Thursday's WashPost Print Edition Skips White House Benghazi Emails Controversy

The supposed newspaper of record for the nation's capital did not find fit to print a story this morning on the newly-released White House Benghazi emails and the White House's fevered attempt to dismiss the story.

There was nothing in the May 1 print edition of the Washington Post. By contrast, the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal ran stories on page A8 and A4 of their respective Thursday print editions. A search of did turn up an AP story published shortly after midnight Thursday -- "White House denies memo was about Benghazi attack" -- on the Benghazi emails (excerpted below; emphasis mine):

WASHINGTON — The White House on Wednesday denied that a staff member’s email three days after the deadly attack on the U.S. mission at Benghazi, Libya, was actually about the attack. Critics have branded the electronic missive as evidence that the Obama administration sought to deceive the public about the true circumstances surrounding the deaths of four Americans during the final months of the 2012 presidential campaign.

“It was explicitly not about Benghazi,” press secretary Jay Carney told journalists during his daily briefing at the White House. “It was about the overall situation in the region, the Muslim world, where you saw protests outside of embassy facilities across the region, including in Cairo, Sana’a, Khartoum and Tunis.”

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., has called the email a “smoking gun” that “shows political operatives in the White House working to create a political narrative at odds with the facts.”


The email from Ben Rhodes, then the deputy national security adviser for strategic communications at the White House, was dated Sept. 14, the Friday before Rice appeared on the Sunday news programs. The watchdog group Judicial Watch obtained the email and 40 others through a Freedom of Information request and posted them Tuesday on its website.

The email’s subject line reads, “Prep call with Susan: Saturday at 4:00 p.m. EST.” Among the list of goals was “to underscore that these protests are rooted in an Internet video, and not a broader policy failure.” The email goes on to list a half-dozen points of discussion, including Obama’s actions “since we began to see protests in response to this Internet video” and administration response to security concerns around the world, relations with governments in the region, the U.S. condemnation of the anti-Islamic video and efforts to have other world leaders speak out against violence.

“This document, as I said, was explicitly not about Benghazi, but about the general dynamic in the Arab — or in the Muslim world at the time,” Carney said Wednesday. “So I would also point out that the document itself states explicitly that Ambassador Rice is not on the Sunday shows to talk politics. This was part of our effort to explain our views both as a matter of policy and as a matter of what was happening on the ground with regards to the protests that were underway around the region.”

Asked why the Rhodes email was only now being released, Carney said the email was not about the attack and thus was not included in the thousands of pages of material about the attack that had been turned over to investigators.

In an interview Tuesday with the website Newmax, Graham said: “Their goal was not to tell the truth about what actually happened. ... They did not want to provide the best information available. Instead, we were provided the most beneficial political story for President Obama.”

For her part, moderately conservative Washington Post blogger Jen Rubin issued her analysis of the White House spin this morning, in a post headlined, "The worst excuse ever: The Rhodes memo debacle":

It is hard to believe that this was not a Benghazi-specific document. The White House was being bombarded by questions about the ambassador’s death. There was a ceremony broadcast live on Sept. 14 to meet the incoming caskets of the murdered Americans. And we are to believe the Rhodes memo was about other demonstrations only? Strangely he does not say “This applies to Egypt but not Libya.” To the contrary, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) pointed out that the email itself references the desire to get people who harmed Americans; the only Americans harmed — killed — were in Benghazi.


Now maybe Carney is right and there is a perfectly reasonable explanation here. In that case, Rhodes should tell Congress under oath. He can then tell us how he got the idea the video was the sole explanation for Benghazi. (Rhodes may well be about to shoved under the Obama bus, given that involvement of anyone more senior to him would be hugely problematic for the White House.) By holding back the emails until two weeks ago the White House cements the impression it was trying to hide them from Congress and the public. The way to clear this up is to question the people under oath.

And frankly Hillary Clinton’s supporters should encourage this. The spinning here originated from the White House (and persisted there until Sep. 25). Why should she take the fall for a “cover-up”? To be candid, she may have been responsible for the attack by failure to recognize the massive influx of al-Qaeda into Libya, but it was the White House that clung to the video narrative up through the president’s Sept. 25 speech at the United Nations. What’s the point in protecting aides in a failing presidency if Hillary Clinton’s reputation and potential presidential campaign could be in the balance?

All that said, that is still no excuse for Post editors to completely omit the controversy from today's print pages.

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