PBS’s Charlie Rose Spins For Susan Rice and State Department on Benghazi

On his Thursday night PBS program, Charlie Rose attempted to fulfill his duties as a liberal media member by defending the State Department’s dishonest talking points following the September 11 terrorist attack in Benghazi. Rose was grilling Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), who was involved in the Benghazi hearings, about his views on the matter.

When Rose asked Chaffetz if he believed there was a coverup, the congressman was ready. He brought up the fact that for days after the attack, the administration claimed the incident had been sparked by a spontaneous demonstration over an anti-Islam YouTube video. But Chaffetz and the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform found that to be a blatant lie:


"We introduced a memo that we just recently found that was issued on the day after the attack from the State Department to senior State Department personnel saying it was Ansar al-Sharia with Islamic ties, they are the ones that were responsible for that. In fact, we told the Libyan ambassador that!"

 

So the State Department knew it was an Islamic terrorist attack, but they lied to the American public about it. Rose couldn’t let Chaffetz get away with exposing the administration as liars, so he offered a lame counter-argument:
 
 

"But they changed their own acknowledgment of what happened after the events and after the testimony by Secretary Rice. Do you believe they continue to cover up?"

 

Yes, Charlie, the administration did change its story later, but we now know that they knew the truth early on and continued to put out misinformation. They have not yet explained why they lied to the American public about the nature of the attack for so long before finally admitting the truth. Therefore, they continue to cover up their misdeeds.

Later in the conversation, Chaffetz again hammered the Obama administration for its initial untruthfulness:
 

"How did those talking points change? Who changed them? And why did they perpetuate those lies on the American people?"

 

Once again, Rose tried to soften the blow with a frivolous question:
 

"Okay, did Secretary Rice say that she thought it was because of this video or the fact that it was unclear at this time and they were investigating to make a determination about that?"

 

Chaffetz’s previous response provided the answer to this question as well, so he repeated it: on the day after the attack, senior State Department officials told some of their employees and the Libyans that Ansar al-Sharia was responsible for the attack. By the time Ambassador Susan Rice went on the Sunday talk shows to peddle the YouTube video narrative, she would have known the truth.

After Chaffetz left the show, Rose brought in Margaret Brennan from CBS News to discuss Benghazi. Rose mused, "Obviously Republicans wonder if there's some smoking gun, which would be an e-mail that somebody knew who said they didn't know, that kind of thing. Or somebody issued an order that they have denied issuing."

Rose then tried to formulate a question, but gave up and spouted some administration propaganda instead:
 

"Is – can you get a sense from the State Department – we know that kind of smoking gun doesn't exist and they will continue to search for it but it is not there.

 

Brennan voiced her agreement: “Well, the smoking gun in terms of what's being implied here is that there was a coverup. And that's pretty hard to substantiate here.

Hello? If the aforementioned memo doesn’t qualify as a smoking gun, I don’t know what does. And if House investigators were able to find that Susan Rice lied in order to cover up the true nature of the attack, why would it be so hard to substantiate a coverup? It’s not as if investigators have to find Bigfoot; it is simply a matter of uncovering a few more e-mails.



More likely than not, Brennan and Rose are trying to discourage House Republicans from pursuing further evidence, afraid that such an investigation might bring down the administration they work so hard to protect. It’s a shameful dereliction of duty. Journalists are supposed to be government watchdogs; it is their job to expose government misdeeds, not try to cover them up to protect those in power.

Below is a partial transcript of the exchanges:

CHARLIE ROSE: Do you believe there was a coverup?

REP. JASON CHAFFETZ: I think there are a lot of things that the administration has not yet accounted for. I think part of it was covered up. Except for the United States Congress, this administration would lead you to believe that there was some video gone awry and that a protest happened and that's what caused this attack. That never happened. We've demonstrated it. We introduced a memo that we just recently found that was issued on the day after the attack from the State Department to senior State Department personnel saying it was Ansar al Sharia with Islamic ties, they are the ones that were responsible for that. In fact, we told the Libyan ambassador that! So I think the administration has covered up a lot of these facts and why we're continuing to probe.

ROSE: But they changed their own acknowledgment of what happened after the events and after the testimony by Secretary Rice. Do you believe they continue to cover up?

CHAFFETZ: Well, four and a half months after the attack Secretary Clinton came before the United States Congress and testified in both the House and the Senate and she said that the security decisions weren't made by her but that the security decisions were made by the people on the ground. Yet we have the regional security officer, who was the chief security person in Libya, said "No, I wasn't able to make those recommendations." I mean, he made the recommendations but they weren't implemented. It just begs more questions. And then we were also told that the military did everything they could, yet we heard testimony, firsthand testimony, that we had four special forces ready to go in Tripoli to go to Benghazi and they were told to stand down.

***

CHAFFETZ: And then Secretary Rice went before the American people and the public for weeks this administration said that it was due to a video! That was never true at any time. How did those talking points change? Who changed them? And why did they perpetuate those lies on the American people? That's the starting list, Charlie.

ROSE: Okay, did Secretary Rice say that she thought it was because of this video or the fact that it was unclear at this time and they were investigating to make a determination about that?

CHAFFETZ: Well, again, we uncovered a document that hadn't been seen before yesterday where the senior people within the Department of State had said clearly they told the Libyans that it was Ansar al Sharia, which is ties to al Qaeda [sic]. There's a reason why on Face the Nation the president of Libya went to Benghazi. He told in that interview on Face the Nation, he told the American people and the world that he thought it had to do with these Islamic -- these terrorists. And yet Susan Rice went and undercut him.

***

ROSE: Obviously Republicans wonder if there's some smoking gun, which would be an e-mail that somebody knew who said they didn't know, that kind of thing. Or somebody issued an order that they have denied issuing. Is – can you get a sense from the State Department – we know that kind of smoking gun doesn't exist and they will continue to search for it but it is not there.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, the smoking gun in terms of what's being implied here is that there was a coverup. And that's pretty hard to substantiate here.

Paul Bremmer
Paul Bremmer is a Media Research Center News Analysis Division intern.