CNN's special The Truth About Benghazi pushed long-debunked myths about the September 2012 attacks on U.S. diplomatic facilities in Benghazi, Libya, with host Erin Burnett and CNN correspondent John King asking questions that were answered months ago -- often by CNN itself -- and leaving important context out of many claims.
CNN's initial reporting on its Benghazi special raises serious questions about the integrity of the special, as factual inaccuracies and uncritical reporting privileges the conservative witch hunt.
At 10 PM on August 6, CNN's Erin Burnett will host an hour-long special, The Truth About Benghazi. To preview the special, Burnett appeared on The Situation Room. When asked by host Wolf Blitzer, "What's the biggest takeaway that you take yourself from this documentary?" Burnett responded, "Among our conclusions, Wolf, is that the administration was focused foremost on re-election. It's a painful truth, but it appears to be the case."
If that is one of Burnett's biggest takeaways from her special, it does not bode well for the factual accuracy of the upcoming report. The day following the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, President Obama addressed the nation in the Rose Garden where he referred to the attack as an "act of terror." Obama then referred to the attack as an "act of terror" twice on September 13, 2012, once in Colorado and once in Nevada.
Furthermore, on October 4, 2012, then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton convened an Accountability Review Board "to examine the facts and circumstances of the attacks." Additionally, the FBI began its investigation in the first days following the attack.
Hardly the work of an administration "focused foremost on re-election."
Earlier in the day, CNN's John King previewed the special with a CNN.com piece that was also full of manufactured Benghazi controversies that have been debunked numerous times. King's piece included questions such as "Why, especially given the weeks of threat warnings, there was no viable military option to assist the State Department personnel at the Benghazi mission," and "the warnings didn't reach the point where the State Department either sent more security help or ordered the Benghazi mission closed."
King's question regarding the lack of military options to assist the Benghazi mission has been answered numerous times, but most recently by Marine Corps Colonel George Bristol who told a congressional panel in late July that the site security team in Tripoli was given initial freedom of action to respond to the attack.
Also, King's query into the supposed warnings of a potential attack on the mission has no basis in fact. In September 2012, the Republican Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Mike Rogers (R-MI), appeared on Fox & Friends and declared, "I have seen nothing yet that indicates that they had information that could have prevented the attack."
Additionally, as The New York Times reported in October, 2012, there were no warnings that the embassy in Benghazi was going to be targeted:
Interviews with American officials and an examination of State Department documents do not reveal the kind of smoking gun Republicans have suggested would emerge in the attack's aftermath such as a warning that the diplomatic compound would be targeted and that was overlooked by administration officials.
State Department officials have asserted that there was no specific intelligence that warned of a large-scale attack on the diplomatic compound in Benghazi, which they asserted was unprecedented. The department said it was careful to weigh security with diplomats' need to meet with Libyan officials and citizens.
"The lethality of an armed, massed attack by dozens of individuals is something greater than we've ever seen in Libya over the last period that we've been there," Patrick F. Kennedy, the State Department's under secretary for management, told reporters at a news conference on Oct. 10.
Burnett and King's inaccurate reporting isn't the only reason to doubt the veracity of the forthcoming CNN special. A "Benghazi attack timeline" posted on CNN's website in preparation for the event features multiple errors. CNN gets the name of the deputy chief of mission in Libya wrong (his name is Gregory Hicks, not Gregory Wallace, as CNN claims). The timeline also states that the final attack on the annex began at 4:00 a.m. local time; both the State Department's Accountability Review Board and the Pentagon say it began at 5:15 a.m.
Looks like someone at CNN told contributor Erick Erickson to post an update to his smear of Washington Post reporter Greg Sargent, detailed here yesterday. Unfortunately, Erickson's update is just further nonsense, but I won't go into that here -- if you're interested, just read Erickson's update along with my post from yesterday and Sargent's.
Erickson's continued dishonesty about what Sargent wrote isn't really the interesting part -- after all, continued dishonesty is an Erickson specialty. The interesting part is the editor's note at the end of the update:
Editor's Note: The blog is a place for a freewheeling exchange of ideas and opinions. CNN does not endorse anything said by its contributors.
It's great that CNN is starting to feel some heat over its relationship with Erickson, but this doesn't fly. Erickson's CNN-hosted attack on Sargent wasn't an "exchange of ideas," it was a one-sided hit job. Even the update isn't an "exchange of ideas and opinions" -- if it was, it would contain some views of what happened other than Erickson's.
