Libya E-mails Break; Morning Shows Minimize Pressure on Team Obama

On Tuesday evening, CBS broke wide open a story on State Department e-mails showing the White House knew on September 11 that the consulate in Benghazi was subjected to a terrorist attack, and that terrorists took credit on Facebook and Twitter. But by Wednesday, the three network morning shows weren't leaping to follow up. ABC and CBS combined devoted just over a minute to the story, while NBC completely ignored it.

By contrast, all three newscasts showed that they were more interested in helping the Democrats in Indiana, aggressively spotlighting Indiana Republican Senate candidate Richard Mourdock's faith-based affirmation that he did not support abortion even in the case of rape, that even those are children "God intended." Mourdock's "controversial comments" drew more than seven and a half minutes of coverage.

Christopher Stevens, Former U.S. Ambassador to Libya; Screen Cap From 24 October 2012 Edition of CBS This Morning | NewsBusters.orgCBS This Morning spent the most time on the recently-released e-mails. Anchor Charlie Rose noted during a 52-second short report that "a third alert reported an Islamic military group had claimed responsibility. This is the earliest record so far showing U.S. officials were told it could be a terrorist attack. It became a campaign issue, as Republicans criticized the Obama administration for not calling it terrorism sooner."

However, this was significant downgrade from the two minutes and 17 seconds that CBS Evening News devoted to the story on Tuesday. Correspondent Sharyl Attkisson gave a more detailed timeline than Rose did, and pointed out that the e-mails are "likely to become part of the ongoing political debate over whether the administration attempted to mislead in saying the assault was an outgrowth of a protest, rather than a planned attack by terrorists." Neither ABC's World News nor NBC Nightly News covered the story the same evening.

ABC's Good Morning America devoted less than half the time - 25 seconds - on the Benghazi development than CBS This Morning. News anchor Josh Elliott summarized that "newly-obtained e-mails show the State Department and the White House were advised that a militant group had claimed responsibility just two hours after the attack. For several days after, the White House still publicly attributed the attack to spontaneous protests. Intelligence sources point out other possibly conflicting messages may also have been sent."

This is just the latest instance of the broadcast media being more interested in pursuing a story that might be injurious to Mitt Romney than an actual White House scandal. Earlier in October, ABC, CBS, and NBC all ignored a scoop from the Spanish-language network Univision, who found 57 previously unreported firearms in the Fast and Furious gunwalking controversy that were used by Mexican drug cartels in crimes.

More blatantly, the Big Three devoted 88 minutes during one week in September to the secretly-recorded "47 percent" remark from the former Massachusetts governor, compared to only six and a half minutes of coverage to a 14-year old recording of Obama voicing his support of redistribution of wealth.

The full transcript of Sharyl Attkisson's report from Tuesday's CBS Evening News, along with Charlie Rose's short report from Wednesday's CBS This Morning and Josh Elliott's brief from Wednesday's Good Morning America on ABC:


10/23/2012
06:30 pm EDT
CBS Evening News

SCOTT PELLEY (teaser): Sharyl Attkisson has obtained e-mails from the night of the attack on the U.S. ambassador in Benghazi. What the Obama administration knew and did not know.


06:34 pm EDT

PELLEY: It was six weeks ago today that terrorists attacked the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya. Now, we've obtained e-mail alerts that were put out by the State Department as the attack unfolded. As you know, four Americans were killed, including Ambassador Christopher Stevens.

Sharyl Attkisson has our story.

SHARYL ATTKISSON (voice-over): The e-mails contain the earliest descriptions so far of what happened at Benghazi the night of the attack. At 4:05 p.m. Eastern time on September 11, an alert from the State Department operations center was issued to a number of government and intelligence agencies - included were the White House Situation Room, the office of the Director of National Intelligence, and the FBI: 'U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi under attack. Approximately 20 armed people fired shots; explosions have been heard as well. Ambassador Stevens, who is currently in Benghazi, and four chief of mission personnel are in the compound safe haven.'

At 4:54, less than an hour later, another alert: 'The firing in Benghazi has stopped. A response team is on site attempting to locate chief of mission personnel.' Then, at 6:07, State sent out another alert, saying the embassy in Tripoli reported the Islamic military group, Ansar al-Sharia, claims responsibility for Benghazi attack on Facebook and Twitter, and 'has called for an attack on Embassy Tripoli'.

The e-mails are just a few in what is likely a large number traded throughout the night, and they're likely to become part of the ongoing political debate over whether the administration attempted to mislead in saying the assault was an outgrowth of a protest, rather than a planned attack by terrorists. Fourteen hours after the attack, President Obama sat down with Steve Kroft of '60 Minutes' for a previously scheduled interview, and said he did not believe it was simply due to mob violence.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA (from interview on CBS's "60 Minutes"): You're right that this is not a situation that was exactly the same as what happened in Egypt, and my suspicion is that there are folks involved in this who were looking to target Americans from the start.

ATTKISSON (on-camera): The White House and State Department declined comment on the e-mail alerts. The House Oversight Committee, Scott, told us the information in the e-mails will be part of their ongoing investigation into the Benghazi attack.

PELLEY: Sharyl, thank you.


10/24/2012
07:15 am EDT
CBS This Morning

[CBS News Graphic: "Deadly Libya Attack: Early E-Mails Suggest Terrorism Suspected"]

CHARLIE ROSE: We have a new hour-by-hour picture this morning of the attack that killed the United States ambassador to Libya. Correspondent Sharyl Attkisson has obtained State Department e-mail alerts. They were sent while the attack on the U.S. consulate was underway. Four Americans died, including Ambassador Christopher Stevens. The first alert was sent that afternoon. It read, 'U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi under attack'. The alert was sent to the White House situation room and other government offices. The next e-mail read, 'The firing has stopped; attempting to locate embassy personnel.' Two hours after the first e-mail, a third alert reported an Islamic military group had claimed responsibility. This is the earliest record so far showing U.S. officials were told it could be a terrorist attack. It became a campaign issue, as Republicans criticized the Obama administration for not calling it terrorism sooner.


10/24/2012
07:07 am EDT
ABC - Good Morning America

JOSH ELLIOTT: Meanwhile, new details about the deadly attack on the U.S. consulate in Libya. Newly-obtained e-mails show the State Department and the White House were advised that a militant group had claimed responsibility just two hours after the attack. For several days after, the White House still publicly attributed the attack to spontaneous protests. Intelligence sources point out other possibly conflicting messages may also have been sent.

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