WaPo: Three Pinocchios for WH spin on Benghazi e-mails

posted at 9:21 am on May 21, 2013 by Ed Morrissey

It’s no surprise to Hot Air readers that the spin from the Left and the White House on the Benghazi e-mails collapses on even cursory scrutiny.  The spin, which was that the GOP had “doctored” the e-mails through “misquotes” that unfairly blamed the State Department for trying to protect itself from criticism over a lack of preparation, got dismantled by Jazz over the weekend.  No one had claimed they were ”quotes” in the first place, and when reading through the e-mail chain released belatedly by the White House, it became clear that State was demanding wholesale changes to the CIA’s bullet points for self-preservation.

Glenn Kessler, the Washington Post fact-checker, weighed in on this spin after White House strategist Dan Pfeiffer used it in his full Ginsburg on Sunday, giving Pfeiffer and his bosses three Pinocchios for misleading attacks on the reporters and the Republican note-takers. In particular, Kessler slams them for claiming that the full e-mails exonerated State when in fact they do just the opposite — and implicate the White House in the attempt to manipulate the talking points for political advantage:

When the White House last week released all of its e-mails, it became clear that Rhodes was responding at the tail end of a series of e-mail exchanges that largely discussed the State Department concerns.

In other words, the summary would have been fairly close if the commas had been removed and replaced with brackets: “We must make sure that the talking points reflect all agency equities [including those of the State Department] and we don’t want to undermine the FBI investigation.” …

Moreover, the full disclosure of e-mails makes it clear that White House officials were concerned about the State Department’s objections.

Referring to then deputy national security adviser (and now White House chief of staff), White House press officer Tommy Vietor wrote at 6:21 p.m.:   “Denis [McDonough] would also like to make sure the highlighted portions are fully coordinated with the State Department in the event they get inquiries.”  (He’s referring to sections in the draft that mention Ansar al-Sharia and to prior terror warnings in Benghazi — both of which were removed in the final draft.)

There is also the comment at 9:14 p.m. by a CIA official: “The State Department had major reservations with much or most of the document. We revised the document with those concerns in mind.”

Kessler concludes:

[T]he reporters involved have indicated they were told by their sources that these were summaries, taken from notes of e-mails that could not be kept. The fact that slightly different versions of the e-mails were reported by different journalists suggests there were different note-takers as well.

Indeed, Republicans would have been foolish to seriously doctor e-mails that the White House at any moment could have released (and eventually did). Clearly, of course, Republicans would put their own spin on what the e-mails meant, as they did in the House report. Given that the e-mails were almost certain to leak once they were sent to Capitol Hill, it’s a wonder the White House did not proactively release them earlier.

The burden of proof lies with the accuser. Despite Pfeiffer’s claim of political skullduggery, we see little evidence that much was at play here besides imprecise wordsmithing or editing errors by journalists.

Will those media outlets that played along with the White House spin reconsider their post-release reporting?   It depends on how seriously they take fact-checking by the Washington Post.  So far, even the Washington Post hasn’t taken it seriously enough to correct its May 19th story on the IRS, despite using canards that Kessler himself had already give four Pinocchios.

And once again, let’s ask: How did we go from the FBI concluding AQ involvement in the Benghazi attack on page 57 of the e-mail string to having no mention of organized terrorism at all in the talking points?

Update: Jim Geraghty gets the Headline of the Day: Washington Post Forced to Begin Using its Strategic Pinocchio Reserve.

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drudge has another report thats truely going to defy gravity because shit is about to the hit the ceiling.

phatfawzi on May 21, 2013 at 9:25 AM

Uh… the white house spin? Its more so network spin now.

This lie has helped at least three networks shamelessly try to bury this scandal. Obama can roll out dozens of lies and inconsistencies for months on a topic, but the media fins one flaw in the narrative and pounces.

Bensonofben on May 21, 2013 at 9:26 AM

Meh ….gop political side show
-lsm

cmsinaz on May 21, 2013 at 9:27 AM

Seems to me the guy who fabricated that ruckus, surely at the behest of someone in the White House, was Major Garrett. Has anyone contacted him for comment? His report was disgraceful.

BKeyser on May 21, 2013 at 9:28 AM

Mr. Speaker appoint Rudy Guliani for Special Prosecutor.

