BENGHAZI BANANAS: When Liasson spoke!


The truth turned upside down: Do we have a banana republic press corps?

Actually, yes—we pretty much do. Ongoing complaints about Susan Rice have made this abundantly clear.

Regarding Rice, this new post at Media Matters refreshed us about what Mara Liasson said.

Alas! We were watching Special Report on October 10 when Liasson, on loan from NPR, offered a jaw-dropping groaner.

Liasson’s presentation simply reeked of rotting bananas. As she spoke, she recited a script which had been standard at Fox for several weeks at that point:
LIASSON (10/10/12): I think the most kind of mystifying part of this is that Susan Rice was so definitive and so out over the tip of her skis, as they say, on the Sunday talk shows. Why not say then we're doing an investigation to find out what happened instead of saying definitively it was a spontaneous protest that got hijacked? That has caused more trouble than attack itself.

BAIER: Which is often the case in this town.

LIASSON: Yes, often the case.
Even by the standards of "this town," that was an astounding misstatement. It came from a major star at NPR—a star who was on loan to Fox this night.

In that statement, Liasson recited a thoroughly standard Fox script. According to Liasson, Rice shouldn’t have been so "definitive" in her claims on those September 16 Sunday programs.

Instead of being so definitive, Rice should have "said that we're doing an investigation to find out what happened."

As Liasson spoke, the Fox News Channel's misled viewers were treated to a standard pile of disinformation. Because no one corrected or challenged Liasson, they had no way of knowing the truth:

They had no way of knowing that Rice did say, again and again, that the FBI was doing an investigation to find out what happened. They had no way of knowing that Rice had not been “definitive” in voicing her judgments—that she had made a point of saying the opposite.

Did Ambassador Rice behave in the way Liasson described on Fox? Actually, Liasson's presentation turned the truth on its head.

What did Rice actually say that day? For starters, here she was on the September 16 Meet the Press:
RICE (9/16/12): Well, let me tell you the best information we have at present. First of all, there is 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 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 that escalated into a much more violent episode.

Obviously, 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.
How ironic! On Meet the Press, Rice expressly said that the findings she was about to state were not "definitive." And sure enough: At the beginning and at the end of her presentation, Rice did "say we were doing an investigation to find out what happened."

Again and again, Rice stressed the fact that the findings she was expressing were only preliminary. But then, the same thing happened when she appeared on Face the Nation.

Here too, Liasson’s later description on Fox turned the truth on its head:
RICE (9/16/12): Well, Bob, let me tell you what we understand to be the assessment at present. First of all, very importantly, as you discussed with the [Libyan] president, there is an investigation that the United States government will launch, led by the FBI, that has begun—

SCHIEFFER: But they are not there yet.

RICE: They are not on the ground yet but they have already begun looking at all sorts of evidence of various sorts already available to them and to us. And they will get on the ground and continue the investigation. So we'll want to see the results of that investigation to draw any definitive conclusions.

But based on the best information we have to date, what our assessment is as of the present is in fact what—it began spontaneously in Benghazi as a reaction to what had transpired some hours earlier in Cairo, where, of course, as you know, there was a violent protest outside of our embassy sparked by this hateful video.

But soon after that spontaneous protest began outside of our consulate in Benghazi, we believe that it looks like extremist elements, individuals, joined in that effort with heavy weapons of the sort that are, unfortunately, readily now available in Libya post-revolution. And that it spun from there into something much, much more violent.
Once again, Rice made a point of telling Schieffer that we were doing an investigation to find out what happened—the very thing Liasson said she should have said. Once again, she explicitly said that the assessments she offered were not "definitive."

Rice's findings weren't "definitive." That was the very word Rice used, on both these Sunday programs!

On October 10, Liasson appeared on Fox and turned the truth on its head. As she did, she advanced a treasured script which got its start on Fox on September 17, courtesy of Liz Cheney. (For three early versions of this script, see THE DAILY HOWLER, 11/28/12.)

Do we live in a banana republic? More precisely, do we have a banana republic press corps? Liasson works at a very high level for National Public Radio. But when they loaned her out to Fox, she grossly misled millions of viewers. She turned simple truth on its head.

While we're at it, let’s recall this:

The ridiculous script that Liasson pimped was still being pimped this week, at the very highest level of the mainstream press corps! When Maureen Dowd wrote her latest column, the claim that Rice had spoken with too much “certitude" on those programs was the first complaint Dowd voiced.

Do we have a banana republic press corps? Trust us: No one will ever insist that NPR explain why Liasson said what she said. No one will ever insist that Liasson explain her howling misstatement.

No one will ever demand that Dowd explain the crackpot complaints in her latest column. As public editor, Margaret Sullivan will never attempt to explain why Dowd pimped those complaints.

One more degree of banana peel:

Rachel Maddow will never challenge Liasson or Dowd regarding their ridiculous howlers. Darlings! Inside your banana republic, the millionaires live very good lives.

Star-on-star rudeness is seen as distasteful. Inside the banana republic press corps, star-on-star crime isn’t done!

Liasson turned the truth on its head, disinforming millions of viewers. But you live in a banana republic.

Such conduct is quite standard there. There was never the slightest chance that Mara would have to explain.

One final note about royal orders: If Liasson was employed by Fox, there's a chance that Maddow (or Lawrence) would someday rise to cite her.

Because she’s employed by NPR, this will never be done.


  1. Expecting other stars to humiliate their peers is a fool's errand of the first order. Stop wasting your time and ours complaining that Rachel or Lawrence won't attack Dowd -- at least until it's possible to demonstrate that there was a different time when journalistic integrity would routinely lead to such attacks. Just stick to the very valuable service of identifying the behaviors, and hope that a critical mass of citizen or reader complaints can start changing the bad behavior.