With a House Oversight committee slated to hold a hearing on the deadly Benghazi consulate terrorist attack at noon today, there was really no excuse for CNN's Starting Point to not cover the story. But alas, anchor Soledad O'Brien checked her journalistic credibility at the dressing room door, going on air with Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) sounding more like an Obama apologist than a hard-nosed reporter.
O'Brien questioned Rep. Chaffetz -- who chairs the House Subcommittee on National Security, Homeland Defense and Foreign Operations -- on his claim that this administration hasn’t been forthcoming with the facts surrounding the attack. O’Brien countered by admonishing the congressman for suggesting “collusion” between the Obama White House and the State Department. O’Brien’s hackery became overt when she indirectly blamed Congressman Chaffetz for being complicit to the lack of security at our embassies by voting to cut off their defense funding, attempting to dilute any blame the administration has for lax security by trying to lay blame on Republicans in Congress:
REP. JASON CHAFFETZ: Well, I mean, look at the statements after the attack. You had Jay Carney, the White House spokesperson. You had the ambassador to the U.N., Susan Rice. You have the State Department comments coming out. Now we come out to find that those were absolutely not true. They are somewhere between totally false and absolutely not true. It's certainly --
SOLEDAD O'BRIEN: I think that that's an exaggeration, Congressman.
CHAFFETZ: No. O'BRIEN: Well, let's play them then.
CHAFFETZ: What is true about what she said?
O'BRIEN: Well, let's first play the -- what Ambassador Rice had to say. I think she's the one who went on September 16th on "Meet The Press" went further than everybody. We don't have that clip. As you know, she said that she believed it looked like it was connected to protests. She went the furthest. But Jay Carney, I think that was on September 18th, actually said something not going quite as far. So I think we have her sound bite. Let's play the ambassador first.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SUSAN RICE, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE U.N.: Putting together the best information that we have available to us today, our current assessment is that what happened in Benghazi was, in fact, initially a spontaneous reaction to what had just transpired hours before in Cairo. It's almost a copycat demonstration against our facility in Cairo, which was prompted, of course, by the video.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'BRIEN: It was Jay Carney who did not go as far. So my question for you would be when you say there was some kind of collusion. That was a very serious charge. Where are you seeing evidence of collusion between the State Department and the White House?
CHAFFETZ: Well, if you actually look at what Jay Carney said, I can pull up another clip for you and I think he actually goes even further. And when President Obama was asked directly on "The View" and on other situations, he led people to believe there was a video. Remember, we have a document that we is now out there in the media, 230 security interests -- attacks and other threats against Western interests. Our facility there in Benghazi was bombed twice prior to this. How can you -- coming up on 9/11. We're in Libya. It's been bombed twice. The British ambassador there in Benghazi, an assassination attempt -- then we're led to believe that there was no reason to believe that we were under threat there in Benghazi? We have people testifying today that is not the case. When that intelligence information comes forward, it doesn't go just to the State Department. It also goes to the White House. That's why we have a National Security Council. So for the White House to claim ignorance on this is absolutely, totally not true.
O'BRIEN: Is it true that you voted to cut the funding for embassy security?
CHAFFETZ: Absolutely. Look, we have to make priorities and choices in this country. We have -- think about this -- 15,000 contractors in Iraq. We have more than 6,000 contractors, a private army there for President Obama in Baghdad. And we're talking about can we get two dozen or so people into Libya to help protect our forces? When you're in tough economic times, you have to make difficult choices how to prioritize this.
O'BRIEN: OK, so you're prioritizing. So when there are complaints that, in fact, that there was not enough security, you've just said absolutely, that you cut. You are the one to vote against, you know, to increase security for the State Department, which would lead directly to Benghazi. That seems like you're saying you have a hand in the responsibility to this.
O'BRIEN: Right? The funding of the security, you're happy to cut it? How am I wrong?
CHAFFETZ: Because there are literally close to 200 embassies, consulates, those types of things. You have thousands of people that are involved in this. You have to prioritize things. Libya, before 9/11, two bombings on or consulate out there, of course, that's got to be a higher priority than making sure we're protecting some other emphasis.
O'BRIEN: But if there’s pressure – we just heard from one of the clip that's going to testify before you today that there was definitely this pressure, in his mind, to not staff the embassy fully security wise. Wouldn't that pressure be coming from you directly, essentially, people and others who voted against funding for security? Keep it low because there's no funding for security.
CHAFFETZ: You're also talking about a vote that never came to fruition because we actually continued at the exact same funding levels moving forward. This is a vote that happened at the House. Remember, the Senate never got to this point. So we did a continuing resolution. It's a red herring. The reality is you have to prioritize things and when you're talking about such a small, small number of security personnel there in country, that's a problem. Another thing we're going to talk about in this hearing is the fact that the physical facilities themselves did not meet the minimum standards. When you're in Libya after a revolution, I've got to argue that that's got to be a higher priority than protecting some other, you know, compound in (inaudible) or whatever you might be. I don't mean to pick on them. But you've got to prioritize things and what clearly didn't happen is Libya was not a priority. I believe what I heard is that it's because they wanted the appearance of normalization. That's what they wanted. That fit the Obama narrative moving forward.
O'BRIEN: It will be interesting to see what comes out of your hearing today. It's nice to see you as always. Thank you for talking with us.
CHAFFETZ: Thanks, Soledad.
First of all, Soledad’s conspiratorial drivel is pathetic. Of course, the White House and the State Department collude. It’s called governing. It’s called being part of the overall Obama administration – operating in an area that is a rather significant part of the president’s job description.
Second, the story centers on the state of our security concerning our embassy in Libya. It’s not whether Rep. Chaffetz’s vote to cut off embassy security funding had a hand in the death of Ambassador Stevens. As the congressman said, “There are literally close to 200 embassies, consulates, those types of things. You have thousands of people that are involved in this. You have to prioritize things. Libya, before 9/11, two bombings on or consulate out there, of course, that's got to be a higher priority than making sure we're protecting some other emphasis.”
For O’Brien, President Obama and his officials weren’t at fault for this fiasco. It was the Republicans who added “pressure” with their votes to cut off embassy security funding and it, in no way, had to do with President Obama missing almost half of his intelligence briefings and his State Department not knowing what was going on five days before the attack.