ABC, NBC Punt on Latest Developments in Libya Consulate Attack; CBS Highlights State Department vs. CNN

On Monday, ABC's Good Morning America and NBC's Today failed to air any full reports on the continuing inquiry into the terrorist attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, and mentioned the issue only in passing. CBS This Morning did devote a full segment to the dispute between the State Department and CNN over their use of a Ambassador Chris Stevens' personal journal, but didn't mention President Obama or Secretary of State Hillary Clinton by name.

Matt Lauer vaguely referenced the "new wave of anti-Americanism" in the Islamic world during an interview of Tony Blair, but it took the former British prime minister to specifically point out the "tragic death of your ambassador" in Libya. During a report on the presidential race, ABC's Jake Tapper did briefly note how the President "described some of the events as bumps in the road. The Romney campaign saying that the death of four Americans, including the U.S. ambassador in Libya, is far worse than a bump in the road."

Margaret Brennan, CBS News Correspondent | NewsBusters.orgCBS anchor Norah O'Donnell turned to correspondent Margaret Brennan on how "the State Department is blasting CNN for revealing details from the personal journal of Ambassador Chris Stevens, who was killed in Libya earlier this month." Brennan first reported that the Cabinet-level agency claimed that CNN's reporting "defied the wishes of Stevens' family - to go ahead and report on what was inside the journal." She continued that "according to CNN, they had to report some of the information, including the thought from Ambassador Stevens that he was on an al Qaeda hit list. They say the State Department is shooting the messenger here."

O'Donnell replied by actually acknowledging that is "pretty explosive...if Ambassador Stevens had suggested, in his personal journal, that he thought his personal security was at risk." The CBS journalist then spotlighted how "the State Department won't answer any questions about that attack. What happened there, they say, is off-limits, because it's an intelligence matter....the FBI...isn't even in Benghazi yet. They have not secured that site, which is how journalists can wander through, and have picked up, as CNN did, items on the site."

The full transcript of the Margaret Brennan segment from Monday's CBS This Morning:

NORAH O'DONNELL: President Obama heads to New York today with other world leaders for the opening of the U.N. General Assembly. The President speaks at the U.N. tomorrow. And this morning, the State Department is blasting CNN for revealing details from the personal journal of Ambassador Chris Stevens, who was killed in Libya earlier this month.

Margaret Brennan is with us, and Margaret, we have foreign policy on the front page today, because more than a hundred leaders gather here in New York for the U.N.G.A. But this specific story, Libya - a big story this week - and what's going on now? What happened? What was CNN reporting that the State Department says was absolutely out of bounds?

[CBS News Graphic: "Diplomatic Diary; State Dept. Spars With CNN Over Stevens' Journal"]

MARGARET BRENNAN: They say it's disgusting. What happened is that CNN found a journal of Ambassador Chris Stevens-

O'DONNELL: His personal journal-

BRENNAN:  His personal journal on the site of the consulate attack. Now, according to the State Department, this defied the wishes of Stevens' family - to go ahead and report on what was inside the journal.

O'DONNELL: And what did the journal say?


BRENNAN: Well, according to CNN, they had to report some of the information, including the thought from Ambassador Stevens that he was on an al Qaeda hit list. They say the State Department is shooting the messenger here, and criticizing them for taking that information, reading it, reporting on it, and then, returning the journal to the family.

O'DONNELL: Which is pretty explosive is – if Ambassador Stevens had suggested, in his personal journal, that he thought his personal security was at risk.

BRENNAN: And that's the thing, because there's a debate we can have about journalism, and then, there's a debate we can have about the information there, and whether they were compelled to report on it. What we know is that the State Department won't answer any questions about that attack. What happened there, they say, is off-limits, because it's an intelligence matter-

ROSE: Well, speaking-

BRENNAN: According to the FBI – the FBI, Charlie, isn't even in Benghazi yet. They have not secured that site, which is how journalists can wander through, and have picked up, as CNN did, items on the site-

O'DONNELL: Wow-

ROSE: But the New York Times is reporting today – the New York Times reporting today, in a major column – a major story, [the] attack in Libya was a major blow to CIA efforts, that that was an important place, and they were watching some important terrorist activity, and those CIA agents have been compromised, in terms of their ability to do what they wanted to do.

BRENNAN: Well, there – I'm sure – are many agencies active in that area. The responsibility for security for the ambassador and his staff falls on diplomatic security, which is part of the State Department, which is why they are under fire, and why there's so much pressure to fill in some of the blanks. Journalists are trying to do that. What we know is that the State Department has to produce a report in 60 days to Congress. But it's not clear how detailed some of that information is going to be.

O'DONNELL: We'll have a lot more news this week. Margaret, thank you – good to see you.

Matthew Balan
Matthew Balan
Matthew Balan is a news analyst at Media Research Center