CBS Devotes Two Straight Days of Coverage to 'Possible Cover-Up' on Benghazi; ABC, NBC Out to Lunch

CBS used its Sunday evening and Monday morning newscasts to keep the spotlight on the question of a "possible cover-up" surrounding the terrorist attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi. Jeff Glor led CBS Evening News with the scoop from earlier in the day on Face the Nation – that a "career U.S. diplomat is raising new questions" about the Obama administration's claim that the attack spontaneously erupted in response to an early protest in Egypt.

Monday's CBS This Morning also aired a report on this latest development on the September 11, 2012 attack. Meanwhile, ABC and NBC have yet to pick up on the veteran diplomat's allegations, despite the fact that he is set to testify publicly to Congress on the issue on Wednesday.

Glor teased a report from correspondent David Martin by trumpeting that "a new witness emerges – a senior U.S. diplomat contradicts the White House and seems to support Republican claims of a cover-up over the attack in Benghazi." Martin first outlined what Rep. Darrell Issa had revealed earlier in the day on Face the Nation:

DAVID MARTIN: Greg Hicks – at the time, the number-two diplomat at the U.S. embassy in Tripoli...directly contradicts administration claims that at first, the attack was thought to be nothing more than a demonstration growing out of a similar protest that day in Cairo. 'I thought it was a terrorist attack from the get-go. I think everybody in the mission thought it was a terrorist attack from the beginning.'

The CBS journalist continued with a clip of U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice's now-discredited assertion about the terror attack, which she made on several Sunday morning talk shows on September 16, 2012. He also noted that Rep. Issa "pointed out Rice's statement directly contradicted the president of Libya, who had appeared just before her on 'Face the Nation'."

Near the end of the segment, Martin underlined a key assertion from Hicks – that the diplomat "told committee investigators Rice's words were an insult to the president of Libya, and may have hobbled efforts to capture those responsible for the attack. 'I firmly believe that the reason it took us so long to get the FBI to Benghazi is because of those Sunday talk shows.'"

Margaret Brennan, CBS News Correspondent; Screen Cap From 6 May 2013 Edition of CBS This Morning | NewsBusters.orgHours later, on Monday's CBS This Morning, correspondent Margaret Brennan rehashed much of what her colleague had reported the previous evening. Brennan also highlighted another statement from Hicks on Rice's apparent slight to the Libyan president:

MARGARET BRENNAN: Hicks said that the public contradiction was a personal insult to the Libyan president, because Ambassador Rice – quote, 'basically said that the president of Libya is either a liar or doesn't know what he's talking about. My jaw hit the floor as I watched this.' He believes that's why the Libyan government refused to allow the FBI access to the crime scene for several weeks.

Brennan had also singled out the FBI's pursuit of three persons of interest who could provide information on the attack in Benghazi during a report on Thursday's CBS This Morning, and touted how "what happened that night is still the topic of debate in Washington". ABC devoted a news brief to the FBI investigation on Wednesday's World News, while NBC punted on covering it.

The full transcripts of David Martin's report from Sunday's CBS Evening News and Margaret Brennan's report from Monday's CBS This Morning:


05/05/2013
06:01 pm EDT
CBS Evening News

JEFF GLOR: He is a man we have not heard from before. Nearly eight months after the attack on the U.S. consulate in Libya, a career U.S. diplomat is raising new questions about a possible cover-up. Four Americans died during the attack in Benghazi last September 11.

Today, as David Martin reports, a portion of the diplomat's account was seen for the first time on 'Face the Nation'.

DAVID MARTIN (voice-over): He is Greg Hicks – at the time, the number-two diplomat at the U.S. embassy in Tripoli. In an interview with the House Oversight Committee, revealed this morning on 'Face the Nation', Hicks directly contradicts administration claims that at first, the attack was thought to be nothing more than a demonstration growing out of a similar protest that day in Cairo. 'I thought it was a terrorist attack from the get-go. I think everybody in the mission thought it was a terrorist attack from the beginning.'

Yet five days after the attack, this is how Susan Rice, the American ambassador to the U.N., described it.

