Part 3—She just keeps pouring it on: Sharyl Attkisson, sadly intrepid, just kept pouring it on.
A less intrepid scribe might have thought that she’d had a bad week. On May 10, she had made a gruesome error, or at least a gruesome error had been published under her name.
In response, she had offered an explanation that didn’t make any sense.
Sandwiched in were crazy claims on C-Span’s May 12 Washington Journal, and even on that same day's Face the Nation. A less intrepid “journalist” might have taken her foot off the gas!
Sadly, Attkisson is fully intrepid. On May 17, she published her longest account to date of the whole Benghazi affair. In the course of her musings, Attkisson offered this grossly misleading account of where the talking points about Benghazi came from:
ATTKISSON (5/17/13): Even today, nobody will say on the record, or even off the record to CBS News, who was at the Deputies meeting on the morning of Sept. 15, where the talking points were drastically pared down for Rice's use. The approved version called the attacks "demonstrations" that "evolved" after being "spontaneously inspired" by protest at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo. All mentions of terrorism, al Qaeda and previous warnings given by the CIA had been excised.You can defend every word as technically accurate. But that account is also grossly misleading, to the point of being crazy.
In the view of some involved in the process at high levels, "spontaneous" was the wrong word for administration officials to use publicly when describing the attacks, because they say it didn't translate well and it was taken out of context.
It's unclear where the story about the Benghazi attacks growing from a protest or demonstration originated or how it gained such prominence in the Obama administration's initial narrative. One source involved in the Benghazi response insists it wasn't until the State Department debriefed the five surviving U.S. diplomatic security agents upon their return to the U.S. that Washington officials discovered there had been no protest.
“It's unclear where the story about the Benghazi attacks growing from a protest or demonstration originated?” Since May 10, it had been perfectly clear where that story originated within the talking points:
It originated with the CIA, as everyone knew by now. On September 14, 2012, the agency had offered that account at the start of its first proposed account of what occurred at Benghazi.
“It's unclear...how [that story] gained such prominence in the Obama administration's initial narrative?” Presumably, that story gained prominence within the administration because it represented the CIA’s official account of what happened.
Even more fiendish was the first highlighted claim from that May 17 report:
“The approved version [of the talking points] called the attacks ‘demonstrations’ that ‘evolved’ after being ‘spontaneously inspired" by protest at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo.”
That statement is technically accurate! The final version of the points did use all that language. Of course, the first version of the talking points had said the exact same things!
Once again, Attkisson forgot to mention this fact. Deliberately or otherwise, she gave the impression that this account emerged in the final version of the talking points.
Presumably, Attkisson understood all the facts we have cited above. All versions of the talking points had been available for review for a full week before her lengthy report appeared.
Understanding that, you have your choice as to why she wrote that passage the way she did in report on May 17:
Attkisson may be dumb as a rock. Or she may have been baldly dissembling again, as seems to be her wont.
As Attkisson’s account continued, so did the GOP-scripted foolishness. But then, it would take a book to chronicle all the foolishness which has emerged in the past eight months as Attkisson has discussed, or pretended to discuss, the events at Benghazi.
It’s stunning to think that CBS News is willing to let this conduct continue. It’s stunning to think that the rest of the mainstream press corps lets this misconduct go.
Meanwhile, don’t even ask about the millionaire children at The One True Liberal Channel, who continue to hide their hands in the sand as this journalistic misconduct roils the political world. (We’ll discuss them in detail tomorrow.)
Make no mistake—Attkisson is no Sharyl-come-lately to the upside-down world of bungled reports on Benghazi. She has played the fool about this topic for many months at this point.
Consider her report last November 22 on the CBS Evening News, her network's premier news program.
As everyone knows, President Kennedy was murdered in Dallas on November 22. Beyond that, the date can now be remembered for Attkisson’s clownish report.
One day earlier, Ambassador Rice had defended her original statements about Benghazi, the statements she made on the September 16 Sunday programs. With Jeff Glor serving as substitute anchor, Attkisson appeared on the CBS Evening News to report what Rice had said.
Her report was a serial gong show. As she started, she mixed some bungled logic with the outright misstatement of fact:
ATTKISSON (11/22/12): Ambassador Rice defended her comments more than nine weeks ago in which she said the Benghazi attacks did not appear preplanned. She said that reflected the best intelligence at the time.In that part of her report, Attkisson said something that was accurate! On the September 16 Face the Nation, Rice did make that statement to Bob Schieffer: “We do not have information at present that leads us to conclude that this was premeditated or preplanned.”
RICE (videotape): I relied solely and squarely on the information provided to me by the intelligence community. I made clear that the information was preliminary and that our investigations would give us the definitive answers.
ATTKISSON: But intelligence officials told Congress last week they knew almost from the start that Benghazi was likely the work of terrorists, perhaps affiliated with al Qaeda.
