The Associated Press, after an initial acknowledgment in a Tuesday evening timeline from Bradley Klapper, has consistently failed in several subsequent reports to cite State Department officials' unmistakable assertion that there were no protests whatsoever at the Benghazi, Libya U.S. consulate on September 11 before the lethal terrorist attack which killed U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans. Instead, later reports create the impression that protests did occur.
It's even getting carried into coverage of different events. In his story (link is to early paragraphs of original version) about the Thursday morning murder of a security official at the U.S. embassy in Yemen, the AP's Ahmed Al Haj (identified as the reporter in the item I originally saw, since revised) betrayed the wire service's uninterrupted obsession with "an anti-Islam video," and wrote as if nothing learned in the past two days has any validity (bolds are mine throughout this post):
Security officer at US Embassy in Yemen killed
A masked gunman assassinated a Yemeni security official at the U.S. Embassy in a drive-by shooting in the capital Sanaa on Thursday, officials said.
The Yemeni officials said the killing bore the hallmarks of an al-Qaida attack, but it was too early to determine if the group was behind it. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media.
Anti-American violence in the Middle East has spiked over the past month, most of it triggered by an anti-Islam video made privately in the United States. On September 11 in the Libyan city of Benghazi, U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans - including two former Navy SEALs - were killed in what U.S. administration officials now describe as an act of terrorism. There is some debate about whether the attack was related to protests about the film or whether it was a premeditated attack unrelated to the film.
The latest attack in Yemen, however, may be more tied to domestic tensions. The assassination resembles other attacks targeting Yemeni intelligence, military and security officials in retaliation for a wide military offensive by Yemen's U.S.-backed government against al-Qaida's branch in the country.
Sorry, Ahmed, there is no "debate" about the role of the "anti-Islam video" in the terrorist attack at Benghazi. Your own wire service's original timeline story told us:
Around 8:30 p.m.
Stevens finishes his final meeting of the day and escorts a Turkish diplomat outside the main entrance of the consulate. The situation is calm. There are no protests.
Here is the Real Clear Politics narrative accompanying Jonathan Karl's ABC News report Tuesday night relaying that info:
On ABC News' World News Tonight, Jonathan Karl breaks the news that there was no protest outside prior to the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi.
"This is significantly different than what we were being told at the time. At the time, as you recall, we were told it was a protest that went bad and became an attack. Now, we are told there was no protest going on outside that embassy. The first indication that they heard anything outside the walls of the embassy -- of the consulate compound, was an explosion and gunfire. ...
Note that even Karl wouldn't use perfectly appropriate assertions such as "this directly contradicts what we were told," settling for "significantly different."
How hard is it to simply say that there were no protests in Benghazi before the U.S. consulate attack? At the AP, since the initial timeline rundown, it's next to impossible. Subsequent reports clearly lead readers to believe that protests occurred that evening.
Here's Klapper, very early Wednesday morning:
The (State Department) account answers some questions and leaves others unanswered. Chief among them is why for several days the Obama administration said the assault stemmed from a protest against an American-made Internet video ridiculing Islam, and whether the consulate had adequate security.
Readers can infer from this paragraph and a previous "all was quiet" reference in Klapper's write-up that there were no protests, but Klapper never directly said so, and appeared to work hard to avoid saying so.
Here's Klapper's follow-up with Larry Margasak later Wednesday morning:
STATE: NEVER FELT LIBYA ATTACK DUE TO FILM PROTEST
The State Department now says it never believed the Sept. 11 attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, was a film protest gone awry, giving congressional Republicans new fodder for criticizing the Obama administration’s initial accounts of the assault.
The State Department’s extraordinary break with other administration offices came in a department briefing Tuesday, where officials said “others” in the executive branch concluded initially that the protest was based, like others in the Middle East, on a film that ridiculed the Prophet Muhammad.
It is impossible to read the AP headline and the report's first two paragraphs without concluding that a "film protest" actually occurred in Benghazi, when none did.
Here's an excerpt from an unbylined item early Wednesday afternoon:
President Barack Obama's counterterrorism chief has discussed last month's killing of the U.S. ambassador to Libya with the country's leaders.
... The U.S. has blamed militants linked to al-Qaida for the consulate attack. It erupted as Muslims protested a film that insulted Islam's Prophet Muhammad. The U.S. declared later that militants linked to the international terror network were involved.
Again, it is impossible to read this AP story without concluding that a protest occurred in Benghazi.
Now let's go to a report by Margasak and Matthew Lee Wednesday evening after the hearings:
Four weeks before the election, Republicans used a politically charged House hearing to confront State Department officials about security at the U.S. Consulate in Libya and assail the Obama administration's early response to the killing of the ambassador and three other Americans there.
They also rejected Undersecretary of State Patrick Kennedy's explanation that officials were relying on the best intelligence available in characterizing the attack afterward as stemming from a protest over an anti-Islam Internet video rather than a deliberate, planned act of terrorism.
... (Undersecretary of State Patrick) Kennedy defended (UN Ambassador Susan) Rice for her comments indicating the attack was a protest gone awry.
Though the word "protest" or "protests" appears five times in the report, there is no acknowledgment that there was never any protest at Benghazi before the attacks.
Sometimes you just get to the point where you shake your head in dumbfounded disbelief at the lengths to which the press will go to protect this administration and avoid reality, knowing full well that there would be no such reality-dodging or misdirection if a Republican or conservative were in the White House. This is one of those times.
Cross-posted at BizzyBlog.com.