In shining examples of the phrase “better late than never,” Conor Friedersdorf -- a staff writer on politics and national affairs at The Atlantic -- and Dylan Byers -- a media critic for the Politico website -- hammered conservatives on Monday for charging that the mainstream media had mostly ignored or minimized the attack on the American diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya, on Sept. 11, 2012.
Friedersdorf called the charge the “Whopper of the Year,” while Byers accused conservatives of taking a “guilty-until-proven-innocent approach” regarding the reaction by President Barack Obama and his administration to the incident, which 11 months ago led to the deaths of four people, including U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens.
The Atlantic writer stated: “I have no doubt that there are any number of problems with 'MSM' coverage of Benghazi. But a refusal to take the story seriously isn't one of them.
The notion that the story has been ignored is fantastical and discrediting. The notion that the entire "MSM" is engaged in a cover-up is idiotic.
Friedersdorf then made a surprising admission: “Insofar as people like me tuned out the story, it is largely because so much of the conservative commentary was implausible, right from the first time that Mitt Romney accused his opponent of sympathizing with the terrorists.”
He then quoted Jonah Goldberg of National Review, whose Oct. 31, 2012, column began:
If you want to understand why conservatives have lost faith in the so-called mainstream media, you need to ponder the question: Where is the Benghazi feeding frenzy? … This is not to say that Fox News is alone in covering the story. But it is alone in treating it like it's a big deal."
“This perception has little grounding in reality,” Friedersdorf stated. “That isn't to say that no conservative criticism of Benghazi coverage has been accurate. As on any subject, there are many flawed stories put out there by outlets right, left, and center. But the conservative claim that 'the MSM' has ignored the story is a mass delusion."
Byers picked up where Friedersdorf left off by stating:
So often conservative media, like conservative media criticism, can't be taken seriously because it overplays its hand. Like someone who shouts "thief!" the second his keys go missing, much of the conservative echo-chamber has a hyper-aggressive penchant to see conspiracy where they'd do better to see questions in need of answers.
“As a general rule -- albeit with plenty of exceptions -- there is a guilty-until-proven-innocent approach among those who fashion themselves as 'anti-MSM,' which can cloud the evidence-gathering process,” the Politico writer added.
Byers had a much more positive take when discussing MSNBC and its Now With Alex Wagner program in his June 9, 2012, column:
Despite its political slant -- MSNBC is admittedly liberal; Wagner calls herself “progressive” -- the show’s window into influential journalists’ thinking has prompted political operatives on both sides of the aisle to pay attention.
However, Rich Noyes noted here at NewsBusters the reaction to the attack -- which was first ridiculously painted as the result of an online anti-Muslim video -- by the national broadcast networks had been “demonstrably and shamefully partisan from the beginning.”
In the immediate aftermath of the terrorist attack, all three broadcast networks touted the political angle that the events would bolster President Obama … while Mitt Romney would be damaged by his supposedly flubbed initial reaction.
“But as the story progressed and reports indicated that the Obama administration knowingly misrepresented the nature of the attack, failed to provide adequate security, and refused to authorize a potential rescue mission to save those under fire, those same journalists have been either slow to report those developments or altogether silent,” Noyes stated.
Friedersdorf concluded his missive by pointing out “lessons” conservatives should learn from this incident, including:
For all its faults, “the MSM” has orders of magnitude more reporting resources and reportorial talent than the conservative media, even acknowledging the many talented journalists at conservative outlets, who are simply outnumbered.
Sorry, Mr. Friedersdorf, but I'll take quality over quantity any day of the week.