In an appearance on Face the Nation five days after the attack, Rice gave no hint of that.
"We do not have information at present that leads us to conclude that this was premeditated or preplanned," Rice said at the time.
This was in response to a question in which Schieffer suggested that the attack may have been “plotted out several months ago.”
On the CBS Evening News, Attkisson seemed to suggest that this statement by Rice—the statement that the attack may not have been preplanned in that way—was contradicted by the initial belief of intelligence officials that the attack “was likely the work of terrorists.”
That doesn’t make sense, of course. Presumably, terrorists sometimes engage in actions which haven’t been “preplanned” at all, let alone for several months.
But ever since September 16, Lindsey Graham and John McCain had been pretending that a contradiction lurked in that statement. So had various stars on Fox.
Attkisson took their bungled logic and made it her own this night. As she did, she helped their tale along with an obvious factual howler:
“In an appearance on Face the Nation five days after the attack, Rice gave no hint” of the alleged belief that “Benghazi was likely the work of terrorists, perhaps affiliated with al Qaeda?”
Please. On the program to which Attkisson referred, Ambassador Rice had said this:
SCHIEFFER (9/16/12): Do you agree or disagree with [the Libyan president] that al Qaeda had some part in this?According to Rice, the “extremist elements” who staged the attack may have been al Qaeda affiliates—or they may have been al Qaeda itself! But so what? Nine weeks later, Attkisson went on the CBS Evening News and said that Rice “gave no hint” on Face the Nation that the attackers were “perhaps affiliated with al Qaeda!”
RICE: Well, we’ll have to find out that out. I mean, I think it’s clear that there were extremist elements that joined in and escalated the violence. Whether they were al Qaeda affiliates, whether they were Libyan-based extremists or al Qaeda itself I think is one of the things we’ll have to determine.
At this point, you get a choice:
Attkisson is a hopeless incompetent. Or she was simply lying that night on the CBS Evening News.
We’ll call it Sharyl’s Choice! At any rate, as Attkisson’s report on the CBS Evening News continued, so did her hopeless bungling:
ATTKISSON (11/22/12, continuing from above): "We do not have information at present that leads us to conclude that this was premeditated or preplanned," Rice said at the time.Glor is much too polite.
Last week, former CIA Director David Petraeus told congressional panels in closed sessions that someone in the Obama administration removed references to terrorism and al Qaeda from his agency summary before it went to Rice. A source told us the edits were made by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.
Republican Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham have led the call for a special committee to investigate.
MCCAIN (videotape): I was on Face the Nation the morning she came on and told that incredible story, and right after it, the president of the Libyan National Assembly said it was al Qaeda. We know it was al Qaeda. And yet she never changed her story.
ATTKISSON: Rice also shot back against McCain’s criticisms.
RICE (videotape): I do think that some of the statements he’s made about me have been unfounded. But I look forward to having the opportunity at the appropriate time to discuss all of this with him.
ATTKISSON: Now, after Rice spoke last night, several Republicans told us they want to ask the administration what evidence they had when they originally said the Benghazi attacks started with a spontaneous mob inspired by an anti-Islam YouTube video, an idea that’s now been set aside. Jeff.
GLOR: Sharyl, thank you.
Question: Did Susan Rice tell “an incredible story” on the September 16 Face the Nation? On May 10, everyone learned that this “incredible story” had come straight from the CIA, though Attkisson still refuses to report this basic fact.
Way back in November, McCain already knew that. Still, he went out and postured at Rice's expense, grossly misleading the public. Meanwhile, Attkisson failed to report a basic fact which was already known:
The claim that the Benghazi attack “started with a spontaneous mob inspired by” the protests in Cairo had been in the final version of the talking points which guided Rice on those Sunday shows. This fact had been known since late October, when David Ignatius published the text of that final account.
But Attkisson failed to state this fact, even as she showed McCain savaging Rice for telling an “incredible story.”
Was that story really incredible? In fact, it was the intelligence community's official story when Rice appeared on those shows. If you watched the CBS Evening News, Attkisson failed to tell you.
You get two choices with Attkisson—with her on-air reporting back in November, with the astounding report she posted on May 17, just twelve days ago.
These are your two basic choices:
Attkisson may be grossly incompetent. Or she has simply been lying about these matters, by omission and by commission. (“Rice gave no hint of that!”)
But alas! Attkisson keeps rolling along, pimping her bullshit to the world. And CBS News refuses to fire her.
Meanwhile, as this chaos continues, Rachel and Lawrence and Hayes continue to sit there and take it. Tomorrow, we’ll ask an obvious question:
As this bullshit roils the political world, why don’t our heroes fight back?
Tomorrow: Why don’t our heroes fight back?