Morning Shows Binge on Tabloid Criminal Trials: 56 Minutes vs. 7 for Benghazi Hearings
The network morning shows on Thursday went into tabloid overdrive for the Jodi Arias verdict and an abduction case in Ohio, offering a staggering 56 minutes of coverage. In contrast, NBC, CBS and ABC allowed just under seven minutes combined to hearings on the 2012 terrorist murder of a U.S. ambassador and three other Americans in Libya. This is a disparity of eight-to-one.
Good Morning America proved to be the least interested in the national security issues raised by Benghazi. The morning show devoted 19 minutes to the Arias conviction and the kidnapping of three women in Ohio. Yet, whistleblower testimony in Washington D.C. warranted a mere 53 seconds. The four hour-long Today show on NBC spent 27 minutes on the two cases and a scant two and a half minutes on Libya. The most balanced network turned out to be CBS.
CBS This Morning offered a restrained nine minutes and 47 seconds to Arias and the Amanda Berry case. Despite the fact that the program is half the length of Today, CBS had the most Libya coverage, three minutes and 21 seconds.
GMA's single news brief began with Josh Elliott insisting, "And this morning, the Pentagon insists there's no way that special operations forces could have saved the four Americans killed in the Benghazi attack last September, despite the emotional testimony of a top diplomat Wednesday."
He did get around to including a snippet of whistleblower State Department official Eric Nordstrom. But considering that ABC allowed only 53 seconds, out of a two hour program, there wasn't much time for detail.
On Today, NBC's Lisa Myers recounted the key points of Wednesday's testimony. She summarized the words of diplomat Greg Hicks, noting, "As the battle raged on, Hicks says he asked the U.S. military to send air support and allow four special forces troops in Tripoli to go to Benghazi. Both requests denied."
She also included security officer Nordstrom seemingly rebuffing Hillary Clinton's "what does it matter" remark: "It matters to the friends and family of ambassador Stevens, Sean Smith, Glen Doherty and Tyler Woods, who were murdered on September 11, 2012."
On CBS This Morning, Sharyl Attkisson featured Hicks's reaction to the Obama administration's erroneous claim that the attack occurred because of a YouTube video: "I was stunned. My jaw dropped and I was embarrassed."
Attkisson offered the most pointed coverage on actions by the Obama administration:
ATTKISSON: Republicans say politics was at work in removing "terrorism" from the public talking points early on. The attack came eight weeks before the presidential election. But Wednesday's hearings may also have implications for the next election. Republicans accuse former secretary of state Hillary Clinton, who may consider a run for the White House, of shirking her responsibilities to provide adequate security for Americans in Libya.
The tabloid crime stories the networks featured will likely get multiple days of coverage. Yet, the limited reporting on Benghazi almost certainly will not.
ABC, CBS and NBC all recounted the minimum details of Wednesday's testimony. However, they offered little journalistic skepticism about the Obama administration's handling. No one is saying that the Berry and Arias cases aren't important. They each have real victims. But three dead Americans and a U.S. ambassador should also be of interest to the country's so-called watchdogs.
(The breakdown of network coverage on Thursday morning: NBC: 27:10 for Arias and Berry cases vs. 2:29 for Benghazi. ABC: 18:57 vs. 53 seconds. CBS: 9:47 on Arias and Berry vs. 3:21 for Libya.)
During the day on Wednesday, Fox News featured the most cable coverage: One hundred and eight minutes of simply airing the congressional hearings. MSNBC allowed no live coverage.
A transcript of the May 9 Today segment can be found below:
MATT LAUER: Meanwhile, the Benghazi terror attack is at the center of some emotional testimony on Capitol Hill. Natalie is here with that story. Natalie, good morning to you.
NATALIE MORALES: Good morning, Matt and Savannah. That's right. Very emotional testimony. As well as minute by minute detail at that congressional hearing examining the deadly attack on the U.S. mission in Benghazi, Libya, last September 11th. NBC News investigative correspondent Lisa Myers has the story. Good morning, Lisa.
LISA MYERS: Natalie, good morning. This was a rare moment in Washington when political bickering was overshadowed by the raw emotion. Career State Department officials describe frustration over inadequate security and their inability to get help for colleagues that terrible night in Benghazi. A few hours after the Benghazi mission was attacked, the number two diplomat in Libya, Greg Hicks, received a call that ambassador Chris Stevens was dead.
GREGORY HICKS: I think it's the saddest phone call I've ever had in my life.
MYERS: As the battle raged on, Hicks says he asked the U.S. Military to send air support and allow four special forces troops in Tripoli to go to Benghazi. Both requests denied.
HICKS: Lieutenant Colonel Gibson was furious. I had told him to go bring our people home. That's what he wanted to do.
MYERS: The Pentagon says the special forces were needed to protect the embassy in Tripoli and the F-16s, hours away. Eric Nordstrom, the top security officer in Libya last summer, says it's inexplicable that an independent review of what happened didn't focus more on decisions by senior officials. He says getting to the truth matters.
ERIC NORDSTROM (Diplomatic security officer): It matters to the friends and family of ambassador Stevens, Sean Smith, Glen Doherty and Tyler Woods, who were murdered on September 11, 2012.
MYERS: Now, Greg Hicks says that after he challenged inaccurate administration accounts of the tragedy, he was demoted. The State Department denies punishing anyone. Natalie?