November 21, 2012

PETER WEHNER: The Media’s Benghazi Scandal.

Over my career, I’ve tended to resist press bashing. Part of the reason for that may be that there are plenty of journalists whose work I respect and whom I’ve come to admire. But I must say that the way the press as an institution covered the 2012 presidential election was in many respects depressing—and in some respects its biases have rarely been more fully on display.

There are a dozen examples I could cite, but let me simply focus on one: The September 11 attack on the U.S. diplomatic facility in Benghazi. We witnessed a massive failure at three different stages. The first is that the U.S. ambassador to Libya, Christopher Stevens, and others asked for additional protection because of their fears of terrorist attacks. Those requests were denied—and Mr. Stevens became the first American ambassador to be murdered in more than 30 years, along with three others. The second failure was not assisting former Navy SEALS Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty when they were under attack (both were killed). The third failure was that the administration misled the American people about the causes of the attack long after it was clear to many people that their narrative was false.

Yet with a few honorable exceptions—Fox News being the most conspicuous—the press has shown no real appetite for this story. It’s not that it hasn’t been covered; it’s that the coverage has lacked anything like the intensity and passion that you would have seen had this occurred during the presidency of, say, Ronald Reagan or George W. Bush. I have the advantage of having worked in the Reagan administration during Iran-contra and the Bush White House during the Patrick Fitzgerald leak investigation—and there is simply no comparison when it comes to how the press treated these stories. The juxtaposition with the Fitzgerald investigation is particularly damning to the media. Journalists were obsessed by that story, which turned out to be much ado about nothing—Mr. Fitzgerald decided early on there were no grounds to prosecute Richard Armitage for the leak of Valerie Plame’s name—and obsessed in particular with destroying the life of the very good man who was the architect of George W. Bush’s two presidential victories (thankfully they failed in their effort to knee-cap Karl Rove).

In the Benghazi story, we have four dead Americans.

It’s not about who died. It’s about who the press is trying to keep alive.