A brief break from election news for an update on the growing controversy over CBS’s unearthed Obama interview about Benghazi. I wrote a longer post on this yesterday, but the basics are that CBS sat on footage from an Obama interview on September 12, when he declined point-blank to call Benghazi a terrorist attack shortly after his Rose Garden speech. CBS didn’t release this footage after the second debate–when it actually mattered–and instead, waited until two days before the election.
Washington Post media reporter Erik Wemple rips into the network:
Had this clip embedded itself in the news cycle after the town-hall debate, the following would have happened:
1) CBS News would have reaped millions of page views;
2) Mitt Romney’s slip-up in the town-hall debate over this issue would no longer look like as a slip-up; it’d look like a quest for accountability;
3) Team Obama would have had to spend days responding to questions about the discrepancy between what he said in the town-hall debate and what he’d told Kroft; and
4.) After that town-hall debate, Romney pretty much dropped Libya as a talking point. In a strategic move much observed by pundits, he declined to pound away on the topic in the final presidential debate, which centered on foreign policy. Had CBS News released what it had on hand, perhaps Romney would have had charged ahead with a Libya message.
As Wemple writes, there is basically no logical reason why CBS wouldn’t release the video, other than bias or unparalleled levels of incompetence. Not only did CBS have a public responsibility to do so, it would have also benefited from the millions of page-views and the acknowledgement that it had a major scoop all the way back on September 12.
It’s not that CBS forgot about the interview, or didn’t realize it was important, either. On October 23, CBS reported on State Department emails that indicated the administration knew the attack was terrorism within hours. Obama’s “60 Minutes” interview was quoted in the article, but it was used to suggest the opposite of what the full interview shows:
The emails are just a few in what are likely a large number traded throughout the night. They are likely to become part of the ongoing political debate over whether the administration attempted to mislead in saying the assault was an outgrowth of a protest, rather than a planned attack by terrorists.
Fourteen hours after the attack, President Obama sat down with Steve Kroft of “60 Minutes” for a previously scheduled interview and said he did not believe it was simply due to mob violence.
“You’re right that this is not a situation that was — exactly the same as what happened in Egypt and my suspicion is that there are folks involved in this who were looking to target Americans from the start,” Mr. Obama said.
Yes, Obama said on September 12 that the Benghazi attack wasn’t “exactly the same” as what happened in Egypt. But he also refused to call it a terrorist attack when asked directly. Wouldn’t the second item have been a lot more relevant to the question at hand?