CNN: Media Outlets Misrepresented White House Benghazi Email

Blog ››› ››› ERIC HANANOKI

CNN is challenging the accuracy of reporting on a supposed email from a White House aide that seemed to suggest an effort to provide political cover for the administration following the September attacks in Benghazi, Libya. The new revelations regarding the email comes after the allegedly flawed reporting has spread through the media.

CNN host Jake Tapper reported today that a newly obtained email from White House aide Ben Rhodes about Benghazi "differs from how sources inaccurately quoted and paraphrased it in previous accounts to different media organizations." Tapper writes that the email shows that someone provided outlets like ABC News and The Weekly Standard with "inaccurate information" to make it appear that the White House was "more interested in the State Department's desire to remove mentions of specific terrorist groups and warnings about these groups so as to not bring criticism to the State Department than Rhodes' email actually stated."

From Tapper's report:

In the email sent on Friday, September 14, 2012, at 9:34 p.m., obtained by CNN from a U.S. government source, Rhodes wrote:

"All -

"Sorry to be late to this discussion. We need to resolve this in a way that respects all of the relevant equities, particularly the investigation.

"There is a ton of wrong information getting out into the public domain from Congress and people who are not particularly informed. Insofar as we have firmed up assessments that don't compromise intel or the investigation, we need to have the capability to correct the record, as there are significant policy and messaging ramifications that would flow from a hardened mis-impression.

"We can take this up tomorrow morning at deputies."

You can read the email HERE.

ABC News reported that Rhodes wrote: "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. We thus will work through the talking points tomorrow morning at the Deputies Committee meeting." The Weekly Standard reported that Rhodes "responded to the group, explaining that Nuland had raised valid concerns and advising that the issues would be resolved at a meeting of the National Security Council's Deputies Committee the following morning."

Whoever provided those quotes seemingly invented the notion that Rhodes wanted the concerns of the State Department specifically addressed. While Nuland, particularly, had expressed a desire to remove mentions of specific terrorist groups and CIA warnings about the increasingly dangerous assignment, Rhodes put no emphasis at all in his email on the State Department's concerns.

The allegedly inaccurate characterizations of the Rhodes email by ABC News and The Weekly Standard were repeated in numerous media outlets, and a Republican research document.  

ABC News' alleged misquote of the Rhodes email -- filed by Jonathan Karl -- was cited and repeated in numerous outlets, including USA Today, PoliticoThe Daily Mail, National Review Online, and Fox News. During Special Report's panel discussion on May 10, contributor Charles Krauthammer cited the email to claim the White House was more interested in "political cover for all the agencies and not about the truth."

KRAUTHAMMER: There is in one of the memos that you mentioned the deputy national security advisor, Ben Rhodes. So he is writing in the heat of this when they're trying to get revisions and redactions. He writes, "We must make sure that the talking points reflect all agency equities." Not reflect the truth, but reflect -- an "agency equity" is a way of saying, bureaucratese, reflects the interests and the political cover of all of the agencies. The point of the exercise is what he is saying, it has to reflect stuff that will be political cover for all the agencies and not about the truth. And we know now that it was a document completely rammed through by the White House and the State Department reflecting all their objections. And the bottom line is in the end they redacted the truth.

ABC News' report about the email was also cited in a Republican National Committee research document about "Obama's Bungled Benghazi Response":

The Weekly Standard's alleged mischaracterization, filed by Stephen Hayes, was cited and repeated in conservative outlets like, The American Thinker, Hot Air, and

Media Matters has previously noted numerous problems with the media's Benghazi reporting

UPDATE: NBC News' Chuck Todd is also reporting that he obtained Rhodes' email and it paints a "different picture" than previously reported and "contradicts" ABC News' Benghazi report.

UPDATE 2The Washington Post's Erik Wemple reports that a "spokesman for ABC News says, 'Assuming the email cited by Jake Tapper is accurate, it is consistent with the summary quoted by Jon Karl.'" While ABC News has reportedly suggested that Karl's reporting on the email simply provided a "summary," Karl's piece actually purported to present a direct quote from the Rhodes email -- a quote which does not appear in the email posted by CNN: 

Posted In
National Security & Foreign Policy
Fox News Channel, The Weekly Standard, ABC News
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