And the part about CNN not endorsing anything its contributors say? There are a few problems with that. CNN pays Erick Erickson. It gives him a television and internet platform. It promotes his comments. CNN's John King invites Erickson to attack liberals, then adopts Erickson's attacks in his own reporting. And in doing so, King ignores Erickson's history of doing the very things he attacks liberals for.
CNN can't credibly claim Erickson is just part of a "freewheeling exchange of ideas" when it treats him with kid gloves. And it can't credibly say it doesn't endorse his comments when John King invites him to level hypocritical attacks on liberals, then amplifies those attacks, all without questioning Erickson about the hypocrisy. Repeatedly.
If CNN wants to distance itself from Erickson, it's going to have to do better than this.
Washington Post reporter Greg Sargent notes that John King's CNN blog has posted a bogus attack on Sargent by CNN contributor Erick Erickson. Erickson pretends Sargent "encourag[ed] unions in Wisconsin to get violent," which, as Sargent ably explains, is nonsense. In fact, even Erickson acknowledges that Sargent was being sarcastic, though he does not seem to grasp the fact that Sargent was tweaking conservatives who have been so eager to decry union violence that they seem to be rooting for it to occur, just so they have something to complain about.
Anyway, Sargent doesn't need my help debunking Erickson's silly claims. And, as Sargent notes, the bigger problem is that CNN and John King are giving those silly claims a platform:
This kind of misdirection and and sleight of hand, of course, is par for the course for a huckster like Erickson. But you'd think King and the professional journalists at CNN would check out the facts of the matter before disseminating such an incendiary charge, particularly given Erickson's track record.
At bottom this is another cautionary tale, akin to the recent episodes involving Andrew Breitbart, about what happens when real news organizations let people like Erickson smuggle their complete absence of standards onto their platform. I'm assuming King and the other reputable journalists at CNN are unaware of what Erickson did here, since it's hard to imagine they'd be okay with CNN.com enabling Erickson's efforts to smear another reporter for political reasons.
Now, here's what's really appalling about all this: CNN and John King are promoting Erick Erickson's false claims about Sargent without noting Erickson's own history of violent rhetoric. This is becoming something of a habit for King and CNN, who have repeatedly invited Erickson to denounce rhetoric coming from liberals, all while politely avoiding mention of Erickson's own track record. Which, for those who are unfamiliar with Erickson's work, includes talking about pulling shotguns on government officials and beating state legislators to a "bloody pulp for being an idiot."
So, to sum up: CNN and John King are ignoring CNN contributor Erick Erickson's history of violent rhetoric, even as they invite him to criticize liberals' rhetoric and promote his falsehoods about Sargent.
Fox News promoted Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer's claim that the federal government has failed to "do its job" on border security without mentioning that border security efforts have increased measurably under President Obama: Deportations, drug seizures, and the number of Border Patrol agents have all increased.
CNN's Erick Erickson responds to criticism of a Red State post declaring that "mass bloodshed" may be necessary if Roe isn't overturned:
First, I'd like to point out that I did not, contrary to the claims, write the post. However, I do stand by it.
Second, the accusation of the left is that both I and this site are calling for armed rebellion due to the persistent legal killing of children in this country. They are both lying and ignorant of history.
Erickson then spends a dozen paragraphs not addressing the key wording in the original post. Here it is again:
Here at RedState, we too have drawn a line. We will not endorse any candidate who will not reject the judicial usurpation of Roe v. Wade and affirm that the unborn are no less entitled to a right to live simply because of their size or their physical location. Those who wish to write on the front page of RedState must make the same pledge. The reason for this is simple: once before, our nation was forced to repudiate the Supreme Court with mass bloodshed. We remain steadfast in our belief that this will not be necessary again, but only if those committed to justice do not waiver or compromise, and send a clear and unmistakable signal to their elected officials of what must be necessary to earn our support. [Emphasis added]
Erickson responds to criticism of that paragraph by insisting that Red State condemns violence:
We at RedState are mindful that there are those so frustrated with this country allowing the lawful killing of children that those people are perfectly willing to take a life to preserve a life.
We not only do not condone that, but we condemn it.
But the paragraph in question said that mass bloodshed will be necessary if "those committed to justice" fail to "send a clear and unmistakable signal to their elected officials of what must be necessary to earn our support."
It didn't say mass bloodshed will unfortunately but inevitably occur if those conditions are not met. It said mass bloodshed will be necessary.
In responding to criticism of the post, Erickson addressed that wording only by saying it "sound[s] like a caveat, but it is not a caveat to any of us here." Whatever that means. He did, however, say he stands by the post, so … here we are: Erick Erickson thinks "mass bloodshed" will be necessary if anti-abortion activists fail to convey to their elected officials the importance of overturning Roe v. Wade. Not just inevitable: "Necessary."
