Is There a Benghazi Media Cover-up?


Is there a mainstream media cover-up of an Obama administration cover-up in the wake of the Sept. 11 attack in Benghazi, Libya, which left four Americans dead?

Since Sept. 12, the San Francisco Chronicle, where I work, has run about 67 stories, items, editorials, columns and letters that mention Benghazi. In September, I criticized Susan Rice, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, and White House press secretary Jay Carney for claiming that an anti-Islam video had incited the attack, not al-Qaida-inspired terrorists.

Some readers tell me that they see the Chronicle’s failure to run a rash of front-page stories as proof of bias. They have a point, but they fail to appreciate the local emphasis in today’s front-page placement, especially during a presidential election and a World Series, which the Giants, incidentally, won 4-zip.

Most important is the resources issue. Most dailies don’t have foreign bureaus or reporters with the sources needed to break this type of story. “I don’t think there’s a bias issue, but we do have to rely on our primary news services,” Chronicle Editor Ward H. Bushee told me.

That’s where networks and other national news organizations come in — and many have produced important stories.

Before FBI investigators ventured into Benghazi, CNN reporter Arwa Damon found the journal of Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens, who died in Benghazi, at the mission. CNN then reported on Stevens’ concern about security in Benghazi.

From the Rose Garden the day after the attack, President Barack Obama declared, “We will work with the Libyan government to bring to justice the killers who attacked our people.” Yet on Oct. 19, The New York Times reported that Ansar al-Shariah leader and suspected Benghazi ringleader Ahmed Abu Khattala was seen in a crowded Benghazi luxury hotel sipping mango juice as he claimed that no Libyan authorities had questioned him and that, by the way, he had no plans to go into hiding.

That scoop stands in stark contrast to the Times’ failure to run a front-page story on a congressional hearing on the incident — for which the paper’s public editor, Margaret Sullivan, scolded the editors’ poor news judgment Oct. 11.

Fox News has been all over this story. On Friday, correspondent Jennifer Griffin reported that sources told her that a CIA team — including Tyrone Woods, who also died in Benghazi — had requested military backup during the attack but was told to “stand down.” The CIA dismissed the story as “inaccurate.”

A drone was deployed over Benghazi during the attack, which lasted about seven hours. Yet Defense Secretary Leon Panetta told reporters that he hadn’t known enough about what was happening in real time to authorize a military rescue.

The Chronicle’s most recent story on Benghazi ran Oct. 25. It reported that on Sept. 11, the State Department emailed the White House that Ansar al-Shariah had claimed responsibility for the attack. That would be shortly after 6 p.m. Eastern time. What did Obama know that night? When did he know it? And what did he do about it? Ditto Langley and the Pentagon.

Now ask yourself this: If George W. Bush were president and the press didn’t know what he did on the evening of the Benghazi attack, do you think there would be the same focus in the media? I think we know the answer.

Email Debra J. Saunders at: [email protected].

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