TMZ obtained an internal CNN “talking points” email sent by Managing Editor Mark Whitaker, defending Candy Crowley amid criticism of her performance at Tuesday’s debate. But not only does Whitaker misrepresent Crowley’s “fact-check” to make it sound more accurate, he also acknowledges that there is disagreement over whether President Obama referred to Benghazi as an “act of terror” in his Rose Garden speech (h/t Powerline):
“Let’s start with a big round of applause for Candy Crowley for a superb job under the most difficult circumstances imaginable. She and her team had to select and sequence questions in a matter of hours, and then she had to deal with the tricky format, the nervous questioners, the aggressive debaters, all while shutting out the pre-debate attempts to spin and intimidate her. She pulled it off masterfully.
The reviews on Candy’s performance have been overwhelmingly positive but Romney supporters are going after her on two points, no doubt because their man did not have as good a night as he had in Denver. On the legitimacy of Candy fact-checking Romney on Obama’s Rose Garden statement, it should be stressed that she was just stating a point of fact: Obama did talk about an act (or acts) of terror, no matter what you think he meant by that at the time. On why Obama got more time to speak, it should be noted that Candy and her commission producers tried to keep it even but that Obama went on longer largely because he speaks more slowly. We’re going to do a word count to see whether, as in Denver, Romney actually got more words in even if he talked for a shorter period of time.“
Nobody disputes that Obama “talk[ed] about an act (or acts) of terror” in the Rose Garden speech. But that’s not what Candy Crowley alleged during her impromptu “fact-check.” She claimed Obama specifically called Benghazi an act of terror, which is not clear from the speech. Here’s the exchange from the debate:
Romney: You said in the Rose Garden, the day after the attack, it was an act of terror? It was not a spontaneous demonstration? Is that what you’re saying?
Obama: Please proceed, Governor.
Romney: I want to make sure we get that for the record, because it took the president 14 days before he called the attack in Benghazi an act of terror.
Obama: Get the transcript.
Crowley: He did indeed, sir, call it an act of terror. [Applause from audience].
Obama: Can you say that a little louder Candy?
Crowley: [Laughing] He did call it an act of terror.
Whitaker also adds, “no matter what you think he meant by that at the time.” In other words, the meaning of the president’s speech was not cut-and-dried at the time, as Crowley claimed.
If she had interrupted to say that Obama had used the general term “act of terror” in the speech, as Whitaker implies she did in the email, nobody would have had a problem with it. But instead, she made a factual judgment on a point that was up for debate. Contrary to Whitaker’s email, it’s not only Romney supporters who thought she was out of line.