ABC's Jake Tapper's Thursday report on World News stands alone as the only Big Three coverage so far of what The Daily Beast's Eli Lake reported on Wednesday - that U.S. intelligence officials had "strong indications" within a day that Islamist terrorists were behind the September 11, 2012 attack on the American consulate in Benghazi - not a mob enraged at a controversial Internet video.
By contrast, former NBC Nightly News anchor Tom Brokaw tried to point the finger at Mitt Romney on Friday's Today show for the media's apparent lack of curiosity at the inconsistencies in the Obama administration's narrative about the terrorist attack. Otherwise, NBC only aired two reports on the story since Wednesday - twice running the same Ann Curry interview of Libyan President Mohammed Magarief.
Tapper pointed out during his report that "the White House first suggested that the Benghazi attack was spontaneous, the result of that anti-Muslim video inciting mobs throughout the region." He emphasized the administration's talking point by playing a clip from September 14, 2012 press briefing, where White House Press Secretary Jay Carney underlined that "these protests were in reaction to a video that had spread to the region." When the ABC correspondent himself raised Benghazi, Carney continued by claiming that "we have no information to suggest that it was a pre-planned attack."
The correspondent later added that "sources tell ABC News that intelligence officials on the ground immediately suspected the attack was not tied to the movie at all....Some administration sources tell ABC News they were concerned after the White House began pushing the line that they attack was spontaneous and not the work of terrorists."
During Curry's interview of Magarief, the Libyan president asserted that the ambush was a "pre-planned act of terrorism." But the former Today show anchor couldn't be bothered to bring up the Obama administration's claim that it was a "a spontaneous - not a pre-meditated - response" to the anti-Islam video, as U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice put it on September 16 - more than five days after the attack.
Meanwhile, CBS has aired two stories about the latest developments in the attack in Benghazi since The Daily Beast broke their story on Wednesday. On Thursday's CBS This Morning, correspondent Margaret Brennan spotlighted how Secretary of State Hillary Clinton "gave a speech about Mali, one of Libya's neighbors, yesterday - two references to al Qaeda in the Maghreb - and because of that, the New York Times wrote this story, saying she is linking the two. Senior aides to [the] secretary of state say she absolutely does not have the evidence to assert that link right now."
The following day, anchor Charlie Rose brought on CBS senior correspondent John Miller, who is also a former deputy director of national intelligence. Regarding the issue of the Obama administration's initial claim about the attacks, Miller asserted that "other thing that's going on, of course, in Washington, is everybody in the political battle of an election year is saying, you said this on Monday; you said this on Tuesday; but then, you changed it to this on Wednesday. Why are you not telling us the truth? And the simple fact is, if you ever worked with classified intelligence in ongoing, fast-moving events, that's the way the information evolves." The morning newscast didn't mention what Eli Lake scooped during either segment.
It should be pointed out that during the week following Ambassador Rice's September 16, 2012 appearances on the Big Three's Sunday morning talk shows, these networks devoted almost an hour and a half to the much-ballyhooed "47 percent" hidden camera video footage of Mitt Romney released by the far-left magazine Mother Jones. Jake Tapper's report from Thursday's World News is just under two and a half minutes long. The media certainly has its priorities straight.
The full trancript of Jake Tapper's report from ABC's World News on Thursday:
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Now, to an explosive headline about the 9/11 attack in Libya that killed four Americans, including America's ambassador, Chris Stevens. The White House originally described it as a mob riot. But today, high-ranking officials called it something more sinister: the work of terrorists - pre-planned, sophisticated, highly-engineered, and deadly.
ABC's Jake Tapper has the details. Good evening, Jake.
JAKE TAPPER: Good evening, George. That's right, and this 180 comes on the heels of criticism - much of it from Republicans - that the White House downplayed this terrorist attack less than two months before the election.
TAPPER (voice-over): Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta today acknowledged that the attack that killed four Americans in Benghazi, Libya on the anniversary of 9/11 was not only carried out by terrorists - it was premeditated.
LEON PANETTA, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE (from press conference): As we determined the details of what took place there and how that – that attack took place – that it became clear that there were terrorists who had planned that attack.
TAPPER: The White House first suggested that the Benghazi attack was spontaneous, the result of that anti-Muslim video inciting mobs throughout the region.
JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY (from September 14, 2012 press conference): Jake, let's be clear. This – these protests were in reaction to a video that had spread to the region.
TAPPER: What happened at Benghazi was-
CARNEY: We certainly don't know. We don't know otherwise. You know, we have no information to suggest that it was a pre-planned attack.
TAPPER: But sources tell ABC News that intelligence officials on the ground immediately suspected the attack was not tied to the movie at all. Arousing their suspicion: the fact that the attackers knew where to get Ambassador Stevens after he'd fled to a so-called safe house half a mile away. The building was hit with insurgent mortars - suggesting the terrorists knew what they were doing. Some administration sources tell ABC News they were concerned after the White House began pushing the line that they attack was spontaneous and not the work of terrorists.
The White House says assessments have changed over time as intelligence has been confirmed. President Obama has repeatedly said the investigation is on to find the killers and bring them to justice.
TAPPER (on-camera): And George, ABC News has confirmed that the FBI, which has been dispatched to Libya to lead the investigation, has not even reached Benghazi yet - 16 days after the attack - largely due to safety concerns. Now, officials worry, by the time the officials from the FBI get to the site, it will have been picked clean, George.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Such a dangerous situation right now. Okay. Jake, thanks very much.