Politics

ABC's Benghazi Report Featured Doctored White House Email

| by Jonathan Wolfe
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Criticism of the Obama administration’s handling of the Benghazi attacks has continued this week.

To say the administration has been under fire would be a heavy understatement. But a report today seems to indicate that some of the accusers, specifically those at ABC, may not be acting too honestly themselves.

In his May 10th story, ABC News reporter Jonathan Karl published a story on the alleged dozen revisions the White House’s Benghazi talking points went under before being released to the public. Karl quotes an email from White House national security communications advisor Ben Rhodes in which Rhodes says the Benghazi talking points must be altered in order to “reflect all agency equities, including those of the state department.” Karl alleged that Rhode’s was responding to Victoria Nuland of the State Department, who said she was worried the Benghazi reports would hurt “my building’s leadership.” Karl’s reported version of the email reads as follows:

“We must make sure that the talking points reflect all agency equities, including those of the State Department, and we don’t want to undermine the FBI investigation. We thus will work through the talking points tomorrow morning at the Deputies Committee meeting.”

Here’s the problem with Karl’s story: that’s not the original email. Someone, whether it is Karl, who, by the way, is ABC’s Chief White House Correspondent, or another ABC employee, changed the email. CNN acquired a proven original copy of the email, and it differs significantly from the version quoted by ABC. Check out the original email:

“Sorry to be late to this discussion. We need to resolve this in a way that respects all of the relevant equities, particularly the investigation.

“There is a ton of wrong information getting out into the public domain from Congress and people who are not particularly informed. Insofar as we have firmed up assessments that don’t compromise intel or the investigation, we need to have the capability to correct the record, as there are significant policy and messaging ramifications that would flow from a hardened mis-impression.”

The two emails are significantly different. In the original email, Rhodes does not even make mention of the Benghazi “talking points.” That phrasing was fabricated by ABC. There is also no reason to believe Rhodes was responding to any sort of prompting by Nuland to protect the State Department’s “building leadership.”

Some critics of the Obama administration have suggested that the emails being quoted differently are two separate emails, but that is not possible. Both emails are dated 9/14/2012 at 9:34 p.m. Regardless of whom it was, someone deliberately changed this email for the sake of a story. ABC has yet to update their story in light of CNN’s original email showing theirs to be fraudulent.

Regardless of political opinions, can’t we all agree that this kind of disinformation has no place in reporting? 

Sources: Salon, CNN, ABC