The Post goes after Ambassador Rice!


Gearan and Lynch—misleading, bogus, not truthful: Why is it always We Irish?

On the front page of this morning’s Washington Post, Anne Gearan and Colum Lynch engage in the king’s latest spear attack. In a parody of journalistic practice, they pretend to report what Susan Rice said in the first few days after the fatal attack in Benghazi.

Do Gearan and Lynch have any journalistic skill at all? If so, then they have deliberately misled the Post’s misused readers. Or some editor has recast whatever it was they wrote.

What did Rice say on the Sunday shows on September 16, five days after the attack? In the course of a full-length front-page report, Post readers never find out!

Gearan and Lynch start their report in the following way:
GEARAN AND LYNCH (10/16/12): A month after the assault on the U.S. mission in Benghazi, a fateful series of television appearances by Susan E. Rice, the American ambassador to the United Nations, is haunting the Obama administration in the face of allegations that it deliberately attempted to play down suspicions of terrorist involvement.

Rice made the rounds of the Sunday morning talk shows on Sept. 16, five days after the attack in the Libyan city, and in each one she said the fatal assault appeared to have stemmed from a spontaneous protest over an anti-Islam video.

The appearances were part of a gradual increase in the public profile of an administration insider, one eyed as a potential successor to Hillary Rodham Clinton as secretary of state. Today, Rice’s profile has been raised, but hardly in the way that she or her White House supporters would have liked.

The administration’s characterization only days after Rice’s TV appearances that the assault in Libya was a terrorist attack has raised questions about why she attributed the incident to a protest that officials now say did not take place. Republicans have pressed for answers on whether she simply went too far in her assessment or was reading from an administration script that was designed to protect President Obama’s record on national security in an election year.
Rice has not been quoted at this point, but the paraphrasing has started. According to Gearan, Rice said, on each of the Sunday shows, that the fatal assault “appeared to have stemmed from a spontaneous protest over an anti-Islam video.”

According to Gearan, Rice “attributed the incident to a protest that officials now say did not take place.”

Those are Gearan’s purported attempts to paraphrase what Rice said. For ourselves, we don’t know exactly what Gearan means by the formulations she offers.

But if we had been Gearan’s editor, we would have told her that her paraphrases were misleading. We would have told her to redo her formulations—and to quote what Rice actually said.

Did Ambassador Rice tell the Sunday shows that the fatal attack “stemmed from a spontaneous protest?” In our view, that isn’t a faithful account of what Rice actually said. But amazingly enough, Post readers never see a full quotation of anything Rice said that Sunday morning, on any of the shows.

Instead, Post readers see Gearan’s paraphrase. And sure enough! A bit later on, they get to get a second paraphrase of Rice's remarks.

This time, the paraphrase comes from a Republican senator:
GEARAN AND LYNCH: “The facts are there was never a riot,” Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) said Sunday on “Face the Nation.”

“My belief is that that was known by the administration within 24 hours and, quite frankly, Susan Rice, on your show on September 16th, the president on the 18th and the 25th, kept talking about an attack inspired by a video.”
Did Susan Rice say, on Face the Nation, that the violent attack was “inspired by a video?”

Plainly, Rice did not say that. But so what? Post readers had now been offered two different accounts of Rice’s remarks—and they still hadn’t seen any quotations from those Sunday programs!

As journalism, this is a lynching. Surely, Gearan and Lynch, and their editors, possess more professional skill.

What did Susan Rice actually say on those Sunday programs? By this point in her “news report,” Gearan is lynching the ambassador good. Finally, in paragraph 19 (out of 27!), Gearan quotes something Rice actually said that day.

Alas! As is often the case in attacks of this type, the quote is severely truncated:
GEARAN AND LYNCH: In addition to her comments on CBS, Rice told NBC's "Meet the Press": "Our current assessment is what happened in Benghazi was, in fact, initially a spontaneous reaction to what had just transpired hours before in Cairo, almost a copycat of the demonstrations against our facility in Cairo, prompted by the video."
Rice actually spoke the quoted words! But Gearan omits the larger context, giving a false impression of what Rice said and conveyed.

What did Rice actually say on Meet the Press? What follows is the fuller statement from which Gearan plucked her dagger.

Gearan included the first key point. She chose to omit the second:
RICE (9/16/12): Let me tell you the, the best information we have at present. First of all, there’s an FBI investigation which is ongoing. And we look to that investigation to give us the definitive word as to what transpired.