Now!

“The former diplomat who spoke with PJ Media regarded the whole enterprise as totally amateurish and likened it to the Mike Nichols film Charlie Wilson’s War about a clueless congressman who supplies Stingers to the Afghan guerrillas. “It’s as if Hillary and the others just watched that movie and said ‘Hey, let’s do that!’” the diplomat said.

He added that he and his colleagues think the leaking of General David Petraeus’ affair with his biographer Paula Broadwell was timed to silence the former CIA chief on these matters.

Regarding General Ham, military contacts of the diplomats tell them that AFRICOM had Special Ops “assets in place that could have come to the aid of the Benghazi consulate immediately (not in six hours).”

Ham was told by the White House not to send the aid to the trapped men, but Ham decided to disobey and did so anyway, whereupon the White House “called his deputy and had the deputy threaten to relieve Ham of his command.”

The White House motivation in all this is as yet unclear, but it is known the Ham retired quietly in April 2013 as head of AFRICOM.

PJ Media recognizes this is largely hearsay, but the two diplomats sounded quite credible. One of them was in a position of responsibility in a dangerous area of Iraq in 2004…”

http://pjmedia.com/rogerlsimon/2013/05/21/pjm-exclusive-ex-diplomats-report-new-benghazi-whistleblowers-with-info-devastating-to-clinton-and-obama/?singlepage=true

workingclass artist on May 21, 2013 at 9:29 AM

OK so this guy, in an off election year, actually covers something worthwhile.

By linking to him you give him credibility which will then be used to destroy conservatives when it matters, during an election. By linking to this guy you give him strength to hurt us when it matters.

He is corrupt, along with most of the media. Don’t help them hurt us. Ignore this guy.

GardenGnome on May 21, 2013 at 9:29 AM

phatfawzi on May 21, 2013 at 9:25 AM

I want see the actual testimony/report these ex-diplomats have to make before getting too excited, but…if what they say is verifiable, then, at the least, down goes Clinton.

Robert_Paulson on May 21, 2013 at 9:32 AM

Another troll free thread?

Or are libfree and the others going to show up and admit they were wrong? /ha ha ha ha

gwelf on May 21, 2013 at 9:33 AM

i do hope that HA tackles the Taranto piece from late yesterday

the whole thing must be read…wide ranging analysis on the current state of the country and it polity. no single except can suffice, but the first graf tells the overall direction

Democracy is in peril: That is an emerging theme of the liberal left’s response to the Obama scandals. The argument misses the point, no doubt deliberately. What we are witnessing now is not a crisis of democracy but a crisis of authority. The administrative state, in thrall to a decadent cultural elite, has lost the consent of the governed.

it is not a fun read…i don’t know which way it will flip…it depends on the voters and the machines that dominate the urban landscape

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887324787004578495452059152758.html?mod=rss_mobile_uber_feed

r keller on May 21, 2013 at 9:34 AM

How did we go from the FBI concluding AQ involvement in the Benghazi attack on page 57 of the e-mail string to having no mention of organized terrorism at all in the talking points?

The same way we go from “we did not want to prejudice the IRS report still under investigation” but they immed wanted to draw conclusions on Benghazi before one investigator was on scene and blame it on a YouTube video…

#youcanthaveitbothways

hillsoftx on May 21, 2013 at 9:40 AM

It’s no surprise to Hot Air readers that the spin from the Left and the White House on the Benghazi e-mails collapses on even cursory scrutiny.

With the exception of the HA trolls. Who as a group are on average just a little to the right of Lenin, with few exceptions.

farsighted on May 21, 2013 at 9:40 AM

When the White House last week released all of its e-mails..

But it didn’t release all of them. There is a 67 hour gap with no emails.

It only released the emails they had previously let a handful of people take a glimpse at — no copies or copying allowed. And those people only got to see them as part of a deal with the GOP to let the Brennan nomination, review, and confirmation process proceed.

farsighted on May 21, 2013 at 9:45 AM

Knock it off with the cartoony references to criminality, these thugs lied, just say it, they lied.

Bishop on May 21, 2013 at 9:53 AM

I was chagrined to find that the WaPo only puts these reports and ratings online where their lefty government neanderthal hard copy readers (while they are coffee breaking all morning on our dime) will never see it. The only reason they go on line is to check on BarakObama.com propaganda and porn (still on our dime).

ironked on May 21, 2013 at 9:55 AM

Screw the emails.

