While the NBC and CBS morning shows on Friday both covered troubling Thursday testimony from outgoing Defense Secretary Leon Panetta that revealed President Obama's lack of engagement during the Benghazi terrorist attack, ABC's Good Morning America completely ignored the story. In addition, none of the networks mentioned the testimony on their Thursday evening newscasts.
Friday's CBS This Morning provided the most coverage, with a full report by correspondent Nancy Cordes, who explained: "Panetta revealed that he briefed the President at the start of the attack, but the two men did not speak again that night....Republicans say it's a sign that the President was disengaged the night of the attack. Panetta said his aides and the President's were in touch, but he said as well that he did not speak to Secretary Clinton the night of the attack either."
On NBC's Today, Capitol Hill correspondent Kelly O'Donnell noted Panetta's testimony during a story about John Brennan's confirmation hearing to become the next CIA director: "Turning to Benghazi, frustrated senators pressed outgoing Defense Secretary Panetta and Joint Chiefs Chair Dempsey about why military help was too far away to rescue the slain Americans....Republicans pounced on testimony that after first informing the President about the attack, neither man heard directly from him as the siege unfolded."
Both the CBS and NBC coverage featured a heated exchange between Panetta and South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham during the hearing.
The closest ABC came to acknowledging that the hearing even took place was a Good Morning America news brief from news reader Josh Elliot about a different portion of the testimony:
Also this morning, we've learned the U.S. was closer to intervening in Syria's civil war than previously thought. Outgoing Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has revealed that he and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, wanted to arm the rebels trying to topple dictator Bashar Al Assad. But the White House said no, fearing the weapons could fall into the wrong hands.
Scott Pelley provided a news brief on the same topic during Thursday's CBS Evening News.
Here is a full transcript of the February 8 CBS This Morning report:
NORAH O'DONNELL: On Capitol Hill yesterday, a surprise about the Obama administration's response to Syria's civil war. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta revealed, for the first time, that President Obama was the one who blocked a plan to arm rebel fighters in Syria. The plan was developed last year by then-CIA Director David Petraeus, and backed by Pentagon leaders and then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. The white house had doubts about which rebels could be trusted with the arms.
And those details came to light during a Senate hearing on Libya, and Republicans had some very tough questions for Panetta. Panetta revealed that he and President Obama spoke only once during the eight-hour Benghazi attack that left four Americans dead. Panetta also explained why the Pentagon didn't send warplanes during the assault.
Nancy Cordes is on Capitol Hill. Nancy, good morning.
[CBS News Graphic: "Benghazi Aftermath: Panetta Reveals New Libya Attack Details"]
NANCY CORDES: Good morning, Norah. Secretary Panetta said the reason planes were not launched was because this attack came in two waves in two different locations, and after the first wave ended, after about an hour and a half, they all thought it was over. Plus, he said, there wasn't enough actionable intelligence on the ground to act.
LEON PANETTA, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE (from congressional hearing): You can't just, willy-nilly, send F-16s there and – and blow the hell of a place without knowing what's taking place.
CORDES (voice-over): Under questioning by Republicans, Secretary Panetta and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Martin Dempsey, said they were aware, in the months before the attack, that U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens was worried about security in Libya.
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, (R), ARIZONA (off-camera): Did you receive that information?
GEN. MARTIN DEMPSEY, CHAIRMAN, JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF: I did, and I saw-
MCCAIN (on-camera): So, it didn't bother you?
DEMPSEY: It bothered me a great deal, but we didn't receive a request-
MCCAIN: But why didn't you put forces in place to be ready to respond?
DEMPSEY: Because we never received a request to do so, number one.
CORDES (voice-over): Panetta argued Benghazi was just one of many U.S. outposts receiving threats.
PANETTA: The U.S. military has neither the resources, nor the responsibility, to have a firehouse next to every U.S. facility in the world.
CORDES: The White House has provided few details about the President's actions the night of the Benghazi attacks. Panetta revealed that he briefed the President at the start of the attack, but the two men did not speak again that night.
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM, (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: Are you surprised that the President of the United States never called you, Secretary Panetta, and say, how's it going?
PANETTA: You know, normally, in these situations-
GRAHAM: Did he know the level of threat?
PANETTA: Let me finish the answer. We – we were deploying the forces. He knew we were deploying the forces. He was being kept-
GRAHAM: I hate to interrupt you, but I got limited time. We didn't deploy any forces!
PANETTA: The President is well-informed about what is going on. Make no mistake about it.
CORDES (on-camera): Republicans say it's a sign that the President was disengaged the night of the attack. Panetta said his aides and the President's were in touch, but he said as well that he did not speak to Secretary Clinton the night of the attack either.
O'DONNELL: Nancy Cordes, thank you.