ABC News' Jonathan Karl hyped misleading accusations from Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) that the Obama administration obstructed investigations into Benghazi by not releasing an email showing the White House contacted YouTube with concerns about an anti-Islam video as the attacks unfolded. But the White House's contacts with YouTube were reported by ABC News mere days after the attacks and acknowledged by the White House.
In the days immediately following the attacks on U.S. diplomatic facilities in Benghazi, then-U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice and other members of the administration described the assault as developing from spontaneous protests against an anti-Islam video that had been posted on YouTube, which had inspired riots across the Muslim world. That conclusion was consistent with the analysis of the intelligence community at the time. But because it was later revealed that there was no protest in Benghazi, conservatives led by Fox News have since claimed the Obama administration engaged in a deliberate effort to deceive the American people about the cause of the attacks.
In a May 22 post, Karl quoted Issa's selective leak of a single sentence from a State Department email sent on the night of the attack. That sentence explains that the White House was reaching out to YouTube with concerns that the attack stemmed from the anti-Islam video. Issa, the Republican chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, claimed the State Department “has attempted to obstruct” the email's disclosure:
A still-classified State Department e-mail says that one of the first responses from the White House to the Benghazi attack was to contact YouTube to warn of the “ramifications” of allowing the posting of an anti-Islamic video, according to Rep. Darrell Issa, the Republican chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.
The subject line of the e-mail, which was sent at 9:11 p.m. Eastern Time on the night of the attack, is “Update on Response to actions - Libya.” The was written hours before the attack was over.
Issa has asked the White House to declassify and release the document. In the meantime he has inserted a sentence from the e-mail in the Congressional Record.
“White House is reaching out to U-Tube [sic] to advice ramification of the posting of the Pastor Jon video,” the e-mail reads, according to Issa.
“The e-mail shows the White House had hurried to settle on a false narrative -- one at odds with the conclusions reached by those on the ground -- before Americans were even out of harm's way or the intelligence community had made an impartial examination of available evidence,” Issa said.
Issa is calling on the White House to release an unclassified version of the document.
“While the information I have cited from this e-mail is clearly unclassified, the State Department has attempted to obstruct its disclosure by not providing Congress with an unclassified copy of this document,” Issa said.
Karl also misleads about the timing of the email. He reports that the State Department email was sent at 9:11 p.m. ET, “hours before the attack was over” and quoted Issa claiming that the email is significant because it shows “the White House had hurried to settle on a false narrative -- one at odds with the conclusions reached by those on the ground -- before Americans were even out of harm's way.”
But what Issa and Karl both ignored was that there were two different short attacks on the diplomatic facilities in Benghazi, separated by several hours. According to the Pentagon's timeline, the first assault began at 9:42 p.m. Benghazi time, or 3:42 p.m. ET. It was over by 5:30 p.m. ET, many hours before the State Department email referencing communications with YouTube. The second assault did not begin until 5:15 a.m. in Benghazi the next day -- 11:15 p.m.* in D.C., hours after the email was sent.
In May 2013, Karl apologized for “sloppy” and “inaccurate” reporting about administration emails regarding the generation of the CIA Benghazi talking points used by Susan Rice during media appearances. Last month he adopted false conservative distortions of a separate White House email regarding Rice's preparation.
*The timings of the assaults have been updated for accuracy.