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Inside the Beltway: AP plays hardball

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News coverage was swift and straightforward following revelations that the Justice Department secretly had obtained two months worth of phone records from The Associated Press, an action the wire service President and CEO Gary Pruitt deemed an "unprecedented intrusion" and "serious interference with AP's constitutional rights to gather and report news," in a letter to Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. made public on Monday. Those are fighting words from Mr. Pruitt, the former CEO of news syndicate McClatchey Co., who has been on the job just over a year.

What prompted the Justice action? Journalists themselves connected the dots to speculate that the cause was an AP exclusive story on May 7, 2012, that began: "The CIA thwarted an ambitious plot by al Qaeda's affiliate in Yemen to destroy a U.S.-bound airliner using a bomb with a sophisticated new design around the one-year anniversary of the killing of Osama bin Laden, The Associated Press has learned."

The AP claimed its information did not compromise national security. They also claimed a little more.

"The Obama administration has aggressively investigated disclosures of classified information to the media and has brought six cases against people suspected of leaking classified information, more than under all previous presidents combined," the wire service noted in its own coverage of the unfolding events.

A LA-DI-DA MOMENT

"A frank and intimate discussion with the president," read the invitation to a private Manhattan fundraiser for congressional Democrats with President Obama, staged Monday at the five-story West Village townhouse of movie producer Harvey Weinstein. Guests included the likes of Justin Timberlake, Jessica Biel and Tommy Hilfiger.

Seated at tables covered in white linen and roses, 64 people paid $16,200 each to attend the reception, which included a nine-minute speech by Mr. Obama, and — oh, yeah — some frank and intimate discussion. The price included a personal thank-you for guests from Mr. Obama himself, plus a photo. The event was one of three fundraisers in the city Monday. The White House entourage charged onward, snarling traffic and leaving policy talk and polite chitchat in its wake.

It will be a long road this year: 17 more fundraisers are scheduled to follow as the Democratic Party seeks to regain the 17 House seats it lost in 2010.

"That work has to start now," observes Rep. Steve Israel of New York and chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

THE BENGHAZI NARRATIVE

Could it be that the news media are finally acknowledging that the White House version of the Benghazi terrorist attack is erroneous? A study reports that the coverage finally has shifted to include Republican perspectives, thanks to a proactive GOP.

In the month following the attack, 80 percent of the news accounts claimed the events were spontaneous, according to an analysis by the Center for Media and Public Affairs. Then along came an interim report on Benghazi organized by House Republicans in late April. Since then, 58 percent of the follow-up stories now fault the Obama administration's response to the attacks.

"President Obama's second term will be shaped by whether the media decides this story is a sideshow or the main event," Robert Lichter, director of the research group, tells Inside the Beltway.

"This shows both the extent and the limits of a president's ability to shape the news of a foreign policy crisis," he adds, noting that study analyzed coverage in the New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times and USA Today following the GOP report, then compared it to 348 stories that appeared in the month following the attack.

BENGHAZI RAGE

Make no mistake. Republicans and conservatives are fierce indeed over the Benghazi attacks, and the murky Obama administration response to the violent events. A Public Policy Polling survey released Monday finds that 55 percent of very conservative respondents and 41 percent of Republicans say that Benghazi is "the worst political scandal of all time." Less than a quarter — 23 percent — of Americans agree with this assessment.

Meanwhile, 9 of 10 of those conservatives and 74 percent of the Republicans say Benghazi is "worse than Watergate." Forty five percent of Americans overall agree.

POST-GOSNELL

"The first-degree murder conviction of Kermit Gosnell brings some closure to this horrific case, but we must act to address the broader problems highlighted by this tragedy. Congress should conduct a thorough investigation into the practices of late-term abortions in America with the goal of ensuring that these atrocities are never repeated in the future," says Sen. Marco Rubio, Florida Republican, following the first-degree murder conviction Monday of Kermit Gosnell in Philadelphia.

POLL DU JOUR

40 percent of Americans say the Obama administration has been dishonest about the Benghazi investigation; 70 percent of Republicans, 16 percent of Democrats and 79 percent of regular Republican-leaning Fox News viewers agree.

29 percent overall say the administration has been honest; 15 percent of Republicans, 62 percent of Democrats and 9 percent of Republican-leaning Fox News viewers agree.

34 percent overall say there has been "too little" coverage of the Benghazi hearings; 51 percent of Republicans, 26 percent of Democrats and 59 percent of Fox News Republicans agree.

34 percent overall say Republicans handled the hearings "appropriately"; 65 percent of Republicans, 15 percent of Democrats and 73 percent of Fox News Republicans agree.

Source: A Pew Research survey of 1,000 U.S. adults conducted May 9 to 12.

Complaints, grudging applause to jharperwashingtontimes.com.

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