On September 11, 2012, Islamist militants attacked U.S. complexes in Benghazi, Libya. Ambassador Chris Stevens was killed, the first U.S. Ambassador killed in the line of duty since 1979. Three other men were killed and 10 were injured.
The media immediately turned it into a political story, focusing more anger on Mitt Romney’s comments about the administration’s blaming of a YouTube video critical of Islam than determining the facts of the attack itself. Many in the media thought it fine that President Obama jetted off to a high-dollar fundraiser before the bodies cooled. When various high-level government officials blamed either a YouTube video critical of Islam — or our laws protecting free speech, it didn’t generate much controversy among big media.
The media tended to parrot White House talking points about the attack even years later. So even though everyone with knowledge of the scene in Benghazi knew otherwise, the New York Times was claiming until Friday — just this past Friday — that al Qaeda had nothing to do with the attack on Benghazi.
Really. Less than one year ago, the New York Times ran one of its massive “projects” — Pulitzer Prize attempts, basically — around the following claim:
Months of investigation by The New York Times, centered on extensive interviews with Libyans in Benghazi who had direct knowledge of the attack there and its context, turned up no evidence that Al Qaeda or other international terrorist groups had any role in the assault. The attack was led, instead, by fighters who had benefited directly from NATO’s extensive air power and logistics support during the uprising against Colonel Qaddafi. And contrary to claims by some members of Congress, it was fueled in large part by anger at an American-made video denigrating Islam.
If there’s something true in that pile of horse manure, you’ll have to point it out. Within days this was thoroughly debunked by those in the know (albeit highlighted by media outlets such as CNN). But just this past Friday afternoon, the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence released “the definitive House statement on the Intelligence Community’s activities before, during and after the tragic events that caused the deaths of four brave Americans” in Benghazi. We’ll look through all the flaws with this report (.pdf) here soon, but first we need to talk about the media reaction to same.
Things seemed to kind of get going with this tweet at 5:47 PM:
Now that's what I call a Friday news dump. http://t.co/Ln5QzZum81 pic.twitter.com/ieeIGxukNo
— Amanda Wills (@AmandaWills) November 21, 2014
The report and its appendices are hundreds of pages long. And I’d argue that the executive summary of the report is not well supported by the contents. It took me several hours to read and research it on Saturday and Sunday and I’m not even done with all the appendices. But let’s look at how journalists and media outlets responded:
What *ought* to happen now: audiences of conservative sites express anger at being misled about Benghazi for so long.
— Conor Friedersdorf (@conor64) November 22, 2014
GOP should be ashamed.
— Ron Fournier (@ron_fournier) November 21, 2014
Biggest abuse of power regarding Benghazi turns out to be media huffing and puffing about it for years.
— Nicholas Kristof (@NickKristof) November 21, 2014
Another #Benghazi investigation blows up in Republicans' faces as their own conspiracy theories are debunked http://t.co/wS7cn4CeLO
— HuffPost (@HuffPost) November 21, 2014
Solyndra! Solyndra! Solyndra!
OK Solyndra wasn't really a scandal but
Benghazi! Benghazi! Benghazi!
OK Benghazi wasn't really a scandal but
— Michael Grunwald (@MikeGrunwald) November 21, 2014
Do you sense a pattern here? The groupthinkers got to the keyboards and pounded out surprisingly similar headlines, whether they were from far-left partisan groups or just the typically left-leaning (in some cases left-careening) big media: