CNN's Keilar Admits Benghazi Accusations Morphed From 'Right-Wing Obsession' to 'Mainstream News'

On Wednesday's Starting Point, CNN's Brianna Keilar twice noted that accusations that the White House "downplayed the role of terrorism" in the Benghazi attacks went from being a "right-wing obsession" to "mainstream news."

"The White House has also been plagued recently by questions about whether it downplayed the role of terrorism in that September attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi," Keilar reported. "That had gone from sort of a right-wing obsession to mainstream news recently."

Keilar added that the questions about the "role of terrorism" came while Obama was "making a claim on the campaign trail about the success his administration had had against Al Qaeda in his first term."

After Keilar stated thus at the beginning of the 7 a.m. ET hour, she repeated herself at the top of the 8 a.m. ET hour:

"The White House is also plagued right now by questions about whether it downplayed the role of terrorism in that September attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, as the President was on the campaign trail, as were his surrogates talking about making claims that this administration had decimated al Qaeda. That recently has turned from a bit of a Republican obsession to mainstream news."

Below is a transcript of the segment, which aired on Starting Point on May 15 at 7:02 a.m. EDT:

[7:02]

(Video Clip)

BRIANNA KEILAR: The Internal Revenue Service is facing a criminal investigation after a watchdog report found the agency targeted conservative groups starting in 2010. The agency's inspector general found the IRS used inappropriate criteria that identified for review Tea Party and other organizations applying for tax exempt status based upon their names or policy positions instead of indications of potential political campaign intervention. After reading the report Tuesday night, President Obama called the practice "intolerable and inexcusable" after promising action Monday.

BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States: People have to be held accountable and it has got to be fixed.

KEILAR: IRS officials told investigators they acted on their own, without influence from outside groups. The report says managers were ineffective in overseeing lower level IRS employees who didn't have sufficient knowledge of the rules governing tax exempt organizations. It's not the only controversy the Obama administration is facing. Expect fireworks today when the Republican-led House Judiciary Committee grills Atorrney General Eric Holder over the Justice Department's subpoenaed phone records of journalists of the Associated Press.

ERIC HOLDER, U.S. Attorney General: This administration has put a real value on the rule of law and our values as Americans. I think the actions that we have taken are consistent with both.

KEILAR: Tuesday reporters questioned Holder about a Medicare fraud event, and peppered White House press secretary Jay Carney with questions at the White House briefing.

JAY CARNEY, White House press secretary: The President is a strong defender of the First Amendment and a firm believer in the need for the press to be unfettered.

KEILAR: Republicans are seizing on these new controversies.

Sen. MITCH MCCONNELL, (R-Ky.) Minority Leader: We do know this. We can't count on the administration to be forthcoming about the details of this scandal, because so far they've been anything but.

Rep. KEVIN YODER, (R-Kan.): It lies at the President's feet. These are things going on within his administration targeting opponents.

Sen. ORRIN HATCH, (R-Utah): I've never seen anything quite like this except in the past during the Nixon years.

CARNEY: I can tell you that the people who make those kind of comparisons need to check their history.

(End Video Clip)

KEILAR: The White House has also been plagued recently by questions about whether it downplayed the role of terrorism in that September attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, as President Obama obviously was making a claim on the campaign trail about the success his administration had had against Al Qaeda in his first term. That had gone from sort of a right-wing obsession to mainstream news recently.

But, Christine, I will tell you it's really these controversies over the IRS and the Department of Justice seizing these phone records from the AP that I think are concerning the White House more certainly on the political front. They see this certainly as more of a liability I think, than the Benghazi issue.

ROMANS: And they've taken the White House off any other kind of message this week as they've been responding to these criticisms and claims. This has been the conversation in Washington. Brianna Keilar, thank you, Brianna.

Matt Hadro
Matt Hadro
Matt Hadro was a News Analyst for the Media Research Center's News Analysis Division from 2010 through early 2014