In what could be seen as either ignorance or more likely denial of reality, NBC News's David Gregory seemed to minimize the severity of the potential cover-up following the September 11 terrorist attack on an American consulate in Benghazi, Libya.
Appearing on MSNBC’s Morning Joe on May 9, the Meet The Press host simply claimed that the Benghazi talking points were merely handled by the Obama administration with "sloppiness." [See video after jump. MP3 audio here.]
Gregory’s spin came a day after a House Oversight Committee hearing into the administration's handling of the aftermath of Benghazi, particularly the narrative they initially gave the American public about the nature of the deadly attack. Gregory, whose own network provided not a single minute of live coverage of Wednesday's hearings, seemed perplexed as to why the State Department and intelligence community would alter talking points used by U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice.
Last year, Ms. Rice appeared on numerous Sunday talk shows, including Meet The Press, incorrectly claiming that the terrorist attack was in fact a spontaneous attack in response to an anti-Muhammad YouTube video. On Thursday, Gregory began his commentary claiming that it was Republican partisanship that is obscuring real questions surrounding Benghazi
Gregory then admitted that:
You know people who were on the ground there saying this was clearly a terrorist attack everybody knew it and the mindset of the administration was it was not. And as a result, they didn't respond properly.
Now why would the administration respond to a clear terrorist attack by creating false details about a spontaneous attack which were then used by Susan Rice? According to Gregory, it was merely "sloppiness." Gregory’s theory could be plausible had Ms. Rice initially claimed the attack was terrorism but omitted the group behind the terrorist attack or confused one terrorist group for another. Such a hypothetical scenario could be labeled "sloppiness." But to deliberately add false details about a spontaneous riot, which is what happened when the administration revised their public relations talking points, is not sloppy in one bit.
Gregory appears to be playing dumb about political motivations behind the altering of the talking points so as to not admit a terrorist attack occurred on President Obama’s watch -- on the anniversary of 9/11 nonetheless -- prior to his reelection.
Like Joe Klein of TIME magazine, who dismissed the talking points revision as a "venial sin," Gregory has chosen to brush off the severity of the charges against the Obama administration, proving that Gregory is a lapdog, not a watchdog.
See relevant transcript below.
May 9, 2013
7:07 a.m. EST
MIKA BRZEZINSKI: The Obama Administration is clashing with Republicans in Congress over the attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi last year an incident that brings together issues of terror, diplomacy and politics. In emotional testimony on Capitol Hill the Embassy’s former security chief questioned the government's handling of the militant raid that left four Americans dead.
ERIC NORDSTROM: The committee’s labor started to uncover what happened prior during and after the attack matter. It matters to me personally and it matters to my colleagues. It matters to the American public for whom we serve and most importantly, excuse me. It matters to the friends and family of Ambassador Stevens, Sean Smith, Glenn Doherty and Tyrone Woods who were murdered on September 11, 2012
BRZEZINSKI: After the attack, U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice originally suggested the assault was sparked by protests against an online video mocking the prophet Muhammad. Diplomat Gregory Hicks says he was floored by that explanation.
TREY GOWDY: So fast forward, Mr. Hicks, to the Sunday talk shows and Ambassador Susan Rice. She blamed this attack on a video. In fact, she did it five different times. What was your reaction to that?
GREGORY HICKS: I was stunned. My jaw dropped. And I was embarrassed.
BRZEZINSKI: Hicks, who served as Ambassador Stevens second in command, says he was effectively demoted for questioning the administration's actions. He referenced an angry phone call he received from Chief of Staff to then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton who, according to him, was upset that he spoke with a Republican Congressman without a state department lawyer present at the meeting.
JIM JORDAN: What did she have to say to you?
NORDSTROM: She demanded a report on the visit.
JORDAN: Was she upset by the fact this lawyer--his
NORDSTROM: She was upset.
JORDAN: This babysitter this spy, whatever you want to call them was not allowed to be in that. First time it’s ever happened all the congressional delegations you’ve ever entertained was not allowed to be in that classified briefing. Was she upset about that fact?
NORDSTROM: She was very upset.
JORDAN: So this goes right to the person next to Secretary Clinton, is that accurate?
NORDSTROM: Yes, sir.
JORDAN: Mr. Chairman, here is a guy with 22 years of outstanding service to our country. Now they are obstructing because he won't -- he won't help them cover this up, he's an honorable man here telling the truth. Now is getting this kind of treatment from the very people who praised him before.
BRZEZINSKI: The State Department denies claims that Mr. Hicks faced retaliation for speaking out.
JOE SCARBOROUGH: And we talked about it last hour. We are now getting into a very dangerous position for this administration. They have already been caught trying to bully and run over a 22-year State Department veteran. For effectively demoting him.
BRZEZINSKI: Well Lisa Myers reporting saying that they dispute that.
SCARBOROUGH: Right. In fact, "The New York Times" has a story effectively demoting him. And now they are coming out saying he's a liar. Saying he doesn't remember the facts correctly. David Gregory, this is where we get into dangerous territory with administration. Sometimes they don't cut their losses, admit they made a mistake and move on.
DAVID GREGORY: Look, I think the critical questions here that are, in part, being obscured by high partisan this investigation has become is why the security situation, when it was deteriorating Benghazi was not more fulsomely addressed. Something that the accountability review board was very critical of in its report. And why there seems to be so much gymnastics around how to describe what this was. And I really think that that’s what the core of the hearing was about. You know people who were on the ground there saying this was clearly a terrorist attack everybody knew it and the mindset of the administration was it was not. And as a result, they didn't respond properly. Now all of those points about how they responded when they responded what was possible in the way of any kind of military response is something that has been litigated will still be litigated in terms of what the facts were and what the military said at the time. But if you look at the talking points and how they were drafted and let's just remember. Susan Rice was saying on the talk shows, including "Meet The Press," what the intelligence community agreed she should say and that is something that the director of national intelligence has come out and said. So she is, by that definition, more of a peripheral player here. The question still remains about why there was at least sloppiness with regard to why they were describing this in the way that they were when it very quickly became apparent that this was a terrorist attack.