Benghazi’s media maze

Why the American people won’t be fooled

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You just knew press coverage of the congressional hearing on the Benghazi cover-ups last Wednesday would be nonexistent or squirrely, right?

It was mostly the latter, so break out the nuts.

After the hearing, an ABC radio segment utterly ignored the content. Three State Department whistleblowers had exposed alarming contradictions in the official White House account, but ABC News led with a clip of Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, Maryland Democrat, who said the hearing was politically motivated, followed by a GOP spokesman who said it wasn’t. That was it.

Pay no attention; there’s nothing to see here, folks.

On NBC, veteran newsman David Gregory breezily blamed the intelligence community for the Obama administration’s initial claims that the Sept. 11, 2012, attacks on the U.S. Consulate were a spontaneous uprising against an anti-Muslim video. U.N. Ambassador Susan E. Rice, who on five Sunday talk-show appearances on Sept. 16 falsely blamed the video, was a “peripheral player,” said Mr. Gregory.

Then, perhaps realizing he was being too obvious in carrying water for the Obama team, he finished with, “there was at least sloppiness with regard to why they were describing this in the way that they were, when it very quickly became apparent that this was a terror attack.”

The White House knew through real-time communiques that the attack had nothing to do with the video. Yet, days later, Mrs. Rice, along with then-Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, continued to blame the video. This is “sloppiness?” A shorter word comes to mind. A couple of them, in fact.

The night before the hearing, Mrs. Rice received the Louis E. Martin Great American Award from the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies at a ceremony attended by Vice President Joseph R. Biden. You can’t say the left doesn’t take care of its own, especially those who fall on their swords to protect the White House.

Of the news networks, only Fox had real-time coverage, but even Fox broke away for updates on the rescue of the kidnap-rape victims in Cleveland, and the first-degree murder verdict against Arizona waitress Jodi Arias. The other major news sites led with the juicy, personal-interest stories.

In case you hadn’t followed the hearing, these are some of the nuggets missed or underplayed by the media squirrels:

• Mark Thompson, deputy coordinator for operations at the State Department, testified that he requested an armed squad be sent to Benghazi before the final assault on the compound, but was denied.

• Gregory Hicks, deputy chief of the mission in Libya, testified: “I was stunned. My jaw dropped. And I was embarrassed,” watching Mrs. Rice’s mischaracterizations of the attack.

• When Rep. Jason Chaffetz, Utah Republican, went to Libya to investigate, Mr. Hicks testified, he was told by Mrs. Clinton’s chief of staff, Cheryl D. Mills, not to let Mr. Chaffetz attend any meeting without a lawyer. When Mr. Chaffetz did attend one such meeting, Mr. Hicks was phoned by a furious Ms. Mills, who knows damage control; she conducted Bill Clinton’s impeachment defense.

• Mr. Hicks said higher-ups tried to block him from cooperating with the committee, and that he was busted to a lower job.

With that, and more, The Washington Post’s Dana Milbank proclaimed in his column Thursday that “Hicks didn’t lay a glove on Hillary Rodham Clinton.” It’s true that Mrs. Clinton’s name barely came up. But then, in the run-up to Watergate, they didn’t lay a glove on Richard Nixon, either.

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