Mainstream media outlets attempted to cast doubt on White House press secretary Jay Carney's explanation that a memo advising Susan Rice on her TV appearances referred to global protests as opposed to the September 11 attack specifically. However Sunday news coverage from Rice's press tour demonstrates that discussions of Benghazi did include broader context of anti-American protests in the region, as Carney had asserted.
Conservative Watchdog Judicial Watch Releases White House Documents
Judicial Watch Releases Rhodes-Rice Email. On April 17, Judicial Watch released a series of documents including a September 14, 2012 email from Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes to then-United Nations ambassador Susan Rice outlining goals and advice for Rice's upcoming interviews on the Sunday talk shows. Media outlets concentrated on Rhode's instructions to “To underscore that these protests are rooted in an internet video and not a broader failure of policy.” [Judicial Watch, 4/17/214]
Mainstream Media Falsely Assert Emails Were Only About Benghazi
ABC's Jonathan Karl Hyped False Attack That Emails Prove A Political Cover-Up. On April 30 during a White House Press Briefing, ABC's Jonathan Karl echoed false conservative talking points about Benghazi while pressuring Carney to answer questions about the Rhodes email. Carney pushed back by explaining that the the email and its instructions to “underscore that these protests are rooted in an internet video” were about more than just Benghazi, and were in fact about larger issues in the region:
KARL: A big part, or the primary thrust of those shows. You just had an attack on a U.S. consulate in Benghazi; you had Americans killed. You knew full well that what Susan Rice was primarily going to be asked about was about that attack -- a terrorist attack on a U.S. consulate in Benghazi that killed four Americans.
CARNEY: Can I read the promo from your show, ABC This Week?
KARL: You can read all the promos you want. You don't acknowledge that these shows were going to be about the Benghazi attack?
CARNEY: Absolutely. About -- Jon, absolutely. And that's why, as members of Congress did, Ambassador Rice relied on points about the Benghazi attack that were produced by the CIA.
CARNEY: Hold on. “As American embassies throughout the region remain under fire” -- that's ABC This Week promo. Again, we prepare Q&As for administration officials based on what we think they're going to be asked.
KARL: But, Jay, you just --
CARNEY: Hold on, Jon, let me finish my sentence at least. When I come out here, when officials go out on daily shows or the Sunday shows, they have to anticipate -- we have to anticipate what they're going to be asked. It is often forgotten that during that time period there was an enormous amount of attention and focus appropriately on the fact that there were protesters, sometimes violent protesters, surrounding U.S. embassies -- causing us to draw down personnel at those embassies, causing great concern, understandably, about the safety of American personnel at other diplomatic facilities around the Muslim world. And that was a focus of a great deal of press attention, and thus would be -- as the promos indicate -- one of the areas of focus of those Sunday shows. And so a Q&A was prepared for that, as is the case every Sunday.
What was also the case is that Ambassador Rice was, on the matter of Benghazi, relying on talking points that were originally created for members of Congress at the request of members of Congress so that they could go on television and talk about what happened in Benghazi. [White House Press Briefing, 4/30/14]
MSNBC's Joe Scarborough: “Everybody Watching Knows It's About Benghazi.” On a May 1 segment of Morning Joe, host Joe Scarborough accused the White House and Jay Carney of lying about Benghazi. While discussing the controversial Rhodes email, Scarborough attempted to push back against the claim that the email was talking about broader issues in the Middle East, proclaiming that “Everybody watching knows it's about Benghazi” : (emphasis added)
SCARBOROUGH: Tell me what's the politics? Lying about something we all know they're lying about. With saying it's not about Benghazi when you know it's about Benghazi and we know it's about Benghazi and Chuck Todd knows it's about Benghazi. Everybody watching knows it's about Benghazi. And you're talking about how the Republicans -- you see the White House spokesperson lying on national television. You see an ABC news person shocked that he's lying and treating the press corps and Americans like their stupid, he's saying it's not about Benghazi. Republicans have been called fools for a year now saying this happened.
