The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The Wall Street Journal provided incomplete reporting of GOP criticism that President Obama downplayed the role of terrorism in the attacks on a U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya. None of these newspapers provided their readers with Obama's actual comments labeling the attacks an “act of terror,” thereby giving undue weight to Republican attacks.
Obama: “I Acknowledged That This Was An Act Of Terrorism”
Obama Reminds Press Of His Initial Comments On Benghazi. After Associated Press reporter Julie Pace asked President Obama at a May 13 press conference if he stood by his administration's assertions “that the [Benghazi] talking points were not purposely changed to downplay the prospects of terrorism,” Obama responded by noting he referred to Benghazi as an “act of terrorism” the day after the attacks [emphasis added]:
OBAMA: With respect to Benghazi, we've now seen this argument that's been made by some folks primarily up on Capitol Hill for months now. And I've just got to say -- here's what we know. Americans died in Benghazi. What we also know is clearly they were not in a position where they were adequately protected. The day after it happened, I acknowledged that this was an act of terrorism. And what I pledged to the American people was that we would find out what happened, we would make sure that it did not happen again, and we would make sure that we held accountable those who had perpetrated this terrible crime. [WhiteHouse.gov, 5/13/13]
Media Run With GOP Critique But Don't Report Obama's Comments That Address GOP Critique
NYT: Republicans Accused Obama Administration Of Trying To “Cover Up The Fact That The Benghazi Attacks Were Linked To Terrorism.” The New York Times' report on President Obama's May 13 remarks ignored Obama's comments during the press conference that he referred to an act of terror following the attacks, and instead highlighted Republican claim that the administration sought to downplay terrorism. From The New York Times:
Responding to Republican accusations that the administration had tried to cover up the fact that the Benghazi attacks were linked to terrorism, Mr. Obama noted that he sent the head of the National Counterterrorism Center to brief lawmakers three days after Susan Rice, the ambassador to the United Nations, appeared on Sunday-morning talk shows.
“Who executes some sort of cover-up or effort to tamp things down for three days?” he said. “This whole thing defies logic.” [The New York Times, 5/13/13]
Wash. Post: Republicans Say Editing Of Talking Points Is “Evidence That Obama Sought To Downplay” Link To Terrorism In Benghazi Attacks. From The Washington Post's report on President Obama's May 13 press conference:
The final version did not include earlier references to a specific terrorist group involved in the attacks, an omission Congressional Republicans have pointed to as evidence that Obama sought to downplay the link during a then-close presidential race.
“The whole issue of talking points throughout this process has been a side show,” Obama said Monday. “Suddenly three days ago this gets spun up as if there is something new to the story. There's no there there.”
Obama continued, “The whole thing defies logic, and the fact that this keeps getting churned out frankly has a lot to do with political motivations.” [The Washington Post, 5/13/13]
WSJ: Republicans “Charge The Administration Withheld The Truth About The Assault Because It Showed Terrorism Remained A Threat.” From a Wall Street Journal article on President Obama's May 13 press conference:
Congressional Republicans are seeking to make more headway on the investigation into the Sept. 11, 2012, assault on U.S. posts in Benghazi, which claimed the life of U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens.
They charge the administration withheld the truth about the assault because it showed terrorism remained a threat, counter to a key message in Mr. Obama's re-election campaign last year.
The investigation gained new momentum last week when longtime diplomat Gregory Hicks, the second-ranking official in the U.S. embassy in Tripoli during the attack, gave a detailed narrative to a congressional committee. [The Wall Street Journal, 5/13/13]
Obama Repeatedly Called Benghazi An “Act Of Terror” In The Days Following The Attacks
Sept. 12: Obama Said Of Benghazi: “No Acts Of Terror Will Ever Shake The Resolve Of This Great Nation.” On September 12, the day after the attack on the U.S. diplomatic facility in Benghazi which resulted in the deaths of four Americans, President Obama gave a speech in the Rose Garden. He said, “No acts of terror will ever shake the resolve of this great nation, alter that character, or eclipse the light of the values that we stand for. Today we mourn four more Americans who represent the very best of the United States of America. We will not waver in our commitment to see that justice is done for this terrible act. And make no mistake, justice will be done.” [WhiteHouse.gov, 9/12/12]
Sept. 12: In Nevada, Obama Said Of Benghazi: “No Act Of Terror Will Dim The Light” Of American Values. Later on September 12, Obama again labeled the Benghazi attacks an “act of terror.” He told a crowd in Las Vegas, Nevada, “As for the ones we lost last night: I want to assure you, we will bring their killers to justice. And we want to send a message all around the world -- anybody who would do us harm: No act of terror will dim the light of the values that we proudly shine on the rest of the world, and no act of violence will shake the resolve of the United States of America.” [WhiteHouse.gov, 9/12/12]
Sept. 13: Obama Again Referred To The Benghazi Attack As An “Act Of Terror” In Colorado. Campaigning in Golden, Colorado, on September 13, Obama again classified the Benghazi attack as an “act of terror.” He told the crowd, “So what I want all of you to know is that we are going to bring those who killed our fellow Americans to justice. I want people around the world to hear me: To all those who would do us harm, no act of terror will go unpunished.” [WhiteHouse.gov, 9/13/12]