NBC’s Chuck Todd Rushes to Provide Cover for White House Over Latest Benghazi Emails

A recent Freedom of Information Act request by the conservative Judicial Watch organization has revealed some damning information about the terrorist attack in Benghazi. Emails from the White House, specifically Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes, to then Ambassador Susan Rice showed that the White House was directing Susan Rice to stick to talking points that the terrorist attack in Benghazi was caused by a video and not a reflection of President Obama's overall foreign policy. 

Despite these potentially disastrous emails for the White House, NBC’s Chuck Todd did his best to defend the Obama Administration during a Thursday, May 1 appearance on MSNBC’s Morning Joe. Todd spun that “They were overly defensive in the moment. At the time they believed the video was having an impact. This is where the level of belief is, I think and this is such- you’re not going to really be able to rationally have a debate about this.” [See video below.] 

The MSNBC host continued with his defense of the White House:

At the time, and I can tell you everybody I’ve ever talked to about this, everything I’ve read about this of original documentation, at the time they did believe the video had something to do with starting that-that it involved some sort of protest in Benghazi too. If you look at what they were dealing with at the time in Arab capitals all around the Arab world. There were protests popping up. At the time they actually did think Benghazi was part of it. 

Morning Joe co-host Willie Geist seemed perplexed at the White House’s excuse for not revealing this email exchange during the initial investigation and wondered if “That e-mail that we learned about yesterday through a Freedom of Information Act request is as innocuous as the White House says it is, why wasn’t it produced initially in all those documents that they had to provide during this investigation? Why was that withheld?"

Once again, Todd immediately rushed to protect the White House and argued that “I think they were so afraid of anything looking political in the moment. I think they over-panicked. Because if it is as innocuous as they say, they shouldn’t have had a problem releasing. No, I think they were being overly sensitive at the time, worrying that it was going to look political.” 

Just like he did yesterday with President Obama’s dismal polling numbers, Chuck Todd’s first impulse seems to be to provide excuses for the White House without adequately pushing back against the Obama Administration’s talking points. 

See relevant transcript below. 


MSNBC

Morning Joe 

May 1, 2014 

7:25 a.m. Eastern 

JOE SCARBOROUGH: Chuck Todd, of course, NBC News Chief White House Correspondent, political director. Chuck, big news out of Washington specifically on Benghazi. You end up-we end up finding out that the White House was directing Susan Rice to stick on the talking points that it was a video, it was a video, it was a video. And told her specifically it had noting to do-to make sure that people knew it had nothing to do with Barack Obama’s foreign policy. How significant of a development is this for Susan Rice, for the White House, and for Hillary Clinton moving forward.

CHUCK TODD: Well I know that you’re shocked that any administration would worry about how their foreign policy is being portrayed in a crisis moment. It’s shocking. 

SCARBOROUGH: No. That’s not so shocking as much as it is how shocked and stunned and deeply saddened they acted afterwards and said this is a CIA report and how dare you second guess the CIA or say that Susan Rice is political. This is a pretty big embarrassment for the White House, is it not? 

TODD: They were overly defensive in the moment. At the time they believed the video was having an impact. This is where the level of belief is, I think and why this is such- you’re not going to really be able to rationally have a debate about this. Because if you believe- if you don’t believe the White House ever thought the video had a-was involved-was sort of an instigator in Benghazi. If you believe the White House was lying about that the whole time, then it doesn’t matter what they say or do. You’re just going to believe they made up that story, they were lying about it. At the time, and I can tell you everybody I’ve ever talked to about this, everything I’ve read about this of original documentation, at the time they did believe the video had something to do with starting that-that it involved some sort of protest in Benghazi too. If you look at what they were dealing with at the time in Arab capitals all around the Arab world. There were protests popping up. At the time they actually did think Benghazi was part of it. So that’s sort of where this dispute lies which is do you believe- if you don’t believe the White House ever believed that, that they were making it up the whole time then this is a massive coverup and all that. 

WILLIE GEIST: Let me ask you this then, Chuck. That e-mail that we learned about yesterday through a Freedom of Information Act request is as innocuous as the White House says it is, why wasn’t it produced initially in all those documents that they had to provide during this investigation? Why was that withheld? 

TODD: Well that’s what they don’t have a good answer for, why they withheld it. I think they were so afraid of anything looking political in the moment. I think they over-panicked. Because if it is as innocuous as they say, they shouldn’t have had a problem releasing. No, I think they were being overly sensitive at the time, worrying that it was going to look political.

SCARBOROUGH: Or covering something up.

TODD: Or they were covering something up. But it’s hard to imagine what is it they were covering up that came out within 24 hours? If they were covering something up, then it was stupid from them to be covering something up that was going to be exposed 48 hours later. 

Jeffrey Meyer
Jeffrey Meyer
Jeffrey Meyer is a News Analyst at the Media Research Center.