They don't release it with the original documents released. They finally reluctantly are forced to release it. Then you have the White House lying about it yesterday saying it's not about Benghazi. And your only reaction is, hey, Republicans better not overreact to the cover up. [MSNBC, Morning Joe, 5/1/14]
CNN's John King: “I Don't Know How You Can Say This Is Not About Benghazi.” On CNN's Inside Politics, host John King followed a clip of Jay Carney speaking at the White House press briefing on the scope of the Rhodes emails by proclaiming that he didn't “know how you can say this is not about Benghazi” :
KING: I don't know how.... Y'know, and I don't have two hands. I don't know how you can say this is not about Benghazi. If you look at the timeline of events... I can't understand why the White House did this. Because if you released it with all the others, you could say Ben Rhodes, when he wrote this document, was following a previous email that came over from the CIA saying here are the talking points. They could release this, people could say it was wrong, people could say it was misleading, and be done with it a year ago. Now people are saying, why are you hiding this?" [CNN, Inside Politics, 5/1/14]
National Journal's Ron Fournier: Emails Prove White House Put Politics Before The Truth. On CNN's Inside Politics, Fournier suggested that the emails reveal new insight that the White House was motivated by politics before connecting the response to the IRS scandal:
FOURNIER: Look, I'm not a conspiracy theorist, but I'm a stickler for the truth and a stickler for fighting back against spin. And this administration on this issue and many others has put politics first. And that's if there's a smoking gun here, it's the e-mail that shows Rhodes working for the president said that our goal here, our number one goal here, is showing on the Sunday talk shows through Susan Rice that the president is strong in foreign policy. That was the goal.
The goal wasn't to find out the truth and find out what happened and make sure this doesn't happen again. They put politics first. It began to undermine their credibility, starting with Benghazi and then the IRS attacks -- the IRS incident. And then, you know, with ACA, the health care, the idea that you can keep your doctor if you want to. This is undermining of his credibility. That's what's brought down his numbers. [CNN, Inside Politics, 4/30/14]
Kirsten Powers: “Every Question Was About Benghazi.” On Fox News' Outnumbered, co-host Kirsten Powers added to the chorus of those claiming that the email couldn't have been talking about anything other than Benghazi. Power's claimed that it was “quite clear that if you go back and get all of the transcripts of Sunday shows, every question was about Benghazi” :
POWERS: But I think what is particularly frustrating about this is listening to Jay Carney say, “Well its just so obvious, Ed if you just look and see that this is about the broader protests.” Well here is the thing. First question, are you lumping in a protest in Egypt which is terrible with four Americans being murdered? Is that what you're telling us? You actually just lump these things into one talking point, because it's kind of unbelievable but if it's true, we need more information about this. Second of all, I think that it's quite clear that if you go back and get all of the transcripts of the Sunday shows, every questions was about Benghazi. No one was asking about anything else. This was prep to talk about Benghazi. [Fox News, Outnumbered, 5/1/14]
Sunday Show Hosts Describe Anti-American Protests During Discussion Of Benghazi
Fox News Sunday Asked Rice About Anti-American Protests, Uprisings In Cairo, Sudan And Tunisia Before Benghazi. On September 16, 2012, when Rice appeared on Fox News Sunday, host Chris Wallace discussed many issues in the Middle East before getting to the Benghazi attacks:
WALLACE: This week, there have been anti-American protests in two dozen countries across the Islamic world. The White House says it has nothing to do with the president's policies.
WALLACE: Now, it may have sparked it but you critics say that the outpouring of outrage against the U.S. has everything to do with the U.S. policies, that we are disengaging from that part of the world, that we pulled out of Iraq, we are pulling out of Afghanistan, that Iran is continuing on with its nuclear program. And they say, our critics, that our allies no longer trust us, and our enemies no longer fear us.
WALLACE: Why are we asking all nongovernmental personnel to leave Sudan and Tunisia?
WALLACE: You talk about our influence and impact in the region. Our closest ally in the region, Israel, clearly doesn't feel that we are supporting them when it comes to confronting Iran. In fact, this past week, Prime Minister Netanyahu blasted the U.S. for its failure to set the same red lines as he has in terms of stopping Iran's nuclear program. [Fox Broadcasting, Fox News Sunday, 8/16/12]
This Week Talked To Rice “For More On What Happened” In “Benghazi, Libya, On Tuesday And The Wave Of Anti-American Protests And Violence.” When Rice appeared on ABC's This Week, host Jake Tapper asked the ambassador about the wave of violence and protests across the Middle East, including the attacks in Benghazi:
TAPPER: But first, the crisis that has the potential to shake up the presidential race, the murder of four Americans, including the U.S. ambassador, in Benghazi, Libya, on Tuesday, and the wave of anti-American protests and violence now sweeping the globe.
For more on what happened and why, let's bring in the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Dr. Susan Rice. Dr. Rice, thank you for joining us.
TAPPER: Look at this map, if you would. There have been protests around the world over the last several days. And President Obama pledged to repair America's relationships with the Muslim world. Why does the U.S. seem so impotent?
And why is the U.S. even less popular today in some of these Muslim and Arab countries than it was four years ago?
