Giuliani Rips Soledad O'Brien's 'Incredibly Generous Interpretation' for Obama on Libya

Once again, a Republican guest ripped CNN's Soledad O'Brien for her Democratic-friendly bias. Former Mayor of New York Rudy Giuliani lit into her on Monday for giving President Obama "an incredibly generous interpretation" of his reaction to the Libya attacks.

"My goodness. That's an incredibly generous interpretation for the President," Giuliani told O'Brien after she tried to refute GOP accusations of a cover-up from the Obama administration.

Later O'Brien shot back at Giuliani that he was putting words in her mouth. "Every time I ask you a question you like to push back as if somehow the question that's being posed to you is unfair. It's not. I'm a journalist," she told him.

The exchange was the latest in a string of bouts between Republicans and O'Brien on her show.
A week ago, Giuliani wondered on Starting Point if he was "debating with the President's campaign". RNC chief Reince Priebus exposed O'Brien for her double standard. Romney adviser Barbara Comstock quipped to O'Brien "I know you have your talking points." Another Romney adviser, Bay Buchanan, mixed it up with O'Brien in September. And Romney surrogate John Sununu told O'Brien in August to just put an Obama sticker on her forehead.

"Sounds like they're saying actually the intelligence was flawed and so flawed that the President and people around the President weren't getting accurate information. Does that change when you say cover-up?" O'Brien had pressed Giuliani, citing a Wall Street Journal article reporting the administration was briefed for days after the attacks that they sprung out of a protest.

O'Brien referred back to Bush's faulty intelligence over weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, citing ABC's Matt Dowd, who worked in that administration, that after "years," the administration still didn't "have the right answer. That by jumping on so quickly and expecting sort of accurate final answers within weeks is -- is I guess, unfair in a way."

However, O'Brien left out CNN's own reporting that the administration omitted key intelligence from its talking points given to Congress and the American public.

A transcript of the segment, which aired on October 22 on Starting Point at 8:09 a.m. EDT, is as follows:

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN: So the last time you were on we were talking about Benghazi, and you said that it was a cover-up. And now as I'm sure you know, The Wall Street Journal is writing this. "President Barack Obama was told in his daily intelligence briefing for more than a week after the consulate siege in Benghazi that the assault grew out of a spontaneous protest despite conflicting reports from witnesses and other sources that began to cast doubt on the accuracy of that assessment almost from the start." Sounds like they're saying actually the intelligence was flawed and so flawed that the President and people around the President weren't getting accurate information. Does that change when you say cover-up?

RUDY GIULIANI, (R), former Mayor of New York City: [Laughter] No. Come on.

O'BRIEN: I guess from the hysterical laughter you're going to say no. Tell me why, because –

GIULIANI: My goodness. That's an incredibly generous interpretation for the President. My god.

O'BRIEN: I'm asking. I'm not interpreting. I'm asking you. Because The Wall Street Journal has said the intelligence was flawed.

GIULIANI: Yeah. But also thePpresident should have known, just based on common sense, that an attack like that, an attack in which they are using rocket-propelled hand grenades, in which mortars are used, if the President had been privy to the information beforehand that there were numerous attacks there, planned attacks including two on the embassy, one in April, one in June, in which a hole was blown in the wall of the embassy, now all of a sudden you get an attack on September 11th and you're scratching your head about it? I mean my goodness. If it wasn't a cover-up, then the ineptitude of this administration is startling. And it really can't be trusted to protect us.

O'BRIEN: So Mr. Mayor, hold on one second –

GIULIANI: If you couldn't figure out this was a planned attack, you had a series of planned attacks before this. To us, because this information was concealed by the administration, this appeared to be a big surprise. Meaning the American public. Shouldn't have been to the President.

O'BRIEN: Hold on one second while I chat with our panel.

GIULIANI: That consulate was being attacked.

O'BRIEN: Hold on one second while I chat with the panel for a second Mr. Mayor.

GIULIANI: Sure.

RON BROWNSTEIN: What I'm wondering is if this was a lack of common sense, and the CIA was saying this for ten days, was it David Petraeusthen, is Mayor Giuliani saying it was David Petraeus, head of the CIA, had a lack of common sense about what was happening in Libya? That would be the implication of saying it's a lack of common sense to not see that this was a planned attack right from the get-go, and that's what the CIA was saying.

GIULIANI: Let's see if we can move it away from the President.

BROWNSTEIN: I'm just asking.

GIULIANI: May I please -- no, but may I be allowed to answer the question?

O'BRIEN: Of course.

