PBS NewsHour's "Fact-Checking Debate Claims on Libya Attacks" skips their own 9/12 facts

Like many who’ve been watching the situation unfold regarding the attack on the US consulate in Benghazi, Libya, I was as surprised as Mitt Romney was when President Obama asserted in Tuesday’s debate that he’d called the attack a “terrorist attack” on September 12th.

That’s a strong, unambiguous characterization, and considering all the analysis of the anti-Muslim video that supposedly sparked the deadly event, I had no memory of the President calling it a “terrorist attack” from the start. So when Obama said “get the transcript”, I did an immediate check on the internet and found the official White House statement, a four paragraph piece (screencapture of it here) that simply characterized the attack as an “outrageous attack”. Certainly, an official statement like that would describe such an attack as one of terrorism, if it could be immediately determined to be one.

However, I was more interested in watching the remainder of the debate, and I figured post-debate analysis would sort out what the President said and when he said it.

Quickly enough, news outlets pointed to the President’s longer remarks, with most in the media implying it vindicated his assertion, while others say it vindicated Romney because the wording toward the end of Obama’s remarks about “No acts of terror will ever shake the resolve of this great nation” were seemingly in reference to the 9/11 anniversary. Indeed, at the beginning of his 9/12 remarks, Obama called the attack “this outrageous and shocking attack”, and much like the official statement, you’d think he would have called it an “outrageous and shocking terrorist attack” if he knew it to be one.

Last night’s (10/17/12) PBS NewsHour broadcast segment titled “Fact-Checking Debate Claims on Libya Attacks, Gas Prices and Tax Policy” apparently sided with the President. After replaying the Obama / Romney debate exchange, the segment host said the following while the screen showed specific words overlaying the full transcript of Obama’s 9/12 remarks:

RAY SUAREZ: According to the White House transcript, Mr. Obama said the following on September 12:  “No acts of terror will ever shake the resolve of this great nation, alter that character or eclipse the light of the values that we stand for.”

Period. End of story. Except it appears this end-all fact check is contradicted by the Newshour’s own presentation of the story on September 12th.

In its segment that day, titled “Attacks Linked to Web Video Leave Four Americans Dead at U.S. Consulat in Libya”, viewers are left with the impression that the Benghazi attack was the result of the controversial anti-Muslim video. Although the segment host Margaret Warner noted near the beginning how “White House officials said militants tied to al-Qaida may have used protests against an anti-Islam film as a diversion”, no mention is made about Obama’s speculation of this, and the remainder of the segment focuses on the effects of the controversial video, but first set it up with quotes of Hillary Clinton saying the situation was “an attack by a small and savage group”, and Obama stating “Today, we mourn for more Americans who represent the very best of the United States of America. We will not waver in our commitment to see that justice is done for this terrible act.

Those two sentence quotes from Obama’s remarks were right after the one about “No acts of terror …”, but the NewsHour did not play that sentence. Instead, it continued with translated remarks from the president of Libya’s National Assembly about his country as a “a scene of cowardly reprisals.”

MARGARET WARNER: Those reprisals came apparently in response to Internet clips of a film titled “The Innocence of Muslims” that crudely defamed the Prophet Mohammed.

If the NewsHour saw fit to leave out the “No acts of terror …” sentence while devoting the bulk of the segment’s time to the controversial video, it would not have been led to believe from the President’s remarks that the Benghazi attack was one of premeditated terror. So why, in the face of its own 9/12 segment’s evidence, did the Newshour not mention all of this in its ‘fact-checking’ segment last night?

I suggest this particular problem is no isolated incident, but is instead indicative of a far larger problem with the NewsHour and the mainstream media as a whole. In a piece at JunkScience.com, I noted how the NewsHour claims a scientific consensus validates the idea of man-caused global warming, but they contradicted their own position on “consensus” in  2011 news piece which suggested a single science report might overturn 100 years of consensus about Einstein’s theory of relativity. And in a lengthy article last year at American Thinker, I detailed how the NewsHour has a huge problem with not being able to explain its way out its failure to report half the story of global warming for over fifteen years, namely the side involving highly detailed viewpoints of skeptic climate scientists.

When the NewsHour leaves out critical details in their own reporting of their reactions to the President’s September 12 Benghazi remarks, it further undermines their own credibility in light of prior instances of inexplicable lapses in journalistic integrity, and they look ever more like the proverbial ‘canary in the coal mine’ when it comes to the public sensing the entire mainstream media should be viewed with suspicion rather than with unquestioning trust.


Russell Cook’s collection of writings about the global warming issue – inspired by the NewsHour’s apparent bias – can be seen at “The ’96-to-present smear of skeptic scientists.” Follow him at Twitter:  @questionAGW

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