And tonight, CNN will feature him as a contributor to its State of the Union coverage.
Back on January 11, CNN's John King hosted CNN contributor Erick Erickson for a discussion of inflammatory rhetoric. King didn't mention Erickson's history of violent rhetoric -- which includes talking about beating elected officials to a "bloody pulp" and pulling a shotgun on government workers -- even as Erickson criticized liberals' rhetoric. Even worse, King quested his Democratic guest about Erickson's criticism of liberals while ignoring Erickson's own rhetoric.
Last Thursday, King again ignored Erickson's pattern of violent comments during a conversation about controversial rhetoric. After playing a clip of Democratic Congressman Steve Cohen accusing Republicans of "a big lie just like Goebbels" and another clip of Cohen responding to criticism of the comment, King asked Erickson if Cohen's response was sufficient:
KING: Mr. Erickson is speaking for the right. It wasn't quite an apology, but does Mr. Cohen's statement today satisfy you?
Later, King prompted Erickson to declare Cohen's statement over the line:
KING: Nazi -- Nazi seems a little beyond the line --
ERICKSON: It absolutely is beyond the pale, but I don't think we should be shocked that this is continuing. It's not going to change.
Now, it's absolutely incredible that John King would invite Erick Erickson to denounce a Democrat's "beyond the line" rhetoric without mentioning that Erickson himself has crossed a line or two by talking about beating elected officials to a bloody pulp. What's even more incredible is that during the segment, King accused Democrats of hypocrisy for not criticizing Cohen after calling for civility:
KING: Now we would like to bring you tonight the outrage of all the senior Democrats who said that what Congressman Cohen said violated their call for more civility. We can't bring it to you because none of them said anything publicly and they might maybe should be asked about that…
And maybe CNN's John King should ask CNN's Erick Erickson about his pattern of violent rhetoric, including his statement over the weekend that "mass bloodshed" may be necessary if Roe v. Wade isn't overturned, rather than simply encouraging Erickson to attack progressives for their rhetoric. While chiding Democrats for hypocrisy, King is encouraging his CNN colleague to engage in it -- and helping him hide his hypocrisy.
Yesterday, news broke that a bomb "capable of inflicting multiple casualties" was found along a Martin Luther King Day parade route in Spokane, Washington. The FBI has described bomb as a case of "domestic terrorism."
Today, CNN's Erick Erickson and National Review's Jim Geraghty had the following Twitter exchange:
Erickson has previously spoken of pulling shotguns on government officials and beating state legislators to a "bloody pulp for being an idiot"and written that "metaphorically speaking," Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner should get "punched in the face."
In other Erickson news, CNN has chosen him to provide "insight and analysis" for its State of the Union coverage.
Interestingly, on last night's edition of CNN's John King, USA, King apologized for a guest's use of the word "crosshairs":
Before we go to break, I want to make a quick point. We were just having a discussion about the Chicago mayoral race, just a moment ago. My friend Andy Shaw, who now works for a good government group out there, used the term "in the crosshairs" in talking about the candidates out there. We're trying-we're trying to get away from that language. Andy is a good friend, he's covered politics for a long time, but we're trying to get away from using that kind of language. We won't always be perfect. So hold us accountable when we don't meet your standards.
So, when a CNN guest uses the term "in the crosshairs" to describe political targeting, King apologizes to his audience and says "we're trying to get away from that language." And, at the same time, CNN gives a contributor who routinely uses far more graphically violent rhetoric a plum gig analyzing the State of the Union. And remember: Last week, King hosted Erickson for a discussion of inflammatory rhetoric, and adopted Erickson's criticisms of liberals' rhetoric without ever asking Erickson about his own track record.
I'm starting to think CNN's Erick Erickson has some anger issues. How else to explain the intensity with which he alternates between pious declarations of his Christianity and fantasies about physical assaults on government officials?
As you may remember, Erickson has spoken of pulling shotguns on government officials and beating state legislators to a "bloody pulp for being an idiot." And now he writes that "metaphorically speaking," Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner should get "punched in the face":
Metaphorically Speaking, the Adults Should be Getting Punched
I realize we are not supposed to use "angry" rhetoric these days, but columns like this one in USA Today by Jody Bottum demand an answer.
The title is, "Where are adults in debt ceiling talks?" If there is justice in the world, the only correct answer is, "Getting punched in the face, though metaphorically speaking."
