ABC News Privileges GOP Lie About Benghazi Document Redactions

Committee Has Actually Received Unredacted Versions Of The Documents

An article prominently highlighted Rep. Darrell Issa's (R-CA) criticisms of the State Department for providing “heavily redacted” documents related to the September 2012 attacks in Benghazi, Libya to the congressional committee investigating the attack. But as the article itself makes clear, congressional investigators were provided an unredacted version of the very document in question.

The article, headlined, “Blanket Redactions to Hillary Clinton's Benghazi Records 'Typical,' Issa Says” begins by highlighting the attack from the former chairman of the House Oversight Committee: “Rep. Darrell Issa ripped the State Department on Twitter today for heavily redacted records related to Hillary Clinton's involvement in the Obama administration's response to the 2012 Benghazi, Libya, terrorist attacks.”

But in the very next paragraph, the article establishes that Issa's attack was completely misleading, reporting:

However, though Issa suggested the redacted document was sent to the Benghazi Select Committee, which is investigating the circumstances surrounding the attack, the committee actually received an unredacted version, according to committee aides. The heavily redacted version Issa tweeted was actually the one publicly posted on the State Department website as part of its release of Clinton's emails as secretary of state last month.

ABC News' article demonstrates a type of misinformation Media Matters has termed "privileging the lie." ABC News is legitimizing Issa's claim by headlining and beginning the article with an allegation its own reporting shows to be false. But rather than make that falsehood the focus of the story, the report is framed around Issa's allegations.

According to The Washington Post, such framing distinctions are crucial because social science research shows that, “once an idea has been implanted in people's minds, it can be difficult to dislodge. Denials inherently require repeating the bad information, which may be one reason they can paradoxically reinforce it.” 

For this reason, former Media Matters senior fellow Jamison Foser has written, “If Candidate A lies about Candidate B, for example, the fact that Candidate A is lying should be the lede - otherwise the news report just drills the false claim into readers' and viewers' minds, allowing the misinformation to take hold before it is corrected.”

Such attention would be even more warranted given Issa's repeated lies and misstatements about congressional hearings.

In this case, however, ABC News privileged the lie, leaving its readers the worse off.