Part 1—Successor to Cline and Perot: Crazily, Sharyl Attkisson is a major correspondent for CBS News.
What makes Attkisson’s position at CBS News so crazy? Consider what happened on Sunday, May 12, when she sat for a 42-minute appearance on C-Span’s Washington Journal.
To watch the whole session, click this.
Host Steve Scully said he wanted to start with Benghazi, which had been in the news that week. More specifically, Scully inquired about the possible change in Hillary Clinton’s role within this long-running story.
“I want to begin with the reporting on Benghazi from Politico—m their five takeaways,” the affable C-Span superstar said, referring to this report. “And number one: Hillary Clinton is now more than just a subtext. Is that one of the story-lines from this week?”
“I think so,” Attkisson said. She said that Clinton’s press spokesman had played a “very aggressive” role in revising the talking points about Benghazi which emerged last September.
“Primarily they, as people now know, scrubbed all references to terrorism, al Qaeda and Islamic extremists out of those talking points,” Attkisson darkly said.
At this point, Scully asked a leading question about Hillary Clinton. “So what did she know about this? And the other question is, when did she know about it?”
In her response to this Watergate prompt, Attkisson showcased a bit of the fractured logic which is the reliable norm in mainstream discussions of the Benghazi attack. If Islamic terrorists urged jihadists to break into the Cairo embassy, Attkisson said, then that incident couldn’t have been inspired by that YouTube video.
You’re right—that doesn’t make sense. Terrorists can be enraged about an insulting video.
But so what? This line of reasoning has dominated right-wing “logic” concerning Benghazi for more than eight months. Now, Attkisson was advancing this logic, and she was extending it to the protests in Cairo. Now, even the protests in Cairo couldn’t have been about that video! That claim was a big con too!
If terrorists encouraged or undertook the action, it couldn’t have been about the video! Two minutes into her C-Span appearance, Attkisson was voicing this fractured right-wing logic. But this shouldn’t have been surprising.
In the prior eight months, Attkisson had become a conservative hero because of the ways she had reported on Benghazi. Some of her reporting had made perfect sense. But an amazing amount of her reporting had been built from the fractured logic which has ruled the day on Fox and in other right-wing preserves.
More on that reporting tomorrow. For today, let’s return to her May 12 C-Span session, which was now just two minutes old.
At this point, Scully asked another leading question about the way Hillary Clinton had been “parsing” the talking points. As Attkisson responded, she produced a statement which was basically crazy.
According to Attkisson, she was puzzled by a very basic point. As she spoke with the uncomplaining Scully, her puzzlement let her imagine a fiendish act of deception by the administration—apparently, by Clinton’s State Department.
This is what Attkisson said to Scully. If we assume she spoke in good faith, her statement was basically crazy:
ATTKISSON (5/12/13): Well I would like to know where the YouTube video attribution came from, because now we’re getting again this building body of evidence that— Really nobody on the ground that we’ve spoken to, State Department officers and diplomats and so on, ever said that they thought it was, you know, based on a protest or YouTube video. So it seems to me, you know, as I look to solve the puzzle of what happened and what was being said, it looks like somebody developed a story line very quickly, perhaps even that night right after these attacks occurred, although the bulk of the evidence suggested what we now know, that this was an act of terrorism and preplanned, it seems as though somebody decided to guide the American public’s viewpoint toward that YouTube video.That is an astonishing statement. If Attkisson was being sincere, her statement was basically crazy.
Consider what the CBS star said in that astounding passage.
Two days earlier, on May 10, Jonathan Karl had released twelve versions of the famous “talking points” about the Benghazi attack. In substantial detail, Attkisson had already discussed the major revisions.
Plainly, Attkisson was quite familiar with the different versions of the talking points. But now, the seven-figure TV star made some astonishing statements:
“I would like to know where the YouTube video attribution came from,” the play-for-pay network performer told Scully. According to Attkisson, nobody had ever said that they thought the Benghazi attack “was, you know, based on a protest or YouTube video.”
Astonishing! Attkisson said she had no idea where those ideas could have come from. For that reason, she speculated that “somebody developed a story line very quickly, perhaps even that night right after these attacks occurred.”
Even though the evidence didn’t support the story line, “it seems as though somebody decided to guide the American public’s viewpoint toward that YouTube video,” Attkisson said. Based on everything else she said, it seemed the likely culprit was Clinton’s State Department.
That’s what Attkisson said to Scully and to the C-Span audience. If she wasn’t lying that day, it would seem she is crazy—insane.
Nobody said they thought the attack was based on the Cairo protest? Below, you see the very first paragraph of the very first version of the Benghazi talking points.
Attkisson had been reviewing this material for two solid days at this point. And this was the first official account, straight from the CIA:
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.That was the first official account of what happened at Benghazi. The Benghazi attack had been inspired by the protest in Cairo—a protest directed against that insulting YouTube video.
The account had come straight from the CIA. The text had been in Attkisson's hands for two days, since May 10.
As Attkisson voiced her puzzlement to Scully, she had been reviewing that text for the previous two days. Now, she told the affable host that no one had ever said that the Benghazi attack “was, you know, based on a protest or YouTube video.”
She had no idea where that notion came from! She suggested that Clinton’s State Department must have dreamed it up.
Attkisson voiced all these thoughts in the first three minutes of her session with Scully. In the 39 minutes which followed, she voiced all sorts of dark suspicions about the motives of every Democrat involved in the Benghazi matter. She seemed to assume the accuracy and the good faith of every claim from every Republican’s mouth.
An RNC spokesman couldn’t have produced a more ridiculous performance. And as this remarkable session dragged on, Attkisson kept returning to her puzzlement about that one basic point:
Where in the world did they get that “story line” about the protest and the YouTube video? Who had dreamed that up?
“I’m crazy,” Patsy Cline once opined, in a very famous song. In 1992, Ross Perot adopted the song as his campaign theme song.
If Attkisson wasn’t lying this day, she seems to be crazy too. But so is a wider world which had allowed this disgraceful conduct to continue and prosper.
Rachel and Lawrence are part of that world. So are your favorite liberal bloggers. So is the rest of the “mainstream press corps,” which has spent decades looking away when “journalists” behave in this crazy manner.
Tomorrow: Last November, crazy talk on the CBS Evening News
Gregory Hicks for president: If you watch that C-Span tape, you will see Attkisson assume the worst about every Democrat in this story, while assuming the heroic good faith of everyone else on the planet. She was especially clownish in her portrait of Gregory Hicks, who kept refusing to answer his phone while Chris Stevens was under attack:
ATTKISSON: Gregory Hicks is a very devoted public servant, a lifelong career government foreign service worker, who was quite enamored of Hillary Clinton for much of his time, really respected a lot of her until all of this. He’s changed his opinion dramatically in the aftermath of the Benghazi attacks because he feels like things were misrepresented and when he tried to set things straight, as you said, he was marginalized and demoted. I think he’s had a tough go of it, he’s been quietly, you know, dealing with this on his own for many months and it took a lot of courage for him to step forward because, as we always know, life is made very tough for people who step out of line and tell their stories like this.Gregory Hicks for president!
Can we talk? Attkisson doesn’t really know if any of the lyrics to that torch song are true. Calling to mind the late Patsy Cline, she went ahead and sang it.