We can forgive a contributing editor of the Weekly Standard for taking to USA Today to take shots — also metaphorical — at Jim DeMint.
But to juxtapose Jim DeMint as a child and Tim Geithner as an adult is a bit much — let alone Geithner as the conservative and DeMint as the radical.
Just don't expect CNN's John King to ask Erickson about this the next time Erickson attacks liberals for their rhetoric.
This is kind of incredible.
CNN contributor Erick Erickson appeared on John King, USA last night for a discussion of inflammatory rhetoric -- and, although Erickson criticized comments by various liberals, King never asked Erickson about his own track record of violent rhetoric. Instead, King simply asked his Democratic guest about the examples Erickson raised.
ERICK ERICKSON, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: You know it's always good to rethink how you say things, John. Except that this particular time the way the conversation got started was blaming Sarah Palin and blaming the Tea Party activists for having something to do with this, which we know wasn't the case. We weren't willing to have this conversation back when George Bush was president and MoveOn.org had people marching down the street with Bush equals Hitler posters.
King responded by asking Democratic pollster Cornell Belcher "[D]oes Erick have a point?" Then, a little later, King again adopted Erickson's example in questioning Belcher:
KING: Let me jump into the conversation. Then so in 2006 when MoveOn.org was saying those things, Cornell, is that a bad thing?
Erickson promptly interrupted Belcher's response and rattled off several more examples of inflammatory rhetoric he claims came from liberals.
At no point in the entire appearance did host John King ask Erickson -- or even mention -- a single example of inflammatory language used by conservatives. What makes that all the more incredible is that Erick Erickson has famously called former Supreme Court justice David Souter a "goat fucking child molester" and spoken of pulling shotguns on government officials and beating state legislators to a "bloody pulp for being an idiot."
John King didn't mention any of that. He just let Erickson go on about how liberals are responsible for inflammatory rhetoric -- then he pressed his Democratic guest about Erickson's examples.
Like I said: Incredible.
Here's what's even more incredible: Following that segment, in which John King dutifully parroted Erickson's criticisms of liberals while ignoring Erickson's own history of violent rhetoric, Erickson took to his blog to denounce the media for focusing only on the rhetorical excesses of conservatives. And in the process, Erickson claimed that unlike conservatives, liberals are guilty of actual violence:
I'll meet you half way on that, just for the sake of argument, and say the left and right can at times be equally vile, but only for the sake of argument.
But really, maybe the right's history of rhetoric is greater if only because the left goes beyond rhetoric to outright violence.
From the August 30 edition of CNN's John King, USA:
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Just how racist does Mark Williams have to be before CNN will refuse to invite him on its network?
Williams has a long history of incendiary and racially charged remarks. CNN knows about this-- heck, Anderson Cooper called him out on it last September. But it has never stopped CNN from repeatedly inviting him on.
Williams wrote a July 15 blog post in which he not only attacked the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People for the use of "colored people" in its name as racist -- an idea he also promoted in an appearance on the July 14 edition of CNN's The Situation Room, in a debate with Roland Martin -- he also portrayed blacks as lazy and NAACP leader Ben Jealous as supporting the repeal of civil-rights laws so that "massa" would again take care of blacks: "As Coloreds we must have somebody care for us otherwise we would be on our own, have to think for ourselves and make decisions!"
Williams' post was so incendiary that he was forced to remove it, and the tea party organizations in which he has been active are working to separate themselves from him and demoting his involvement with them.
You'd think that would be a sign that Williams is not someone who should be invited on CNN. You'd be wrong.
Was it the opportunity to snag a glowing profile from a right-wing outlet?
Could it have been the chance to reach Lou Dobbs' coveted demographic of aging anti-immigrant conspiracy theorists?
Perhaps he was given some sort of clue as to how glowing the profile would end up? There isn't really a harsh word in the piece… they cover his dashingly good looks, his affection for Ailes-Hannity-O'Reilly, his purported fairness to both sides, that he worked at the AP once upon a time when it was still fair, and all of the big politicos appearing on his show. The profile's author, Ronald Kessler, even explains to his readers what it means for King to "keep kosher" since his conversion to Judaism.
The only thing that makes sense is the idea that King agreed to the interview because he knew in advance that it would be a puff-piece. Then again, maybe he didn't know Newsmax's history of right-wing incendiary misinformation. For example, back in September the publication ran a column (eventually taken down) stating that a military coup "to resolve the 'Obama problem'" was not "unrealistic." There's a lot more where that came from.
Check out the interview's gems after the break.
From the June 29 edition of CNN Newsroom:
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From the June 28 edition of CNN's John King, USA:
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