Trying to ignite a controversy by fabricating a quote from an Obama campaign deputy, members of the conservative press on Thursday lashed out at Stephanie Cutter for something she didn't say about the terrorist attacks on the United States embassy in Benghazi.
The gotcha attack received a crucial early boost from a BuzzFeed reporter who mischaracterized what Cutter said while appearing on CNN yesterday.
Pressed about key questions that remain about the embassy attack last month and what the security status was on the ground in Benghazi when four American were killed, Cutter noted on CNN that the topic had become politicized [emphasis added]:
In terms of the politicization of this -- you know, we are here at a debate, and I hope we get to talk about the debate -- but the entire reason this has become the political topic it is, it's because of Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan. It's a big part of their stump speech. And it's reckless and irresponsible what they're doing.
Cutter clearly stated that she believed the terrorist attack on the U.S. consulate had become a partisan political issue in the U.S. because Republicans were making it one during the campaign season.
That's not exactly a novel observation. As Republicans prepared to hold a recess hearing this week into the attack, a New York Times published an article headlined, "Before Hearings on Libya Attack, Charges of Playing Politics." And the paper's editors explained that they kept coverage of the hearing off the front-page, in part, because the issue had become so "politicized." (Fox News has led that "scandal" charge for weeks).
Romney himself shocked many observers when, as the Libya crisis was still unfolding, the candidate accused the Obama of sympathizing with "those who waged the attacks.'
"The conventional wisdom emerged in Washington almost immediately on Wednesday: Mitt Romney's handling of the violence in Egypt and Libya was a disaster," CBS News soon reported. The article quoted a prominent Republican strategist saying that Romney's reaction had suggested his "first instinct is to try to score political points."
Cutter pointing out the issue had evolved into a "political topic" isn't controversial or remotely outrageous. So the conservative media embellished the meaning of Cutter's remarks. They invented a controversy and ginned up the faux outrage by insisting Obama's deputy campaign manager said the Libya attack is only of importance, is only an issue at all, because of Republicans.
Cutter: Benghazi Is Only An Issue 'Because of Romney and Ryan'
Stephanie Cutter: Mitt Romney is "Entire Reason" Benghazi Attacks are a National Issue
Obama Spokesman Stephanie Cutter: Benghazi Is Only an Issue Because of Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan
Obama Campaign Official Stephanie Cutter: Benghazi Terrorist Attack 'Only an Issue because of Romney and Ryan'
Michelle Malkin's Twitchy:
Appalling disgrace: Stephanie Cutter says 'Benghazi Only An Issue Because of Romney and Ryan'
Note that several of the headlines included the phrase 'only an issue' in quotation marks, indicating it's a direct quote from Cutter. (Twitchy headline: "Cutter Says"). But it's not a direct quote because Cutter didn't say that. Instead, conservatives seemed be quoting a tweet from a reporter and then pretending it was a Cutter quote.
The tweet came from BuzzFeed's Andrew Kaczynski who tweeted an inaccurate description of Cutter's CNN appearance:
That wasn't accurate. And "is only an issue" represented Kacynski's interpretation of what Cutter said, not what she actually said. In subsequent tweets, Kaczynski inserted more accurate language, but conservatives preferred his original, off-the-mark "only an issue" telling of the tale and used to attack Cutter.
If Obama's deputy campaign manager thought the attack on the U.S. embassy were only an issue today because of the Romney and Ryan, she likely would have said so. Instead, she superficially said it became a political issue (a partisan issue) because Romney and Ryan were campaigning on it, which is true.