ABC Skips Own Reporter's Battle With White House, Gushes Over Clooney

The viewers of ABC News might not know it, but one of the network's senior reporters, Jon Karl, grilled White House press secretary Josh Earnest on Friday about claims that al Qaeda had been "decimated." From Friday to Monday, ABC ignored the contentious exchange and Earnest's doubling down. Yet, over that same period, the network's news programs devoted over 20 minutes to the deeply superficial topic of George Clooney's wedding in Venice. 

Instead, it was left to a competitor, Fox News, to highlight Karl's battle with Earnest. On Friday's On the Record, Greta Van Susteren played a clip of the two.  She featured the journalist challenging, "Is it time to kind of revise and extend what the White House has said over and over again, by claiming a core Al Qaeda has been decimated. Is it clear now that that was simply an incorrect statement?" [MP3 audio here.]

Earnest insisted, "No. It continues to be clear to this day that core Al Qaeda has been decimated." A skeptical Van Susteren wondered if this is "just the White House fantasy and what they want you to believe?" 

Some of Karl's questions to Earnest: 

KARL: But we just had to bomb a group that represents remnants of al Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan that posed such a threat that we had to do a major military operation to hit them in Syria.

...

KARL: But [al Qaeda are] still able to pose a threat and plan an imminent attack that you were so concerned about that you've launched a military campaign against them.  How can you call that decimated?  I mean the fact that they moved to Syria, where they had access to more resources and actually were closer, I mean, I don't understand how we can say this group has been decimated? 

Karl appeared on ABC's Good Morning America on Sunday, but he was there to discuss Chelsea Clinton's new baby. Not al Qaeda. Rather than focus on the viability of al Qaeda, World News, Nightline and Good Morning America, from Friday night to Monday morning, devoted 20 minutes and 44 seconds to George Clooney's wedding. 

ABC has a history of avoiding Karl's tough reporting. On June 12, 2014, the journalist hounded Jay Carney over whether the advance of Islamic militants cast doubt on Obama's "accomplishments" in Iraq. The network skipped it. 
        
A transcript of the September 26 exchange between Karl and Earnest is below: 

JON KARL: in light of -- now that we all know about this group Khorasan -- obviously, the United States has bombed -- is made up in part by al Qaeda -- members of al Qaeda who came from Afghanistan, Pakistan.  I'm wondering that in the light of this major military operation against a group that was planning an imminent attack on the United States, is it time to kind of revise and extend what the White House has said over and over again, claiming that core al Qaeda has been decimated?  Is it clear now that that was simply an incorrect statement?

JOSH EARNEST:  No, it continues to be clear to this day that core al Qaeda has been decimated, that in --

KARL: But we just had to bomb a group that represents remnants of al Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan that posed such a threat that we had to do a major military operation to hit them in Syria.

EARNEST:  Well, I think one thing that should be clear is that these individuals and this organization in Pakistan and Afghanistan was so decimated that they had to flee to another country to try to find another safe haven, to try to get into a position where they could carry out attacks against the West.  That's an indication of the constant pressure that they're under right now. 

It also is an indication that the United States needs to continue to be, and is continuing to be vigilant about the threat that is posed by remnants of al Qaeda, that there are affiliates around the globe that do continue to pose a threat to Western interests. 

And whether it's Somalia or Yemen or, yes, even in Syria, the administration will put in place a counterterrorism strategy to deny them a safe haven, to mitigate the threat that they pose, and where necessary use military force to degrade their ability to strike the West or to strike the U.S. homeland.  So we remain vigilant.  But there's no denying the significant success that we have had in decimating and destroying core al Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

KARL: But they're still able to pose a threat and plan an imminent attack that you were so concerned about that you've launched a military campaign against them.  How can you call that decimated?  I mean the fact that they moved to Syria, where they had access to more resources and actually were closer, I mean, I don't understand how we can say this group has been decimated? 

EARNEST:  Because --

KARL: when we're engaged in a military campaign --

EARNEST:  Because what's clear -- because of the bravery of our American military personnel, the courage of our intelligence officials and the effective work of our diplomats, that network previously was entrenched in the border region between Afghanistan and Pakistan, and was so entrenched there that they could launch a worldwide conspiracy that allowed them to conduct a large-scale attack on the American homeland, no longer exists.  That network is gone.

KARL: They're closer.  They have more resources.

EARNEST:  What they have done, like other al Qaeda affiliates, is fled to other places, hoping to hide from the United States -- because of the pressure that they're under -- and tried to organize and plot against Western interests and possibly the Western homeland

We need to be vigilant against these threats, and we continue to be.  But there's no denying that the network that existed before 9/11 has been decimated and destroyed.

ABC Fox News Channel On the Record Video Jonathan Karl
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