On Sunday night, a full 54 days after the terrorist attack in Benghazi, Libya, CBS finally posted a critically important segment of the 60 Minutes interview with President Obama conducted on September 12.
Unbelievably, it was left on the cutting room floor even as 60 Minutes aired a long segment with President Obama criticizing presidential challenger Mitt Romney over his remarks on protests in Egypt. Given the substance of what was left out, this editorial decision shows CBS as either shamelessly biased in favor of the President or hopelessly incompetent as a news organization.
Central to the newly released segment is President Obama’s failure to describe the Benghazi attack as terrorism in his Rose Garden statement made earlier the same day. It will be recalled that he was pressed hard by Mitt Romney on this point in the second presidential debate.
This is how the exchange went:
CBS’S STEVE KROFT: Mr. President, this morning you went out of your way to avoid the use of the word terrorism in connection with the Libya attack. Do you believe that this was a terrorist attack?
OBAMA: Well, it’s too early to tell exactly how this came about, what group was involved, but obviously it was an attack on Americans. And we are going to be working with the Libyan government to make sure that we bring these folks to justice, one way or the other.
KROFT: It’s been described as a mob action, but there are reports that they were very heavily armed with grenades. That doesn’t sound like your normal demonstration.
OBAMA: As I said, we’re still investigating exactly what happened. I don’t want to jump the gun on this. But you’re right that this is not a situation that was exactly the same as what happened in Egypt. And my suspicion is that there are folks involved in this who were looking to target Americans from the start. So we’re gonna make sure that our first priority is to get our folks out safe, make sure that our embassies are secured around the world, and then we are going to go after those folks who carried this out.
KROFT: There have been reports, obviously this isn’t the first time…there have been attacks on the consulate before. There was an attack against the British ambassador. Do you … this occurred on September 11. Can you tell me why the ambassador was in Benghazi yesterday? Was it to evaluate security at the consulate?
OBAMA: Well, keep in mind Chris Stevens is somebody who was one of the first Americans on the ground when we were in the process of saving Benghazi and providing the opportunity for Libyans to create their own democracy. So this is somebody who had been courageous, had been on the ground, had helped to advise me and Secretary Clinton when we were taking our actions against Muammar Qadhafi, and is somebody who is very familiar with the terrain. He was doing the work that he does as a diplomat, helping to shape our policies in the region at a time when things are still fairly fragile. But I think it’s important to note that we have a Libyan government in place that is fully cooperative, that sees the United States as a friend, that recognizes we played an important role in liberating Libya and providing the Libyan people an opportunity to forge their own destiny. And in fact we had Libyans who helped protect our diplomats when they were under attack. But this is a country that is still rebuilding in the aftermath of Qadhafi. They don’t necessarily always have the same capabilities that countries with more established governments might have in helping to provide protection to our folks. But beyond that, what I want to do is make sure that we know exactly what happened, how it happened, who perpetrated this action, then we’ll act accordingly.
Kroft asks reasonable and informed questions, which the CBS audience would undoubtedly like to have answered. Why did the President choose not to call the attack an act of terrorism? Given the lack of security, was there a plan to evacuate the Benghazi consulate? Was that why Stevens went there in the first place?
Equally interestingly, President Obama’s answer is totally misleading. Stevens had been pleading for months for additional security in Benghazi and believed his life was in danger. He had also informed the Administration that Libyan forces were insufficient and unreliable as protection.
Why CBS chose not to post the above portion on the Internet until November 4 is a mystery. It was done entirely without fanfare and was revealed by Fox News’s Bret Baier.
American mainstream media coverage of the Benghazi terrorist attack is a scandal in its own right. The “fourth estate” is supposedly an additional check on the powers of the federal government. Yet in this case, when four Americans-including an ambassador-lost their lives, most of the media have shamefully abdicated responsibility.