MSNBC: No Live Coverage for Benghazi Hearings; Gave Hillary 5 1/2 Hours in Jan., Praised Performance

As NewsBusters previously reported, MSNBC gave no live coverage to yesterday’s congressional hearings on the September 11, 2012 terrorist attacks in Benghazi. Instead, the network aired a mere six minutes and 20 seconds of a highlight from the hearings. Those snippets were spread across four hours, and some of them were redundant.

Contrast that with the way MSNBC treated Hillary Clinton’s testimony on Benghazi back on January 23. On that occasion, the liberal cable network broadcast a whopping five hours and 28 minutes of live testimony.


Ms. Clinton’s hearing in front of the House Foreign Affairs Committee lasted two hours and 59 minutes; MSNBC aired all of it, without commercial interruption. The hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee lasted two hours and 30 minutes; MSNBC aired all of it, without commercial interruption, except for a brief one-minute break for commentary after the first half-hour.

What explains this differential treatment of two different hearings on the same incident? Undoubtedly MSNBC realized that Hillary Clinton would be a tough customer. She was unlikely to crack under pressure from House and Senate members. She was never going to admit to incompetence nor a coverup. There was little risk of a major revelation during her testimony, so MSNBC felt comfortable airing it live in its entirety.

Of course, MSNBC personalities lauded Ms. Clinton after her testimony while ripping those who dared to ask her tough questions. Shortly after the hearing ended, Chris Matthews opened his show by declaring, “Hillary kicks butt!” He went on to wax poetic:

In response to hostile questions, she came back with strength and a challenge of her own. Hillary, Hillary, Hillary, she never looked better. Venturing forth in unprotected waters today, she showed how not to be defensive, how not to sweat, also how to exhibit humanity and, yes, compassion even when the witnesses are looking desperately, those people around her, to target her weaknesses.

But this Wednesday’s Benghazi hearings were different. It was not the indignant Hillary Clinton testifying, but rather three whistleblowers who did not paint the Obama/Clinton State Department in a favorable light. MSNBC must have known that there was potential for some damning revelations that would hurt the administration, so they avoided live coverage altogether. There were indeed some damning revelations that came out of those hearings, but MSNBC only showed their viewers a few carefully selected clippings, including Eric Nordstrom getting choked up and Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) getting angry over the questioning.

MSNBC’s talking heads did their best to downplay the importance of these hearings, dismissing them as a conservative witch hunt meant to destroy Hillary Clinton’s chances of winning the presidency in 2016. Alex Wagner mocked:

The hearing is officially entitled, "Exposing Failure and Recognizing Courage." But, hey, don't call it a witch hunt.

MSNBC’s shameful attempt to laugh away the seriousness of the Benghazi incident is not only bad journalistic practice; it is bad for the country.

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