State Department, not CIA, issued stinger missiles to Al Quaida to overthrow Q’Daffy. Stevens was there to buy them back. Carter Ham wanted to send help and was told to stand down.

Just wonderful. Get a rope.

oldroy on May 21, 2013 at 9:57 AM

I couldn’t care less about email chains and edited talking points. In fact, if I hear that phrase one more time I’m going to take a hostage.

The obvious questions remain unasked.

1) What was Ambassador Stevens doing in Benghazi Libya on that day?

2) Did the President actually say to do every possible to help the State Dept and CIA personnel in trouble, and if he did, who countermanded him with a “stand down” order?

Answer these simple questions and you’ll solve the mystery. Is there no blogger or reporter with the balls to do it?

RobertE on May 21, 2013 at 9:57 AM

Okay, I’ll say it. It’s time someone did:

I think that there’s no doubt about the seriousness of the problem we’ve got. We have a cancer within-close to the presidency, that’s growing. It’s growing daily. It’s compounding. It grows geometrically now, because it compounds itself.

John Dean on March 21, 1973 at 10:15 AM

Chris of Rights on May 21, 2013 at 10:00 AM

RobertE on May 21, 2013 at 9:57 AM

Read the article linked by workingclass. I think you’ll find the answers to some of your questions there, and hints to the answers to the others.

Chris of Rights on May 21, 2013 at 10:01 AM

I think that whenever we rely on a liberal outlet for “fact checking” to support our case, we should include a caveat. Something along the lines of:

While the ‘fact checkers’ at ___ (here the Washington Post) lean liberal and often go out of their way to find conservative/GOP statements ‘false’ and liberal/DNC statements ‘true’, regardless of the truth or falseness of such statements, in this case even the liberal ___ (here the Washington Post) cannot find a way to claim or argue that ____’s statements were true, which proves just how false those statements were.

Otherwise, every time we rely upon the liberal “fact checker” to prove our point, we give them credit as an honest broker – which is unwise considering how dishonest they often are in their “fact checking”.

Monkeytoe on May 21, 2013 at 10:02 AM

In addition. We had no plan to deal with Q’Daffy weapons that were left behind. We’ll be reaping the rewards of Hillary and Barry’s excellent adventure for years to come.

Cue the Bush, Iraq, Afcrapistan comparisons.

Sarin gas flying around in Syria and our media is worried about a doctored email chain that doesn’t include the first 48 hours.

oldroy on May 21, 2013 at 10:02 AM

State Department, not CIA, issued stinger missiles to Al Quaida to overthrow Q’Daffy. Stevens was there to buy them back.

oldroy on May 21, 2013 at 9:57 AM

I have seen people state this theory many times. Is there some proof of this? I’m not saying there isn’t, just that I have not seen it.

Monkeytoe on May 21, 2013 at 10:04 AM

Lol…. spot on geraghty

cmsinaz on May 21, 2013 at 10:05 AM

State Department, not CIA, issued stinger missiles to Al Quaida to overthrow Q’Daffy. Stevens was there to buy them back.

oldroy on May 21, 2013 at 9:57 AM

I have seen people state this theory many times. Is there some proof of this? I’m not saying there isn’t, just that I have not seen it.

Monkeytoe on May 21, 2013 at 10:04 AM

No Not yet, but even Geraldo 2 weeks ago said that his sources were telling him they were smuggling weapons

Conservative4ev on May 21, 2013 at 10:06 AM

I have seen people state this theory many times. Is there some proof of this? I’m not saying there isn’t, just that I have not seen it.

Monkeytoe on May 21, 2013 at 10:04 AM

Supposedly, new whistleblowers will be coming forth Real Soon Now who will say exactly that. Read the article linked above by workingclass.

Chris of Rights on May 21, 2013 at 10:07 AM

At the time I wondered what the point of the “you can see the email but not have a copy” gimmick was. Now I know.

Let someone see it, don’t let them copy it, and then go after them for whatever inaccuracies occur as a result. Dirty.

rightmind on May 21, 2013 at 10:08 AM

I just went and read the article linked by workingclass. It says:

Regarding General Ham, military contacts of the diplomats tell them that AFRICOM had Special Ops “assets in place that could have come to the aid of the Benghazi consulate immediately (not in six hours).”