But putting together the best information that we have available to us today, our current assessment is that what happened in Benghazi was in fact initially a spontaneous reaction to what had just transpired hours before in Cairo, almost a copycat of—of the demonstrations against our facility in Cairo, which were prompted, of course, by the video.

What we think then transpired in Benghazi is that opportunistic extremist elements came to the consulate as this was unfolding. They came with heavy weapons which unfortunately are readily available in post-revolutionary Libya. And it escalated into a much more violent episode. Obviously, that's, that's our best judgment now. We'll await the results of the investigation. And the president has been very clear—we'll work with the Libyan authorities to bring those responsible to justice.
It’s true! Rice did say that, according to the best information then available, what happened in Benghazi was “initially a spontaneous reaction to what had just transpired hours before in Cairo”—a copycat demonstration.

But then, we reach her second key point, the key point Gearan omits. Rice went on to say that “extremist elements came to the consulate as this was unfolding.” In Rice’s account, these heavily armed, extremist elements were not the people who had been staging the original demonstration.

According to Rice, a demonstration was underway. A second group of people—heavily armed extremists—"then" came to the scene later on. Gearan and Lynch included the first part of that story, chose to omit the rest.

In that statement, was Rice saying that the fatal assault “stemmed from a spontaneous protest?” Not exactly, no. She was saying that a second, militant group came to the site of the protest.

In that statement, did Rice “attribute the incident” to an ongoing protest? Not exactly, no. That makes it sound like a protest simply spun out of control. Plainly, that’s not what Rice said.

Did Rice "attribute the incident to a protest?" Plainly, Graham's remark is inaccurate. But Post readers got to see what Graham said, and they never saw Rice fully quoted.

Maybe Gearan and Lynch are just horrible journalists. We’ll offer a second possibility—they may just be horrible people.

If they have even minimal skill, they are playing an ugly game. Their account of what Rice said that day is just extremely misleading.

On all the Sunday shows that morning, Rice said that a heavily armed extremist group showed up at the site after a demonstration had started. She didn’t say that a demonstration simply spun out of control.

On every show, she said that a second group arrived with heavy arms. She didn’t say that they were or weren’t al Qaeda. She said we didn’t yet know.

By now, it seems there was no initial demonstration. If that was the initial belief, then the initial belief was wrong.

But Gearan and Lynch play an ugly game as they paraphrase what Rice said. They make it sound like Rice told the world that a demonstration spun out of control. They let a Republican senator say the same thing—and when they finally quote Rice’s comments, they eliminate a basic part of what she actually said.

Question: Are Gearan and Lynch horrible journalists? Or are they simply horrible people?

Either way, they have badly misled the Post’s readers. They never let Post readers what Susan Rice actually said.

Extra credit concerning the ways of the world: Will Lawrence and Rachel complain about this? If so, will they name Gearan and Lynch by name?

They are your heroes—and you are their marks! Surely, you know what isn't going to happen.


  1. We now know that the was no protest in Bengazi.There is probably drone/survailance footage that the shows this and the State Dept may have been watching real-time.IF that is true,WHY did they mis-lead/lie? Did they think the truth would not come out? At the least,those in charge are stupid.Too stupid to be in charge.
    Whats the saying"...not the crime,it's the cover-up"

    1. "probably", "may have been ...IF that is true, ...?"

      Nice strawman argument.

    2. There's no "cover-up" because there's nothing to cover up. THere were most definitely, according to reporters on the ground at the time, people collecting at the consulate who certainly believed they were engaging in a protest against the video. Furthermore, the ground that did the attack itself believed they were doing so because of the video.

      There's a superb, detailed piece today in the NYT by reporters who were there. Suggest you go read it before you burst a blood vessel on Rush Limbaugh's behalf.

    3. No, the Times story, although it said that the attack was motivated by the movie, explicitly affirmed that there were no protests prior to the assault.

    4. @zeoman You might want to return to school for a time, if only to learn how to read/spell/type, before presuming to put us wise in the international relations area.

    5. Typical liberal.Play the rules,not the game.

    6. Typical zeoman. No supporting facts - just echo chamber hyperbole.

  2. So long as the GOP is allowed to frame issues in this country, this form of mendacity will not only exist, but will flourish. Jake Tapper did this same "treatment" of Susan Rice's appearance on ABC's This Week in his "Political Punch" blog of Sept. 16.

  3. The only mendacity has been from the administration. There was NO demonstration before the assault. Bob's strained parsing of Rice's statements is of no avail.

