Defending the indefensible can make a liberal journalist a little prickly. How else do you explain Washington Post columnist Colbert I. "Colby" King's specious attack on his fellow Post colleague and Inside Washington panelist Charles Krauthammer this weekend?
It all happened when Krauthammer responded to a Post editorial, published in Thursday’s paper, which asserted that UN Ambassador Susan Rice did not mislead anyone about the nature of the September 11 Benghazi attack. Ninety-seven House Republicans had signed a letter charging that Rice did mislead the public, and the Post editorial demanded that those Republicans apologize to Rice.
Krauthammer could not have disagreed more strongly: “Why should she get an apology? She did mislead. She told a story that was untrue.” The venerable conservative columnist then qualified his position: “Was it a deliberate lie? No. She was obviously a dupe.” At that point, King jumped in, demanding, “So why’d you call her a liar, then?” Krauthammer responded that he didn’t call Rice a liar. King shot back, “They did. Your friends did.”
I’m going to assume King didn’t think before he gave that specious retort. First of all, those Republican congressmen are not Krauthammer’s “friends.” Even if they were, one cannot equate their statements with Krauthammer’s statements. They don’t share a mind or a mouth.
In addition, the letter in question does not directly call Rice a liar. This is as strong as it gets: “Ambassador Rice is widely viewed as having either willfully or incompetently misled the American public in the Benghazi affair.” That is wishy-washy language; it doesn’t come out and accuse Rice of knowingly lying.
Krauthammer was clearly irked by King’s interruption, but his measured response perhaps put it best: “These are not my friends. These are people who speak for themselves. I’ll speak for myself now.”
Below is a transcript of the exchange:
GORDON PETERSON: The Washington Post, in a Friday editorial, asserts that it follows, after what you said, that Susan Rice, our UN ambassador, did not mislead anyone and that the 97 House Republicans who signed the letter charging that she did owe Susan Rice an apology. If she gets an apology, I will buy everyone on this panel lunch on Friday for the rest of the year.
CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER: Why should she get an apology? She did mislead. She told a story that was untrue. Was it a deliberate lie? No. She was obviously a dupe. But that doesn’t, I mean – the idea --
COLBY KING: So why’d you call her a liar, then?
KRAUTHAMMER: -- you go out – I didn’t call her a liar.
KING: They did. Your friends did.
KRAUTHAMMER: These are not my friends. These are people who speak for themselves. I’ll speak for myself now. She is owed nothing. She went out there and spoke to the American people on stuff she was given. If you're given stuff, you ask about it. And the other question is, where was the secretary of state? That was her job to go out there and speak about this. Susan Rice knew nothing. She was the wrong person to have chosen. But to apologize, she absolutely misled the American people.