CBS Evening News Finally Notices Benghazi Emails; Discloses Exec.'s Family Tie to White House

On Friday, CBS Evening News caught up with its Big Three competitors and reported on the latest developments on the controversy surrounding the September 2012 terrorist attack on the U.S. facility in Benghazi, Libya. CBS also finally mentioned its own president's family connection to a White House official involved in the Obama administration's handling of the immediate aftermath of the attack.

Nancy Cordes gave a full report on how the "the White House released previously unseen e-mails" about the federal government's response to the terrorist strike, which led to House Speaker John Boehner forming a new select committee to investigate the attack. Scott Pelley also disclosed that "Ben Rhodes, the White House deputy national security advisor mentioned in Nancy's story, is the brother of CBS News President David Rhodes." [MP3 audio available here; video below the jump]

Pelley led the two minute and 30 second segment by noting that Boehner "announced today a special select committee will investigate the 2012 attack on the U.S. diplomatic facility in Benghazi, Libya. Ambassador Chris Stephens and three other Americans were killed in that attack." He continued by noting that "Democrats say this new investigation is a ploy to embarrass the White House before November elections, but Republicans say the administration just hasn't told the truth."

Cordes first pointed out that "for nearly 20 months, four separate committees in the Republican-led House have held dozens of hearings, examined documents, and released reports on the Benghazi attacks." She then quoted from the House Speaker, who explained that "a special new committee is needed because the Obama administration is – quote, 'intent on obstructing the truth about Benghazi' and 'willing to defy subpoenas.'"

The CBS correspondent later zeroed in on the e-mails that the Obama administration released, as the result of a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit from the conservative group Judicial Watch:

NANCY CORDES (voice-over): ...Boehner had long argued a special committee was unnecessary. But aides say he changed his mind this week, after the White House released previously unseen e-mails in response to a lawsuit. One of the e-mails was sent three days after the Libyan attack. Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes wrote that in public appearances, U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice should – quote, 'underscore that these protests are rooted in an Internet video, and not a broader failure of policy.'  Republicans say the new e-mails are proof the administration initially said the attack was a spontaneous reaction to an anti-Muslim video to avoid taking heat for a terror attack on its watch.

Near the end of the segment, Cordes noted that "the [Obama] administration contends these e-mails reveal nothing new, and that Congress should focus more on who attacked the U.S. compound and why, than on what the White House said in those first confusing days after the attack." Pelley then added his "editorial note" about the Rhodes brothers.

Friday's World News omitted the creation of the new congressional select committee. Instead, the ABC evening newscast devoted a full report to Princes William and Harry's visit to Memphis, including a stop at Elvis Presley's home Graceland. NBC Nightly News aired a 40-second news brief on the new developments:

LESTER HOLT: House Speaker John Boehner began appointing a select committee today to investigate the September 11, 2012 attack on the U.S. diplomatic post in Benghazi, Libya that killed four Americans, including U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens. And separately, the Republican chairman of the House Oversight Committee, Darrell Issa, subpoenaed Secretary of State John Kerry to testify about the administration's response to the attack – skipping the usual step of issuing an official invitation to appear.

A release of internal White House e-mails with new details about the response to the attack has raised questions among Republicans about whether the administration was truthful about its initial characterization of the attack.


The full transcript of Nancy Cordes's report from Friday's CBS Evening News:

SCOTT PELLEY: The Republican speaker of the House, John Boehner, announced today a special select committee will investigate the 2012 attack on the U.S. diplomatic facility in Benghazi, Libya. Ambassador Chris Stephens and three other Americans were killed in that attack. Democrats say this new investigation is a ploy to embarrass the White House before November elections, but Republicans say the administration just hasn't told the truth.

Nancy Cordes reports.    

[CBS News Graphic: "American Killed: Amb. Chris Stevens; Glen Doherty; Tyrone Woods; Sean Smith"]

NANCY CORDES (voice-over): For nearly 20 months, four separate committees in the Republican-led House have held dozens of hearings, examined documents, and released reports on the Benghazi attacks. But House Speaker John Boehner said today a special new committee is needed because the Obama administration is – quote, 'intent on obstructing the truth about Benghazi' and 'willing to defy subpoenas.'

Boehner had long argued a special committee was unnecessary. But aides say he changed his mind this week, after the White House released previously unseen e-mails in response to a lawsuit. One of the e-mails was sent three days after the Libyan attack. Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes wrote that in public appearances, U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice should – quote, 'underscore that these protests are rooted in an Internet video, and not a broader failure of policy.'  

Republicans say the new e-mails are proof the administration initially said the attack was a spontaneous reaction to an anti-Muslim video to avoid taking heat for a terror attack on its watch. Their new select committee will have its own staff, more funds, and subpoena power. It will be led by two-term Republican Trey Gowdy of south Carolina.

REP. TREY GOWDY, (R), SOUTH CAROLINA (from congressional hearing): The State Department knew it wasn't a video. The CIA knew it wasn't a video – and for those that are a little bit slow, they repeated the word 'not' twice. The military knew it had nothing to do with a video.

CORDES (on-camera): The administration contends these e-mails reveal nothing new, and that Congress should focus more on who attacked the U.S. compound and why, than on what the White House said in those first confusing days after the attack, Scott.

PELLEY: Nancy Cordes on Capitol Hill – Nancy, thanks very much. And an editor's note: Ben Rhodes, the White House deputy national security advisor mentioned in Nancy's story, is the brother of CBS News President David Rhodes.

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