News of the State Department report on the U.S. government’s failures surrounding the terrorist attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, broke too late for the ABC, CBS and NBC Tuesday evening newscasts, but all three broadcast networks had full reports on their Wednesday morning shows.
Of the three, ABC’s Good Morning America was the most perfunctory, with a less-than 90 second report from correspondent Martha Raddatz that completely failed to mention the controversy over the Obama administration’s preposterous initial explanation that the attack was the result of a “spontaneous” demonstration over an anti-Muslim video posted on YouTube.
But as detailed in the very first of the official report ’s “Findings,” the determination that there was no “spontaneous” demonstration: “The Board concluded that there was no protest prior to the attacks, which were unanticipated in their scale and intensity.”
Both CBS and NBC included the fiasco of Team Obama’s original talking points in their coverage, with CBS’s John Dickerson hitting that point most directly: “Did the administration know that there was a systemic failure here, but tried to push away that story and create a new story, have Susan Rice go out on the shows and say this was a spontaneous attack? Much better to be accused — much better for it to be a spontaneous attack, which no one could see coming, than to have systemic failures which they should have seen coming.”
Dickerson also rued how the bumbling of Benghazi provided for Hillary Clinton “a kind of messy end to what has otherwise been seen — in bipartisan opinion — as a strong career as a Secretary of State. Well, these systemic failures are within her department, and so if nothing else, it’s a bad way to end her tenure.”
For her part, NBC’s Andrea Mitchell mentioned the report’s finding of “no evidence” of a protest with a soundbite of Senator John McCain from September saying that such an explanation from the Obama White House “shows the abysmal level of their knowledge about fundamental aspects of terrorist attacks,” but quickly added that the report also found “no evidence politics played a role in downplaying the terror threat.”
None of the networks tried to sugarcoat the blistering report. According to CBS’s Margaret Brennen: “The investigation sharply criticizes the State Department for a security posture that was, quote, ‘grossly inadequate to deal with the attack.’”
NBC’s Mitchell called the report “a devastating critique of the State Department. It cites systematic management failures at senior levels in Washington, resulting in what the report calls ‘grossly inadequate’ security to deal with the attack in Benghazi.”
ABC’s Raddatz added how “the report also cites poor leadership within the diplomatic security bureau, saying certain senior State Department officials demonstrated a ‘lack of proactive leadership and management ability’ in their response to the security concerns in Benghazi.”
Here are partial transcripts of the key stories on the December 19 editions of CBS This Morning and NBC’s Today (thanks to MRC’s Matt Hadro for the Today show transcript):
# CBS This Morning, 7:06am ET:
CBS News political director JOHN DICKERSON: This is where the political focus of this moment rests, is on Hillary Clinton, for two reasons: One, it’s a kind of messy end to what has otherwise been seen — in bipartisan opinion — as a strong career as a Secretary of State. Well, these systemic failures are within her department, and so if nothing else, it’s a bad way to end her tenure. And on the other hand, people obviously talk a lot about her as a nominee in 2016. What Republicans say about this report and her culpability for the failures, will be played again and again if she is the nominee or runs in 2016.
Co-host CHARLIE ROSE: I wonder why she wouldn’t want to step forward and say, not only will we carry out these recommendations but I’m the Secretary of State and I take full responsibility for this.
DICKERSON: She wants to say that, Charlie, but then “period” — end, and let’s move on. Remember, the big question here was “Did Hillary Clinton duck this when it was going on?” Did the administration know that there was a systemic failure here but tried to push away that story and create a new story, have Susan Rice go out on the shows and say this was a spontaneous attack. Much better to be accused — much better for it to be a spontaneous attack, which no one could see coming, than to have systemic failures which they should have seen coming.
# NBC’s Today, 7:07am ET:
Correspondent ANDREA MITCHELL: The investigators found no evidence the attack was spurred by protests over an anti-Muslim video, the point John McCain made almost immediately after the assault.
Sen. JOHN MCCAIN (September 20): I’m stunned that they thought that it was some kind of spontaneous demonstration. It shows the level of their – abysmal level of their knowledge about fundamental aspects of terrorist attacks and militant operations.
MITCHELL: But the report found no evidence politics played a role in downplaying the terror threat.
State Department official PATRICK KENNEDY (from October 10 hearing): On my honor, no, none political pressure was applied to me in this case by anyone in the State Department, at the National Security Council, or at the White House.
-- Rich Noyes is Research Director at the Media Research Center. Click here  to follow him on Twitter.