ABC Hypes Obama 'Coming Out Swinging' Over Libya, Ignores Tough Fox Question on Responsibility

The journalists at ABC News on Wednesday and Thursday hyped the President for "coming out swinging" and showing "presidential anger" by defending his United Nations Ambassador, Susan Rice, over Libya. These World News and Good Morning America reporters downplayed the issue of what the Obama White House knew and when.

During the November 14 White House press conference, Fox News' Ed Henry spoke of the families of the four Americans who died during the attack on the U.S. consulate in Libya. He directly pressed, "...[They] have been waiting for more than two months. So I would like for you to address the families, if you can. On 9/11, as Commander-in-Chief, did you issue any orders to try to protect their lives?"  [See video below. MP3 audio here.] Instead of highlighting this angle, World News anchor Diane Sawyer began her program by exclaiming "...[Barack Obama] came out swinging in defense of one member of his team and ABC's Jonathan Karl was right there in that room asking questions."

Karl, ABC's representative at the White House, was one of two reporters to ask about Libya. His question played up a fight between Obama and Senator John McCain:

Senator John McCain and Senator Lindsey Graham both said today that they want to have Watergate-style hearings on the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, and said that if you nominate Susan Rice to be Secretary of State, they will do everything in their power to block her nomination. As Senator Graham said, he simply doesn’t trust Ambassador Rice after what she said about Benghazi. I’d like your reaction to that. And would those threats deter you from making a nomination like that?

A decent query, but not one that gets to the facts over what happened and when in Libya.

On Wednesday night, Karl framed his Benghazi coverage as a battle between the Republican McCain and the President. He touted, "There was a real flash of presidential anger on the topic of the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya."

At the very end of his segment, the reporter did allow that Senator Lindsey Graham told the President in a statement: "Don't think for one minute that I don't hold you responsible."

Fox News reporter Jennifer Griffin has repeatedly highlighted the discrepancies between what the White House has claimed and what facts on the ground seem to suggest:

After more than nine weeks of trying to reconcile their story line with that of the State Department and the CIA, the Pentagon finally released its time line of the Libya terror attack during a Friday afternoon, off-camera briefing with an official who could only be quoted anonymously.

...

However, while the Petraeus resignation has since dominated attention in Washington, an examination of the military’s version of events reveals a number of discrepancies and gaps worth closer scrutiny.

 On Thursday's Good Morning America, George Stephanopoulos cheered the President for being "very forceful in defending Ambassador Rice." Martha Raddatz deemed it a "very strong defense."

She helpfully pointed out, "Of course, it was the intelligence community that briefed Susan Rice before she went out on all the Sunday shows saying this might have started because of protests, George."

Stephanopoulos insisted Rice was "working on CIA talking points." Like Karl, neither journalist focused on the facts in the way that Henry did.

A transcript of the November 14 World News segment can be found below:


6:30

DIANE SAWYER: Tonight, drawing the line. The President weighs in on your taxes, the Petraeus scandal and issues a blazing challenge to those criticizing his UN ambassador on Benghazi.

BARACK OBAMA: They want to go after somebody? They should go after me.

6:31

DIANE SAWYER: We begin with the President. Eight days after his re-election, energized and diving straight into the headlines. At his first press conference today, he talked about the scandal that took down the head of the CIA, the looming fiscal crisis that could raise taxes for everyone on January 1st and then, he came out swinging in defense of one member of his team and ABC's Jonathan Karl was right there in that room asking questions. Jon?

JON KARL: Diane, this was a confident President today, eager to lay out his agenda for the coming months, but first, he had to face questions on that scandal that has shaken his national security team. In his first comments on the sex scandal that brought down his CIA director, the President said Petraeus failed to meet his own standards, but he also praised him.

BARACK OBAMA: We are safer because of the work that Dave Petraeus has done. And my main hope right now is that this ends up being a single side note on what has otherwise been an extraordinary career.

KARL: He also addressed the central question : Did the scandal put national security at risk?

OBAMA: I have no evidence at this point, from what I've seen, that classified information was disclosed that in any way would have had a nag impact on your national security.

KARL: On those high steaks talks over the looming budget crisis, the President took a hard line on his bottom line. Any deficit deal must include tax increases on the wealthy.

OBAMA: More voters agreed with me on this issue than voted for me. So, we've got a clear majority of the American people who recognize if we're going to be serious about deficit reduction, we're got to do it in a balanced way.

KARL: There was a real flash of presidential anger on the topic of the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya. Earlier today, Republicans John McCain and Lindsey Graham lashed Out at Susan rice, the leading candidate to replace Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, because she initially suggested that the attack was a protest.

LINDSEY GRAHAM: Why would Susan Rice not get our vote? I don't trust her.

KARL: We put that to the President. Senator Graham said he simply doesn't trust Ambassador Rice after what she said about Benghazi.

OBAMA: If Senator McCain and Senator Graham and others want to go after somebody, they should go after me. But for them to go after the U.N. Ambassador, who had nothing to do with Benghazi? And to besmirch her reputation? It's outrageous.

KARL: In a blistering response to that, Senator Graham issued a statement a short while ago, directly to the President, saying, quote, "don't think for one minute that I don't hold you responsible. I think you failed as a commander in chief before, during and after the attack." In other words, Diane, this battle is just beginning.

Scott Whitlock
Scott Whitlock
Scott Whitlock is the senior news analyst for the Media Research Center and a contributing editor for NewsBusters.org