NYT Reporter Bored by Question of Obama's 9/11 Chatter and Whereabouts During Benghazi Attack

Radio host Hugh Hewitt's interviews with reporters can be fascinating. On Tuesday, he pressed New York Times reporter Michael Shear about the question of what President Obama was doing on the night of September 11, 2012 as the Benghazi consulate came under a vicious terrorist attack. Shear showed an obvious distaste for digging into this, saying "relevance is in the eye of the beholder" and "I'm not personally trying to get to the bottom of that."

Speaking of digging into irrelevant issues,  when Shear was at The Washington Post, he spent months in 2006 trying to dig a political ditch for Sen. George Allen for insulting a Democratic opposition researcher as "Macaca." So political bias might be a better guess as to his interests:

HUGH HEWITT: First question for you, I’ve got to go over and do Hannity tonight, and one of the questions is where was the President from 5 pm on the night of September 11th through the Rose Garden appearance the next day? A) Do you know? And B) does it matter?

MICHAEL SHEAR: This is following Benghazi that you’re talking…

HEWITT: Yeah.

SHEAR: I mean, you know, I’m not sure. I mean, that’s, the President’s whereabouts is not something that I think has been sort of the focus of that whole controversy. It’s been more focused on these talking points, though, you know, I suppose it’s a decent question.

HEWITT: What could possibly make it newsworthy, that he didn’t care, that he didn’t go to the Situation Room, or that he did and didn’t exercise…I mean, I’m trying to get my arms around what could we possibly learn from that timeline. But yesterday, Dan Pfeiffer said, well, let me play it for you. Here’s his conversation with Chris Wallace on the Fox News Channel, cut number one:

WALLACE: You do not know whether he was in the Situation…

PFEIFFER: I don’t remember what room the President was in on that night, and that’s a largely irrelevant fact. The point is, the question is, the premise of your question is that somehow, so there was something that could have been done differently, okay, that would have changed the outcome here. The Accountability Review Board has looked at this. People have looked at it. It’s a horrible tragedy what happened, and what we have to do is make sure it doesn’t happen again.

HEWITT: So Michael Shear, is it irrelevant what the President was doing and where he was?

SHEAR: I mean, look, I guess the question of relevance is in some ways in the eyes of the beholder, and I certainly don’t want to be sort of taking their side. I will say this, that one of the things you get used to covering the White House is that whether the President is sitting in his villa in Martha’s Vineyard or in Hawaii on vacation, or whether they’re here at the White House, or they’re on the plane, I mean, all sorts of stuff happens kind of wherever he is. And so the question of physically where he is, I think, maybe is less important than what decisions did he make, who did he talk to, what did he say or not say privately about what was going on.

Shear says he doesn't want to "sort of" take Obama side here, but how is his answer one iota less skeptical than Dan Pfeiffer's? The question isn't just where he was, but what was he doing? Was he engaged? Was he on a two-hour phone call nailing down his latest campaign fundraisers? Or was he watching "SportsCenter" instead of keeping track of Libya?

Shear was honest enough to say it just didn't interest him, and he wasn't going to waste his life on it:

HEWITT: I agree with that. I would like to know if after the 2am phone call, which was an 8pm phone call in Washington, between the secretary of State and with Mr. Hicks, if Secretary of State Clinton called him, and we don’t know that. And it really does go to the response of the Secretary. But is there any effort underway to get to the bottom of that, Michael? Are you curious about it?

SHEAR: Well, sure. I’m always curious about everything, and especially this stuff that we, the behind the scenes stuff that we don’t know about. Personally, I’m not personally trying to get to the bottom of that. We have a big paper here, so maybe there are people that are.

Earlier: Shear in 2012 said Allen's Macaca remark was only part of his alleged racial animus.

Tim Graham
Tim Graham
Tim Graham is Executive Editor of NewsBusters and is the Media Research Center’s Director of Media Analysis