Interlude—Where our cowardice takes us: A remarkable exchange took place on Fox last night.
Check that! In a morally serious nation, last night’s exchange would have been remarkable. In this country, last evening’s exchange was commonplace—thoroughly par for the course.
During the 10 PM hour, Greta Van Susteren spoke with Rep. John Boehner, the Ohio Republican, the Speaker of the House of Representatives.
Boehner is one of the nation’s highest-ranking officials. For more than eleven years, Van Susteren has hosted a nightly program on the Fox News Channel.
By a very wide margin, Fox is the nation’s most-watched “news channel.” Several million people were watching last night when this exchange occurred:
VAN SUSTEREN (/5/22/13): Have you determined why the whole YouTube video thing was brought up in Benghazi in the first place, whose idea it was, and why they seized upon it and held onto it for so long?As several million people watched, Greta Van Susteren seemed to commit an act of fraud. She said she has no idea where the story about that YouTube video came from.
BOEHNER: Don't know yet, but we're going to find out.
VAN SUSTEREN: You have no sort of conceivable theory about, like, you know—
BOEHNER: Our job—our job is to get to the facts. Even while we're doing all of this, our big job here is to work on jobs. You know, the economy is just not producing jobs like the American people want. And we've had this anemic economic growth for the last four years.
When Susan Rice appeared on the Sunday programs last September, why did she mention “the whole YouTube video thing?” To all appearances, Van Susteren has no earthly idea where that craziness came from!
One prays that Van Susteren is lying. Surely, she must know where that story came from by now. Here’s why:
On May 10, ABC News released twelve versions of the talking points which helped guide Rice that day. By now, everyone and his crazy uncle has mentioned a basic fact which emerged that day.
Here is that basic fact:
Right at the start of its first account of what occurred that night in Benghazi, the CIA said what follows. In this passage, we see how the video which was in fact roiling the world came to be linked to Benghazi:
ORIGINAL CIA TALKING POINTS (9/14/12): We believe based on currently available information that the attacks in Benghazi were spontaneously inspired by the protests at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo and evolved into a direct assault against the U.S. Consulate and subsequently its annex.Duh! Right from the start, the CIA said the attacks in Benghazi were “spontaneously inspired by the protests at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo.” But as everyone knows, the protests in Cairo, like those occurring elsewhere the world, were protests against that offensive YouTube video.
That is where the YouTube video entered the story concerning Benghazi. Since mid-October of last year, it had been known that this claim appeared in the final version of the talking points which guided Rice. On May 10, everyone learned an additional fact:
This account had been in the talking points right from the start. This account had come from the CIA. Rice had stated their account on those September 16 Sunday programs.
Just to refresh you, here she was on ABC’s This Week, speaking with guest host Jake Tapper:
RICE (9/16/12): Well, Jake, first of all, it's important to know that there's an FBI investigation that has begun and will take some time to be completed. That will tell us with certainty what transpired.As she started and as she finished, Rice warned viewers that she was offering a preliminary assessment. In that preliminary assessment, she offered the account which originated with the CIA on September 14.
But our current best assessment, based on the information that we have at present, is that, in fact, what this began as, it was a spontaneous, not a premeditated, response to what had transpired in Cairo. In Cairo, as you know, a few hours earlier, there was a violent protest that was undertaken in reaction to this very offensive video that was disseminated.
We believe that folks in Benghazi, a small number of people came to the embassy to—or to the consulate, rather—to replicate the sort of challenge that was posed in Cairo. And then, as that unfolded, it seems to have been hijacked, let us say, by some individual clusters of extremists who came with heavier weapons, weapons that as you know in, in the wake of the revolution in Libya are, are quite common and accessible. And it then evolved from there.
We'll wait to see exactly what the investigation finally confirms, but that's the best information we have at present.
As of May 10, everyone knew that the statement about a spontaneous demonstration in response to Cairo had come from the CIA. There was no longer any mystery about where this account came from, unless you’re one of the millions of people who get conned about basic facts by hosts like Van Susteren on Fox.
Poor Greta! As of last night, she was still trying to determine where that story came from! Last night, in apparent bewilderment, she posed her question to Boehner.
Boehner played along, then rapidly changed the subject.
In a different world, this would count as a truly stunning exchange. In our world, this basic exchange occurs on Fox night after night after night.
Last Thursday evening, to cite one example, Greta spoke with Donald Rumsfeld. As always, Greta was puzzled about the origins of that story about the video:
VAN SUSTEREN (5/16/13): You used the term "cover-up." Let's go back to Benghazi. Do you suspect that was sort of a cover-up?...Greta was utterly puzzled that night. In his response, Rumsfeld instantly began to dissemble about what various people had said.
I think everyone agrees we should have had more security at Benghazi. And we had the heat of the moment when the Benghazi facility is under attack. Then we have what happened afterwards with the video and the statements by Ambassador Rice. Was that a cover-up?
RUMSFELD: I don't know how you can call it anything else. I say that because if the president then goes to the U.N. and talks to people about a YouTube video as being part of the problem, or the problem, and if Mrs. Clinton goes to the families of the people who were killed and says we are going to get the person who did that YouTube video, days, many days after everyone who had anything to do with it knew that these people were well-armed, that there had been warnings about attacks, that the British had pulled their people out, and that it was certainly—they were so well-armed it could not be a spontaneous demonstration.
If Van Susteren were an actual journalist, she would have challenged Rumsfeld’s implied account of what Rice had said. As you can see from our This Week transcript, Rice made a point of noting the fact that the extremists who staged the killing attacks were heavily armed. She said it was those heavily-armed extremists who staged the attacks, not the people who had staged the spontaneous protest.
But Van Susteren doesn’t seem to be an actual journalist. One night before, she had played this same game in an interview with the very sincere Rep. Jason Chaffetz.
One hundred e-mails had just been released. Van Susteren played her viewers:
VAN SUSTEREN (5/15/13): We've gone through the 100 emails. The topic of the video doesn't come up until [September] 15th. It comes up in a subject line, which is the day before the talking points, which was the 16th when Ambassador Rice went on. For the life of me, I can't figure out why they were stuck on that and kept pushing that on us, unless it’s, as many Republicans say, as the president said a week before at the convention, that Al Qaeda was on the run, essentially—For the life of her, Van Susteren couldn’t imagine where that story about that video could have come from!
CHAFFETZ: Look, there was clarity when this event happened. We heard testimony from the people on the ground. We see an email that was going out to the senior leadership within the State Department. There was clarity. That then turned to a cluster, which then gravitated to a bunch of untruths that never got untangled.
On that same program, Van Susteren was similarly bollixed as she spoke with Karl Rove:
VAN SUSTEREN (5/15/13): Go ahead.Who was responsible for cooking up this story? Rove had no idea!
ROVE: Well, the final and most interesting point to me is, the question we've never gotten answered is, Who is responsible for cooking up the story that the anti-Muslim video is what caused this?
So my question is, who was responsible for cooking up this story? And maybe Aaron Pelton, Ben Rhodes, Tommy Vietor or somebody else at the U.S. U.N. mission who was involved in sending those e-mails ought to step forward and answer the question of whether or not it was them who cooked up this story.
But how strange! Five days earlier, on May 10, ABC News had answered that question: The CIA had “cooked up that story!” Right from the start, the CIA had said it believed that the attacks in Benghazi “were spontaneously inspired by the protests at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo”—protests against that YouTube video—“and evolved into a direct assault against the U.S. Consulate and subsequently its annex.”
The CIA “cooked up that story,” as everyone had known since May 10. But Van Susteren now told Rove that the deceptions about Benghazi had occurred “for one simple reason. They just didn't want to tell us the truth from the get-go!” (More Van Susteren: “The overriding question I have is: Why didn't everyone just tell the truth from the get-go?”)
Finally, viewers were treated to this astounding exchange. Aaron Pelton is a U.S. official at the United Nations:
ROVE: Finally, the question is, was it Pelton at U.S. U.N. who briefed Susan Rice? And did Pelton come up with the lie about the video?“I think we ought to be honest,” Van Susteren said, without so much as batting an eye. But how odd! To all appearances, Van Susteren has been deceiving her viewers about this topic since May 10. This apparent scam continued through last night’s session with Boehner.
This is the biggest lie we’ve been—and we had it told over and over again by a wide variety of people. The question is, Who’s responsible for propagating it? And the American people deserve to know.
VAN SUSTEREN: I think—and let me just add one thing. When it’s a matter of life and death, you know, I think we ought to be honest.
We’re focusing on Van Susteren, but this deception is quite common on Fox. Here you see the completely befuddled Monica Crowley, speaking with Sean Hannity and Bob Beckel last Friday night:
HANNITY (5/17/13): Monica, when Americans are under attack wouldn't you like to know a president protects them?Crowley just couldn't figure it out! Beckel, a Fox Democrat, spoke next, instantly changing the subject.
CROWLEY: Yes. And there are so many unanswered questions here. I disagree with you, Bob. I think the Benghazi scandal is the biggest of all because there were four dead Americans. We want to know where was the commander-in-chief? And where was the secretary of state, they are unaccounted for that night. Who gave the stand down order as Bob points out? Who came up with the fiction of the video and why?
Was there a bigger agenda to criminalize anti-Islam speech and that is why they settled on the video as part of the explanation?
Every night, millions of people are getting deceived in this manner. But over at the Washington Post, fact-checker Glenn Kessler keeps wetting his pants, completely unable to speak.
He keeps obsessing on narrow distinctions about various things Obama has said. In Sunday's card-copy Post, he gave Obama four of his famous Pinocchios in a heavily tortured piece. (We'll review that piece in an upcoming post.)
But Kessler will never fact-check Fox. He is too broken to do so.
That said, it isn’t just Kessler, who has turned into a very strange analyst. At MSNBC, the various children just keep refusing to fight.
Perhaps they don’t know how to fight. It may be that their owners won’t let them—and their owners pay them very good salaries, so good that you aren’t allowed to know what their salaries are.
Whatever! This garbage has been churned on Fox for more than eight months, but the children have gamboled and played and refused to fight in the way cowards always do.
Last fall, they all ran off and hid in the woods when the attacks on Rice began. Tomorrow, we’ll look at what Rachel did when she finally pretended to fight.
Tomorrow: The utterly silly work of a cowardly millionaire child