With Benghazi, Conservatives Presume All Journalism Is Dishonest As Their Own
Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT
With their conspiratorial, knee-jerk claim that New York Times' lengthy investigation into the Benghazi terror attack of 2012 was really an elaborate effort to aid Hillary Clinton if she runs for president in three years -- to "clear the deck" as Chris Wallace put it -- right-wing journalists seem to have mistaken the newspaper of record for one of their own conservative "news" outlets. It's the right-wing media, not the Times, that has a record of peddling purposeful misinformation for purely political reasons.
David Kirkpatrick's Times series, "A Deadly Mix In Benghazi," undercut a number of favorite right-wing Benghazi talking points. Among them, the Times debunked claims that an anti-Islamic YouTube video played no role in motivating the terror attacks -- a central tenet of the Benghazi hoax that conservatives have deployed to attack President Obama, Hillary Clinton, Susan Rice, and others for engaging in a "cover-up" of the attack.
Since its publication, far-right commentators have have rushed to engage in lazy speculation about what motivated the Times to investigate Benghazi (aside from the fact that far-right voices have demanded for more than a year that news organizations like the New York Times investigate Benghazi).
But when the Times came to the 'wrong' conclusions and Fox News and friends needed to explain to their loyal customers why the year-long Benghazi tale they've been telling had been demolished by the Times, critics announced the story was all part of some vast, left-wing conspiracy.
The allegation is pure conjecture, though. Conservatives don't, and can't, cite any sources inside the Times who confirm the sprawling claim of a Clinton cover-up because there's zero evidence to bolster the allegation. Instead, the fact that the Times never mentioned Hillary Clinton in its Benghazi report simply confirms that the report was all about Hillary Clinton. And the fact that a Times editor pointedly denied the report was about Clinton simply confirms that the report was all about Clinton. (See how that convenient, closed loop works?)
Conservatives have become so used to the idea that their own outlets are, and should be, used to advance political agendas that they've convinced themselves that's how reputable news organizations go about gathering and disseminating information.
In this case, conservatives have convinced themselves, without being weighted down by facts or evidence, that senior editors at the Times assign long-term investigative pieces based on how the predetermined outcome of the reporting will benefit Democratic politicians, and specifically Democratic politicians who might run for president in 2016. It's journalism as political cover. Or, pretty much the opposite of how the trade is actually practiced.
The notion is pure fantasy, not to mention insulting, and reveals a complete lack of understanding of how journalism functions in a democratic society. The Fox and Republican assumption is that journalists act as unpaid advisers and advocates for politicians and that their work revolves around advancing a partisan agenda. Why do they think that?
Because that's how conservatives behave. And they're often quite open about it.
*In 2011, Fox News "analyst" Dick Morris admitted he had stopped "dumping on" Republican candidate Mitt Romney not because he necessarily approved of the candidate, but because if he became the party's nominee Morris wanted to make sure he could help Romney defeat Obama.
*Two days after Mitt Romney lost the 2012 election, Washington Post blogger Jennifer Rubin, who had for months confidently predicted a Republican victory, admitted that Romney had run an awful campaign and that his prospects for victory were always dim.
*Following Barack Obama's 2008 presidential victory, Fox News executive Bill Sammon admitted in public that during the final days of the campaign he went on the air and purposefully spread misinformation about whether the candidate "advocated socialism," a claim that Sammon privately thought was "rather far-fetched."
In those three cases, high-profile conservative journalists and pundits misled their readers and viewers in hopes of advancing the Republican agenda and defeating Democrats at the polls. But that's not journalism, that's propaganda. While conservatives now try to spin the Times' damaging Benghazi report, they're finding comfort in the hollow idea that all journalists operate under that kind of Fox News model.
Thankfully they do not.