Tuesday's CBS This Morning spotlighted the upcoming one-year anniversary of the Islamist attack on the U.S. diplomatic facility in Benghazi, Libya, but whitewashed the role of President Obama and his administration, including that of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Anchors Charlie Rose, Norah O'Donnell, and Gayle King didn't once mention Obama or Clinton's name during an interview segment with author Fred Burton.
In his new book, Burton revealed that "an unidentified security official in the Benghazi compound...messaged the U.S. embassy in Tripoli: 'Benghazi under fire, terrorist attack.'" However, Rose only vaguely referenced the White House's now-discredited talking point about the terrorist attack: "Does this book and your understanding of it suggest that everybody knew it was a planned attack, and not a surprise arising out of a protest?" [audio available here; video below the jump]
The three anchors brought on the former diplomatic security agent to discuss "Under Fire: The Untold Story of the Attack in Benghazi". In her first question, King played up how her guest wrote, "'In this situation, there's no right or wrong decision – just the issue of reaction and survival.' So, really, take us inside that day – what happened day – these really young guys."
Burton replied, "I think the politics of this story have been put over the top, and what I wanted focus on, Gayle, was the heroism of the agents...on the ground, in this very difficult environment, trying to do the best they possibly could, based upon the circumstances that were unfolding."
King followed up with her own vague reference to the Obama administration's early talking point that the Benghazi attack was an impromptu reaction to an obscure anti-Muhammad YouTube video: "You point out this was not a ragtag team that came into the embassy that day. You said they were methodical, and they were systematic. These guys knew what they were doing."
Norah O'Donnell couldn't bring herself to use the President's name when she asked her sole question about the manhunt for the perpetrators of the terrorist attack. Instead, she used a general pronoun in reference to the United States:
NORAH O'DONNELL: It is almost a one year later since this attack happened and these four Americans were killed. And yet, those responsible are still on the loose. Why haven't we been able to catch them? What do you believe is behind the hunt for them, and why they've been so elusive?
Near the end of the end of the segment, Rose raised the issue of whether the incident was a "planned attack and not a surprise", but like his colleagues, didn't specifically mention that U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice had claimed that the assault was a "spontaneous - not a pre-meditated response" eight days later on several Sunday morning shows. CBS senior correspondent John Miller also hinted that Ambassador Chris Stevens was partially at fault:
JOHN MILLER: ...[Y]ou've got an ambassador who wants to travel. It's September 11th. It's a symbolic day for threats. And this is very typical of the Diplomatic Security Service. They're a small agency with...a very limited number of people covering 450 outposts. And usually, there is (sic) two of them – or just a handful – in a high-threat place to cover a threat like that. When the ambassador says, I want to go from Tripoli to Benghazi, nobody gets to say, well, sir, that's a bad day for that. We can't let you do that. They just mount up and go. And this is part of that story.
Exactly three weeks earlier, on the August 13, 2013 edition of CBS This Morning, correspondent John Blackstone boosted Hillary Clinton's potential 2016 presidential run, and minimized the ongoing questions about her leadership before, during, and after the attack in Benghazi. For opposition, Blackstone merely noted that "a new ad, just released by the GOP, criticizes Clinton's handling of the terrorist attack in Benghazi", without further explaining the issue.
[Update, Tuesday, 6:03 pm Eastern: the full transcript of the Fred Burton segment from Tuesday's CBS This Morning can be read at MRC.org.]