Sharyl Attkisson Spotlights Benghazi Inquiry; First On-Air Report in Over 4 Months

On Monday's CBS This Morning, Sharyl Attkisson pointed out the "potential conflict of interest" in the ongoing controversy over the Islamist attack on the U.S. compound in Benghazi, Libya. Attkisson detailed how congressional Republican are scrutinizing Undersecretary of State Patrick Kennedy's involvement in naming staff to the Accountability Review Board, even as it was investigating his role in the lead-up to the September 11, 2012 attack. [MP3 audio available here; video below the jump]

It was Attkisson's first report about Benghazi on CBS's morning and evening newscasts since the May 8, 2013 edition of CBS This Morning. Her report that day was the first time in over five months that the journalist reported about the story on the air.

Anchor Norah O'Donnell introduced the correspondent's report by noting the "new congressional report...[on] the investigation of the attack that killed America's ambassador to Libya one year ago and three other Americans. Republicans on the House Oversight Committee claim the Benghazi probe did not go far enough." Attkisson added that the State Department investigation was "billed as 'comprehensive' and 'independent', but Republicans say it was not quite as advertised. They say the A.R.B. faulted lower-level State Department employees, and downplayed the roles of senior officials."

The CBS journalist led by pointing out that the head of Accountability Review Board, Ambassador Thomas Pickering, "told Bob Schieffer that investigators didn't need to interview Secretary of State Hillary Clinton or her top deputies." She played a clip from the May 2013 interview on Face the Nation, and continued that "that decision to skip in-depth interviews with key officials is cited as evidence of a potential conflict of interest in today's Republican House Oversight Committee report. The report says State Department Undersecretary Patrick Kennedy supervised selection of the A.R.B. staff, even as his own role was part of the investigation."

Attkisson then detailed Kennedy's alleged role in the security failure at the diplomatic facility in Benghazi:

SHARYL ATTKISSON: Several State Department officials told congressional investigators that Kennedy authorized the Benghazi compound to operate as a temporary facility exempted from regular security guidelines, which posed security challenges; and sent home the specialized military security team that Ambassador Christopher Stevens and his staff had asked to keep in Libya.

The A.R.B. blamed four of Kennedy's subordinates for security lapses. But State Department witnesses testified those employees sometimes had little to no responsibility for the poor decisions.

Near the end of the segment, the CBS correspondent noted that "congressional Democrats and the State Department defend the A.R.B. as one of the most comprehensive reviews in history. The lead Democrat on the House Oversight Committee, Elijah Cummings, said – quote, 'Republicans have politicized the investigation, in a systemic effort to launch unsubstantiated allegations.' The fight will continue later this week, when Pickering is set to testify before the House Oversight Committee."


On September 10, 2013, Attkisson reported on Twitter that Secretary of State John Kerry "tells [C]ongress he will not honor the request to make Benghazi survivors available for questioning." Her scoop about Kerry never made it to the air on CBS's morning and evening newscasts. The following day, CBS Evening News did broadcast a full report on the State Department's lack of progress in strengthening security at U.S. diplomatic posts since the Benghazi attack, but let the Obama administration and Democratic Senator Robert Menendez hint that congressional Republicans were at fault.

[Update, Monday, 3:55 pm Eastern: the full transcript of Sharyl Attkisson's report from Monday's CBS This Morning can be read at MRC.org.]

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