SUSAN RICE, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED NATIONS (from September 16, 2012 edition of CBS's "Face the Nation"): What our assessment is, as of the present, is in fact what – it began spontaneously in Benghazi as a reaction to what had transpired some hours earlier in Cairo.

MARTIN: In the closing weeks of the presidential election, the Obama administration appeared reluctant to admit an American installation had been hit by a terrorist attack. But House Oversight Chairman Darrell Issa pointed out Rice's statement directly contradicted the president of Libya, who had appeared just before her on 'Face the Nation'.

MOHAMED AL-MAGARIAF, PRESIDENT OF LIBYA (September 16, 2012 edition of CBS's "Face the Nation"): This leaves us with no doubt that this was pre-planned – pre-determined.

MARTIN: Hicks told committee investigators Rice's words were an insult to the president of Libya, and may have hobbled efforts to capture those responsible for the attack. 'I firmly believe that the reason it took us so long to get the FBI to Benghazi is because of those Sunday talk shows.'

MARTIN (on-camera): Hicks, a veteran of 22 years in the Foreign Service, has never spoken publicly about the attack. That will change this Wednesday when he testifies before Issa's committee. Jeff?

GLOR: David Martin, thank you.


05/06/2013
07:08 am EDT
CBS This Morning

CHARLIE ROSE:  Nearly eight months after the September 11 attack on the United States consulate in Libya, a career diplomat is raising new questions about a possible cover-up.

NORAH O'DONNELL: He says that the State Department knew immediately that it was a terrorist attack.

Margaret Brennan is with us this morning. Margaret, good morning.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Good morning to you, Norah, and to Charlie. Well, this testimony came from Greg Hicks, who was the number-two U.S. official in Libya at the time of the attack. In an interview with the House Oversight Committee, he directly contradicts administration claims that the attack was first thought to be nothing more than a demonstration gone awry. A portion of his account was seen for the first time on 'Face the Nation' on Sunday.

[CBS News Graphic: "Benghazi Attack: U.S. Official Immediately Knew It Was Terrorism"]

BRENNAN: Greg Hicks says that on the night of September 11, Ambassador Chris Stevens cabled him with this message: 'Greg, we are under attack.' Hicks, a 22-year veteran of the Foreign Service, was not in Benghazi that night, but said it was clear what was happening: 'I thought it was a terrorist attack from the get-go. I think everybody in the mission thought it was a terrorist attack from the beginning.'

Yet, five days later, U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice did not link the attack to terrorism. She said it sprang up because of a protest in Cairo inspired by an offensive video.

SUSAN RICE, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED NATIONS (from September 16, 2012 edition of CBS's "Face the Nation"): What our assessment is, as of the present, is in fact what – it began spontaneously in Benghazi as a reaction to what had transpired some hours earlier in Cairo.

BRENNAN: Those remarks, made weeks before the U.S. election, contradicted the president of Libya, who appeared just before her on 'Face the Nation'.

MOHAMED AL-MAGARIAF, PRESIDENT OF LIBYA (September 16, 2012 edition of CBS's "Face the Nation"): This leaves us with no doubt that this was pre-planned – pre-determined.

BRENNAN: Hicks said that the public contradiction was a personal insult to the Libyan president, because Ambassador Rice – quote, 'basically said that the president of Libya is either a liar or doesn't know what he's talking about. My jaw hit the floor as I watched this.' He believes that's why the Libyan government refused to allow the FBI access to the crime scene for several weeks. Republican Congressman Darrell Issa leads the committee that Hicks spoke to.

REP. DARRELL ISSA, (R), HOUSE OVERSIGHT COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN (from CBS's "Face the Nation"): If anything, we may have compromised our ability to know what really happened there, as far as catching the culprits, because more weeks went by with no FBI on the ground.

BRENNAN (on-camera): So, Hicks will testify on Wednesday in front of Issa's committee. The State Department told us they've encouraged their employees to tell the truth, but they did not respond to his specific allegations. And throughout this controversy, Ambassador Rice has said she relied on the intelligence community's assessment of the attack and not personal opinion. Charlie, Norah?

O'DONNELL: All right. We'll be watching-

ROSE: Continuing story-

O'DONNELL: Yeah. Margaret Brennan, thank you.

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