nightly News was content to accept President Obama labeling the Benghazi scandal as a "political circus" worthy of ridicule, on Fox News Channel's Special Report, chief Washington correspondent James Rosen was actually being a journalist and fact-checking the commander-in-chief's deceptive assertions on the controversy.  

Introducing the Nightly News report on Obama attempting to downplay the scandal during a midday press conference, anchor Brian Williams announced: "...the President took the opportunity to hit back hard over accusations of some sort of a cover-up, saying that defies logic."

Chief White House correspondent Chuck Todd proceeded to tee up sound bites of the President, void of any skepticism: "The President was defiant at times and even called the Republican-led investigation into his administration a political circus....he was dismissive of Republican critiques of how the White House, State Department and CIA edited those talking points....The President mocked the cover-up charge..."

By contrast, on Fox News, Rosen dismantled many of Obama's claims regarding the administration's response to the terrorist attack:

> President Obama's retelling of the Benghazi story and how and why it resurfaced to consume precious time during his news conference with the British Prime Minister was highly selective. To begin with, Mr. Obama argued that he has been characterizing Benghazi correctly from the get-go....But the President's words in the Rose Garden on September 12th were vague, not explicit....And just hours later, in an interview with 60 Minutes, the President agreed he'd in fact steered clear of the word he now claims to have trumpeted all along.

> A week later, on Wednesday, September 19, Matt Olsen, head of the National Counterterrorism Center, testified before the Senate that Benghazi was not a protest gone awry....Today the President took credit for Olsen's appearance....

JOHN BOLTON [FORMER UN AMBASSADOR]: Number one, he didn't send him to the Hill. He was called to the Hill. Number two, he referred to it as an act of terrorism not in his prepared testimony but in response to a question. And I remembered quite well, I'm sure others do too, it was a firestorm on Capitol Hill because finally someone in the administration had said straight out this was an act of terrorism.

> What's more, the President spent the weeks after Olsen's testimony in campaign season continuing to steer clear of the terror label.

> The President asserted today that confusion reigned when the intelligence community completed its earliest assessments of the Benghazi attacks....In fact, the CIA station chief in Libya cabled home on September 12th that Benghazi was a terrorist attack. And as The Weekly Standard and ABC News established last week, the first version of the CIA's talking points on Benghazi drafted September 14th stated flatly, "We do know that Islamic extremists with ties to Al Qaeda participated in the attack."

Not only did Todd not provide those important fact checks, but he actually parroted Obama's spin:

TODD: The President mocked the cover-up charge, noting that a few days after UN Ambassador Susan Rice went on the Sunday talk shows and placed the blame on the attack primarily on an inflammatory YouTube film, another member of the administration [Matt Olsen] briefed Congress days later and called it terrorism.

OBAMA: Who executes some sort of cover-up or effort to tamp things down for three days? So the whole thing defies logic.


Here is a full transcript of Todd's May 13 report:

7:00PM ET TEASE:

BRIAN WILLIAMS: Damage control. Flashes of anger from the President as two scandals grow, one involving the IRS. And in the other, he hits back at his critics over Benghazi.

7:04PM ET SEGMENT:

WILLIAMS: As we mentioned, this just one of two growing scandals that got the President visibly energized today. The other involves criticism of the administration's handling of the attacks in Benghazi. On that front, the President took the opportunity to hit back hard over accusations of some sort of a cover-up, saying that defies logic. Our political director, chief White House correspondent Chuck Todd with us from the North Lawn tonight. Chuck, good evening.

CHUCK TODD: Good evening, Brian. At that joint press conference today, it was quite the turn. The President, a scathing critique of the IRS, and then he got defensive over the criticisms of his administration on those Benghazi attacks and what happened in the hours and days after the attack. The President was defiant at times and even called the Republican-led investigation into his administration a political circus.

A defiant president today responding after a weekend of criticism from Republicans over his administration's handling of Benghazi.

BARACK OBAMA: The whole issue of this – of talking points, frankly, throughout this process has been a sideshow.

TODD: And he was dismissive of Republican critiques of how the White House, State Department and CIA edited those talking points, noting Congress had looked at key White House e-mails months ago.

OBAMA: They reviewed them several months ago, concluded that, in fact, there was nothing afoul in terms of the process we had used, and suddenly three days ago this gets spun up as if there's something new to the story. There's no there, there.

TODD: The President mocked the cover-up charge, noting that a few days after UN Ambassador Susan Rice went on the Sunday talk shows and placed the blame on the attack primarily on an inflammatory YouTube film, another member of the administration briefed Congress days later and called it terrorism.

OBAMA: Who executes some sort of cover-up or effort to tamp things down for three days? So the whole thing defies logic.

TODD: Many Republicans still didn't find the President's explanation satisfactory. And today, Congressman Darrell Issa, who chaired last week's hearings, also said he doesn't accept the notion that during the seven-hour attack a military response was impossible.

DARRELL ISSA: Quite frankly, you can take off from Washington, D.C. on a commercial flight and practically be in Benghazi by the end of seven hours.

TODD: But former Defense Secretary Robert Gates disagreed.

ROBERT GATES: And to send some small number of special forces or other troops in without knowing what the environment is, without knowing what the threat is, I would not have approved that. Because we just don't – it's sort of a cartoonish impression of military capabilities and military forces.

TODD: And while the White House is dismissive of what Capitol Hill is doing, congressional Republicans are moving on with the investigation. Later this week, Brian, they're going to hear from Ambassador Tom Pickering and former Joint Chiefs Chairman Mike Mullen. These are the two men that led the internal review at the State Department. The main question Congress has, Brian, why didn't these two gentlemen interview Secretary of State Hillary Clinton? And we go on.

WILLIAMS: Chuck Todd with the second front today at the White House. Chuck, thanks.

Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen is a News Analyst for MRC