GIULIANI: The reality is, the reality is, the President of the United States way back in April should have been aware of the fact that this consulate was under siege. Then all of a sudden in June he gets a hole blown in the wall of this consulate. He shouldn't have to pin it on David Petraeus or Hillary Clinton or – if he's the President he should be aware of this from his security briefings. What we need to know is was he briefed on the prior attacks? Did he know of the prior attacks? When this attack took place --

O'BRIEN: So, so –

GIULIANI: Please let me finish. When this attack took place did it key into him that there had been prior attacks at exactly this spot, a spot in which the British consulate had moved their consulate just a few weeks earlier? Now if all that information was known to the President, then of course there was a cover-up. If it wasn't known to the President, well, then maybe he was misled by the CIA. I don't know the answers to that. The administration is stonewalling here. They're not giving explanations. We still don't know if the President was aware of the prior attacks.

O'BRIEN: So let me ask another question. I don't know if you caught Matthew Dowd who was –  he's an ABC news political contributor. And here is what he said about when he was working at the time and weapons of mass destruction had been discovered. I'm going to play a little chunk of what he said.

MATTHEW DOWD [from ABC's 'This Week']: But I think -- let me just say one thing to put this Benghazi thing in context of like why don't we have answers and where are they? I worked for President Bush. We had a President in an administration for years made an argument about weapons of mass destruction, for years. And now we've lost thousands of lives over in Iraq based on a false assumption. It wasn't two weeks. This was months and months and months of a conversation where we never got the right answer to this. And we still today, nobody in the administration at a high enough level –

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN: And the point is that our intelligence gathering is bad.

O'BRIEN: So he is the chief strategist right, for Bush/Cheney. And so he's even saying that after weeks it would be -- even talking about weapons of mass destruction, took years before they were even able – and they still don't have the right answer. That by jumping on so quickly and expecting sort of accurate final answers within weeks is -- is I guess, unfair in a way.

GIULIANI: If what? We're going to blame this on Bush, too?

O'BRIEN: Okay, you've got to stop putting words in my mouth, sir. Seriously. Hang on. Let me finish. Every time I ask you a question --

GIULIANI: I'm going to answer the question.

O'BRIEN: And let me finish my point. Every time I ask you a question you like to push back as if somehow the question that's being posed to you is unfair. It's not. I'm a journalist. You said some things. I'm trying to get some accurate responses from you. You are welcome to answer. Go ahead.

GIULIANI: Okay. Here's the answer.

O'BRIEN: Thank you.

GIULIANI: It sounds to me like we're trying to blame it on Bush. It's absurd to blame Benghazi on Bush. All the President has to do is answer the simple question. Did he know about the consulate attacks that took place before September 11 of 2012? There were two of them. One of which blew a hole in the embassy wall. Also did he know that the British consulate, which is basically next door, that they moved out because of these tremendous number of risks to that consulate. If he knew all that, which would only take, like, a few minutes --

O'BRIEN: That's not what Matthew Dowd is saying. So you realize that, when I played that chunk for you, that's not what Matthew Dowd is saying. Let me finish my point. What Matthew Dowd is saying is similar situation talking about weapons of mass destruction. And back then in the same confusion, it took a long time. Years later we still don't know. He's not saying blame it on President Bush. He's just saying that weeks in a place like Libya, it could take a long time before somebody actually knows what exactly happened. We also have a report from The Wall street Journal that it looks as if the intelligence was flawed. That's what he's saying, sir.

GIULIANI: But it doesn't take a long time for the President of the United States to tell us whether or not he was aware that this consulate had been attacked twice before. And if he was aware, what did he do to protect that consulate?

O'BRIEN: But my question for you, sir –

GIULIANI: – that is an easy question to answer.

O'BRIEN: I agree. I agree. But the point and my question to you –  

GIULIANI: Then why doesn't he answer?

O'BRIEN: The point and my question to you is does Matthew Dowd have a point that it could take far longer than two weeks or four weeks before people understand what happened? He's saying the example when he was working for the Bush administration was weapons of mass destruction. Does he have a point?

GIULIANI: He has a point about some parts of this incident. He does not have a point about the part of the incident that refers to what was the President's knowledge, did the President take steps to protect our ambassador and the other people there, didn't he take steps to do that, and why wasn't that information made available for a month, a month and a half? Those are very valid points that do not take five years to figure out.

O'BRIEN: Those are valid points that Michael Dowd did not make. Michael Dowd did not say that. Thank you for talking with us. We're out of time. We always enjoy chatting with you. It wakes me up, that's for sure. Thank you sir.
 

Matt Hadro
Matt Hadro
Matt Hadro was a News Analyst for the Media Research Center's News Analysis Division from 2010 through early 2014