Ham was told by the White House not to send the aid to the trapped men, but Ham decided to disobey and did so anyway, whereupon the White House “called his deputy and had the deputy threaten to relieve Ham of his command.”

That, unfortunately does not speak very well of Ham. Yes, he originally was going to disobey an order to do the right thing, but once a clear consequence (losing his current command) was placed in front of him, he backed down. So, if true, it shows he knew the right thing to do was to save the people at the mission, but placed keeping his job over doing that right thing and saving lives.

Along with what appears to be Patreas’ willingness to turn a blind eye, this entire affair appears to be showing just how little moral fiber our military’s generals actually have.

Yes, I know they must follow civilian commands. But if they know it is wrong, then at the very least they should refuse and resign and tell the world about it. Instead, these 2 generals at the very least, care more about keeping their assignments than doing what is right.

Monkeytoe on May 21, 2013 at 10:14 AM

State Department, not CIA, issued stinger missiles to Al Quaida to overthrow Q’Daffy. Stevens was there to buy them back.

oldroy on May 21, 2013 at 9:57 AM

I have seen people state this theory many times. Is there some proof of this? I’m not saying there isn’t, just that I have not seen it.

Monkeytoe on May 21, 2013 at 10:04 AM

No Not yet, but even Geraldo 2 weeks ago said that his sources were telling him they were smuggling weapons

Conservative4ev on May 21, 2013 at 10:06 AM

Depends on your standard of proof, the liberals set it impossibly high.

Geraldo: My Sources Tell Me They Were in Benghazi to Round Up Missiles to Send to Syrian Rebels via Turkey

slickwillie2001 on May 21, 2013 at 10:15 AM

Just three? Not one of those e-mails links the attack on Benghazi and deaths of four Americans to a YouTube video.

Happy Nomad on May 21, 2013 at 10:31 AM

Read the article linked by workingclass. I think you’ll find the answers to some of your questions there, and hints to the answers to the others.

Chris of Rights on May 21, 2013 at 10:01 AM

I appreciate the followup. I just wonder why those questions weren’t at the forefront from the very beginning. Steve Kroft of 60 Minutes was granted a lengthy interview with the President the very next day. You would think those would have been the first questions he asked.

RobertE on May 21, 2013 at 10:33 AM

the spin from the Left and the White House on the Benghazi e-mails collapses on even cursory scrutiny.

If only there was a way to focus that spin toward the great plains to counteract any tornados devoloping there.

Happy Nomad on May 21, 2013 at 10:34 AM

Steve Kroft of 60 Minutes was granted a lengthy interview with the President the very next day. You would think those would have been the first questions he asked.

RobertE on May 21, 2013 at 10:33 AM

Oh please! Kroft was only given those interviews because he was not going to ask the rat-eared coward any uncomfortable questions.

Happy Nomad on May 21, 2013 at 10:44 AM

Monkeytoe on May 21, 2013 at 10:14 AM

Well we don’t know exactly.

The Deputy commander may have relieved Hamm then and there?

workingclass artist on May 21, 2013 at 12:02 PM

Steve Kroft of 60 Minutes was granted a lengthy interview with the President the very next day. You would think those would have been the first questions he asked.

RobertE on May 21, 2013 at 10:33 AM

Oh please! Kroft was only given those interviews because he was not going to ask the rat-eared coward any uncomfortable questions.

Happy Nomad on May 21, 2013 at 10:44 AM

Kroft is busy admiring the crispness of the crease in Il Duce’s pants…like Brooks.

workingclass artist on May 21, 2013 at 12:04 PM

Steve Kroft of 60 Minutes was granted a lengthy interview with the President the very next day. You would think those would have been the first questions he asked.

RobertE on May 21, 2013 at 10:33 AM

Oh please! Kroft was only given those interviews because he was not going to ask the rat-eared coward any uncomfortable questions.

Happy Nomad on May 21, 2013 at 10:44 AM

I suspect you are right, and that’s how the liberal media operates. That’s why they get the cold glare and the audit if any unexpected question is asked.

slickwillie2001 on May 21, 2013 at 12:17 PM