All three morning shows on Tuesday highlighted Hillary Clinton "falling on her sword" and "taking blame" for the growing scandal over Libya. But NBC and ABC avoided specifics. On Good Morning America, reporter Reena Ninan failed to press the Secretary of State on details concerning Barack Obama's role.
In contrast, CBS reporter Margaret Brennan pushed for details on what the administration knew and when. She singled out United Nations Ambassador Susan Rice and her initial claims that the murder of Chris Stevens was a result of an anti-Islamic movie: "Who briefed Ambassador Rice that day? Did you sign off on that briefing and those speaking points?" Clinton said no and curtly replied, "You would have to ask her...Everybody had the same information." Yet, according to ABC's Ninan, "...Clinton appeared to fall on her sword."
Ninan didn't press for specifics. Instead, she stuck to more generic questions, such as inquiring, "When did the U.S. become aware of transnational extremists operating in eastern Libya?"
In contrast, ABC's Brennan brought up Republican complaints and charges: "Over time, the Obama administration changed the reason behind the attacks, calling it a planned terrorist assault, citing evolving intelligence, fueling Republican charges of a political cover-up."
Over on NBC's Today, Savannah Guthrie offered a similar talking point to ABC. She hyped, "Taking blame. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton tries to douse a political firestorm, saying she takes full responsibility for security breakdowns in that deadly attack on the U.S. consulate in Libya."
Chuck Todd insisted that Clinton is "taking full responsibility" and "made a plea to take politics out of the discussion."
Yet, even though NBC's hosts found no time for the kind of specifics CBS searched for, Todd made sure to include a clip of Clinton handicapping the President's upcoming debate performance: "I think he just has to get out there and talk about what he's done for the country and what he wants to do for the next four years."
A transcript of the CBS This Morning Libya segment can be found below:
CHARLIE ROSE: For the first time, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is speaking in-depth about the killing of American Ambassador to Libya Christopher Stevens.
During a round of interviews last night, Clinton said she was responsible for the Ambassador's security, not the White House. And Margaret Brennan spoke with the Secretary overnight in Lima, Peru.
MARGARET BRENNAN: (on camera) Good morning. On her first overseas trip since the fatal attack on the U.S. Consulate in Libya, Secretary Clinton is trying to set the record straight, pushing back against what some are calling "mixed messages" out of Washington.
On September 16, Ambassador Susan Rice made a number of TV appearances. Did you approve her speaking points that she delivered on the TV shows that day?
Secretary of State HILLARY CLINTON: I think she very clearly said here's what we know now, but this is going to change. This is what we have at present, but it will evolve, and the intelligence community has said the same thing.
BRENNAN: (voice over) Just five days after the attack, Rice appeared on CBS's Face the Nation. She blamed the violence on spontaneous protests over an anti-Muslim film.
SUSAN RICE, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations: We do not have information at present that leads us to conclude that this was premeditated or preplanned.
BRENNAN: (on camera) Who briefed Ambassador Rice that day? Did you sign off on that briefing and those speaking points?
CLINTON: You would have to ask her.
BRENNAN: You didn't speak to her before that appearance?
CLINTON: No, but that – everybody had the same information. I mean, I'm – I have to say, I know there's been a lot of attention paid to who said what when, but I think what happened is more important. We were attacked. And four brave Americans were killed. Everybody in the administration has tried to say what we knew at the time, with the caveat that we would learn more. And that's what's happened. So I think that I've seen it before, not just in respect to this. I think it's part of what the fog of war causes.
BRENNAN: (voice over) Over time, the Obama administration changed the reason behind the attacks, calling it a planned terrorist assault, citing evolving intelligence, fueling Republican charges of a political cover-up.
Sen. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-S.C.): Either they are misleading the American people or incredibly incompetent.
BRENNAN: It came up again, at last week's vice presidential debate.
JOE BIDEN, Vice President of the United States: At the time, we were told exactly, we said exactly what the intelligence community told us that they knew. That was the assessment. And as the intelligence community changed their view, we made it clear they changed their view.
BRENNAN: Clinton has said the responsibility ends with the State Department.
CLINTON: I'm not going to get into the blame game. I think intelligence is very hard to do, and what we're going to find out as we do this accountability review and we get what will be the best possible chronology that will be attached to what we knew when, which takes time. I understand the anxiety and the desire to try to get answers. Nobody wants to get answers more than I do.
BRENNAN: (on camera) Ambassador Rice's spokesperson tells CBS that she was given those speaking points by the intelligence community, not Clinton's State Department. Last night, three Republican senators released a statement praising Clinton for taking responsibility, but saying the security of Americans is ultimately the responsibility of the President. For CBS This Morning, Margaret Brennan, Lima, Peru.