Monday, October 15, 2012

The Media Loses the Scent

On this year’s anniversary of 9/11, the American ambassador to Libya was brutally murdered in Benghazi, and three security personnel slain, during a well-planned attack by al Qaeda against the U.S. consulate. Reports indicate that the attack was launched following a web video by Ayman Al Zawahiri released only hours before, calling for revenge for the U.S. Predator strike killing one of al Qaeda’s top guys, Abu Yahya al-Libi, (“the Libyan”). In the immediate wake of the attack, and for more than two weeks after, the White House insisted in repeated public statements that the attack was a spontaneous eruption in response to an anti-Muslim video released on YouTube months before. Now, after more than a month, the actual circumstances of the ambassador’s death have still not been explained in any satisfactory detail.

The two big facts:

1. On the anniversary of 9/11 al Qaeda launched a successful attack on the United States and murdered our ambassador. Because of its powerful symbolism, and the fact that it successfully targeted a high U.S. official, and that it was a complete success from the standpoint of our enemies, it is the worst terrorist attack on us since September 11, 2001.

2. The Obama White House covered up what really happened for the sake of preserving Obama’s campaign talking point that al Qaeda has been driven into retreat under his leadership.

How can anyone seriously suggest that discussing the fact of a successful al Qaeda attack on 9/11 is an attempt to “politicize” the situation?

How can the media seriously continue to treat this either as a non-story, or as only a small story? Over the weekend Bob Woodward – of Woodward and Bernstein fame – was a panelist on Fox News Sunday, where Chris Wallace sought his expert opinion on media coverage of the Libya story – careful to point out he wasn’t comparing the Benghazi story to Watergate, all but implying Benghazi is not as significant.

It’s not? What American official was assassinated during Watergate? What enemies of the United States looked at Watergate and continued to plan future attacks us, convinced the scandal proved America was only a “paper tiger”?

Ombudsmen for both national newspapers of record, the New York Times (“Why Wasn’t Libya Hearing on Page A1 of The Times?”), and the Washington Post (“How The Post came up short on Libya”), have now published responses to disappointed readers about their weak reporting of the Benghazi stories. Margaret Sullivan, Public Editor at The Times agreed with readers dismayed that the paper was burying the story, quoting this from one reader email:

After a day of Congressional testimony where two public officials outlined the numerous times that their request for extra security for our diplomatic offices in Libya were ignored, time and time again, no doubt contributing to the slaughter of four Americans on 9/11/12, and when it was clear that the days of stories coming from the White House that the attack began after a nonexistent spontaneous demonstration outside of the U.S. Consulate …

The lead story in today’s paper is about Lance Armstrong. Lance Armstrong!

The Libya story isn’t even on Page 1. It’s on Page 3.

What does this say about The Times’s news judgment?

Ben Bradlee, the folk-hero editor of the Washington Post during the Watergate era, had a dictate to reporters to “follow your nose.” Could that explain the serene indifference by most of the media to the undeniably smelly Benghazi account coming from the White House?

I mean, with their noses stuck that far up Obama’s backside, where else is there to follow?


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