TAPPER: The United States has sent billions of dollars of U.S. taxpayer money to Egypt over the last few decades. And by definition, as you know, according to the State Department, Egypt is a major non-NATO ally of the United States. Why would President Obama say Egypt is not an ally? [ABC, This Week, 8/16/12]
Face The Nation Asked Rice About Demonstrations Across Muslim World, Benghazi, And Romney Campaign. CBS' Face The Nation hosted Rice on September 16 to discuss the “demonstrations in more than twenty cities,” the Romney campaign, and the Benghazi attacks:
BOB SCHIEFFER: There seems to be demonstrations in more than twenty cities as far as we know yesterday. Is there any sense that this is leveling off?
SCHIEFFER: The Romney campaign continues to criticize the administration. Paul Ryan was on the campaign trail yesterday saying that the Obama administration has diminished America's presence overseas and our image, a direct quote, “If we project-- if we project weakness, they come. If we are strong, our adversaries will not test us and our allies will respond to us.” What's your response to that?
SCHIEFFER: Do you think Mitt Romney spoke inappropriately when he criticized and issued a statement so early in this turmoil? [CBS, Face The Nation, 8/16/12]
Meet The Press Hosted Rice To Discuss The Benghazi Attacks, Anti-American Protests, And Evacuations From Embassies In Tunisia And Sudan. Host David Gregory asked Rice about a range of recent events in the Middle East when she appeared on the September 16, 2012 edition of Meet The Press:
GREGORY: Relative calm this morning in the Middle East after several days of intense anti-American protests raged across many parts of the Islamic world. But word this morning that the Obama administration has ordered the evacuation of all but emergency personnel from diplomatic missions in Tunisia and Sudan. And defense secretary Leon Panetta saying this morning, the Pentagon has deployed forces to several areas in an increased effort to protect U.S. personnel and property from the potential of violent protests, the latest consequences, of course, of this troubling unrest. Joining me now for the very latest, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Susan Rice. Ambassador Rice, welcome back to MEET THE PRESS.
GREGORY: The images as you well know are jarring to Americans watching all of this play out this week, and we'll share the map of all of this turmoil with our viewers to show the scale of it across not just the Arab world, but the entire Islamic world and flash points as well. In Egypt, of course, the protests outside the U.S. embassy there that Egyptian officials were slow to put down. This weekend in Pakistan, protests as well there. More anti-American rage. Also protests against the drone strikes. In Yemen, you also had arrests and some deaths outside of our U.S. embassy there. How much longer can Americans expect to see these troubling images and these protests go forward?
GREGORY: The president and the secretary of state have talked about a mob mentality. That's my words, not their words, but they talked about the-- the tyranny of mobs operating in this part of the world. Here's the reality, if you look at foreign aid--U.S. direct foreign aid to the two countries involved here, in Libya and Egypt, this is what you'd see: two hundred million since 2011 to Libya, over a billion a year to Egypt and yet Americans are seeing these kinds of protests and attacks on our own diplomats. Would-- what do you say to members of congress who are now weighing whether to suspend our aid to these countries if this is the response that America gets? [NBC, Meet The Press, 8/16/12]
State Of The Union Spoke To Rice About US Relations With Israel, Protests In The Middle East, And Benghazi. During Rice's appearance on CNN's State of the Union, host Candy Crowley asked about the Benghazi attacks, the wave of conflict in the Middle East, and U.S. relations with Israel:
CROWLEY: One of the things when I spoke with the Israeli prime minister that struck me was the conviction that he has that for certain Iran is building -- on its way to building a nuclear weapon, and his sense of urgency that at this moment the U.S. needs to set what he calls a “red line” for the U.S.
Does the U.S. share the conviction that Iran is, indeed, building a nuclear weapon? And, B, what about the concept of a red line?
CROWLEY: Let me move you to what's gone on in the Middle East in Arab countries and elsewhere. There is a “New York Times” story this morning that suggests that the administration thinks this is a foreshadowing of a fall that will see sustained instability. Does the administration expect to see these sorts of protests outside U.S. embassies and elsewhere throughout the fall?
CROWLEY: Do you at this moment feel that U.S. embassies abroad are secure?
CROWLEY: Why would one not look at what is going on in the Middle East now and say that the president's outreach to Muslims, which began at the beginning of his administration in Cairo and elsewhere has not worked because, yes, this video sparked it, but there is an underlying anti-Americanism that is very evident on the streets. So Why not look at it and think that this is this outreach has failed? [CNN, State of the Union, 8/16/12]