    1. I agree. BTW I think Bob is asking for the impossible when rejects paraphrases and demands that reporters "quote what Rice actually said." In order to fairly quote what she actually said, a reporter would have to include her entire presentation. That would obviously be far too long to include within the article. The reporter is forced to either paraphrase or try to find a brief quote that summarizes the entire presentation, if such brief quote happens to exist.

    2. @ABL & @David in Cal You call it "strained", I call it the kind of reading it took for me to get out of high school 50 years ago. "It's better not to do a thing at all than to do it badly."

    3. Since there was no demonstration, it doesn't matter whether Rice said the attack "arose out of" or "took advantage of" the (non-existent) demonstration.

      I think the problem from the beginning was in the adjective "spontaneous." It was never credible that an ambassador was killed and the al quaeda flag raised over four of our embassies coincidentally on 9/11 spontaneously.

    4. ABL & D in C

      You 2 are being Orwellian - we are in deep trouble with this type of reasoning

      AC in MA

    5. I'm hearing now, that there was a demonstration going on.

  4. Bob S. isn't necessarily asking that reporters quote EVERYTHING someone says -- just that when a quotation will do the trick economically, use a quotation. As for paraphrase, I'm amazed at journalists' inability to paraphrase accurately. (I don't mean pundits or spinmeisters, but supposedly professional journalists.) As a college professor, I have been frustrated for some years now not by students' needing to learn to paraphrase properly (which depends on their being able to analyze properly) -- that's why they're students: they have a lot to learn -- but by their disdain for the paraphrase. I hear (1) It's obvious what the essay's argument is; why should we waste time by paraphrasing it together? (even when it's not at all obvious) and (2) Who cares what the essay's argument is, anyway? What matters is the energetic and fun discussion we can have that has been inspired (however loosely, even irrelevantly) by the essay -- what matters (one might say) is "the narrative" we feel like developing.

    Fair and thorough analysis, and thence paraphrase, are not at all easy, especially with the pressures of time journalists work under. But that is their job. We should be able to expect that reporters for WaPo or the NYT are good at this, even if not perfect.

  5. Horrible people ! They make what ? $75,000 -$100,000 per year ? And they're as lazy and incompetent as that ? I don't feel its too draconian to call them thieves !

  6. anamericanperiodfullstopOctober 17, 2012 at 1:08 AM

    “Gearan and Lynch—misleading, bogus, not truthful: Why is it always We Irish?” - lord robert de somerby

    “we irish”? right, and what county might you be from?

    dont know about gearan and lynch, but somerby sure is misleading, bogus, not truthful.

    when you gonna start bashing your other ethnic heritage(s)? or wouldnt your “irish aunts“ approve?

    and how do u know they have full irish ancestry? just their names? assuming gearan is an irissh name, couldn't it be her husbands? couldnt lynch be only one quarter iriish ancestry like you likely are?


    1. anamericanperiodfullstopOctober 17, 2012 at 2:16 AM

      "The Canadian Human Rights Act prohibits discrimination on various grounds, and forbids the posting of hateful or contemptuous messages on the Internet."

      >>> anybody know a canadian attorney?

    2. " couldnt lynch be only one quarter iriish ancestry like you likely are?"

      and you thought i was kidding. nope.

      now where did i put my medicine bottle?

    3. "now where did I put my medicine bottle?"

      Try looking up YOUR *ss.

    4. couldn't be -- my head is firmly up there.

      perhaps i left it next to my cogent analysis of the racial makeup of David Axelrod...

  7. Well I wish Bob would leave out the (I'm assuming) tongue in cheek Irish bit, this is a great post, the kind of work we once to came to expect from the Daily Howler all the time.
    Deliberately misleading reportage IS worst than the worst Op Ed, even one that contains falsehoods.

    Rather than asking if they are bad people, it seems more relevant to ask, "What's
    the post's angle? Clearly they are trying to damage the Obama Administration, but why in this fashion? Are they telling themselves that "we just like to see it close?"
    Do they not understand most people are now media savvy enough to see through a
    story obviously being pimped by Lindsey Graham, who all rational people understand is basically a circus clown? Any letters correcting the story? Ombudsman in the house?
    With his posts yesterday, we have to start wondering if David in Ca isn't some sort of invention like Don Novelo's Lazlo. If the Daily Howler can quote Rice in a fashion that actually represents the basic flow of what She said, the obviously The Post had the space to do the same thing. Like he doesn't know that. I think it's a con.
    Since this matter of absurd, crude, opportunistic overreach on Romney's part
    came down with a thud last night, it would seem to take the steam out of nonsense.
    The Republicans may come to wish they had taken the high road, or at least not rolled around in the gutter, on Libya.

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