CNN’s Jake Tapper has obtained an email from one of President Obama’s top advisors which formed the onus of ABC News’ “scoop” on the purported mishandling of the Benghazi attack. The email, which CNN reprinted in full Tuesday, was characterized by ABC’s Jonathan Karl as a smoking gun in the investigation, proof that talking points about the attack had been massaged in favor of the White House and State Department.
The actual email, from then-Deputy National Security Adviser for Strategic Communications Ben Rhodes, has turned out to be nothing of the sort, undermining the thrust of ABC’s story and the reasoning behind the latest hearings about Benghazi.
Last Friday, ABC claimed that the White House had rewritten the talking points on the attack on the American consulate in Benghazi twelve times and has scrubbed them of any references to terrorism.
The news organization breathlessly reported that, according to a source, the talking points were massaged to protect the interests of the White House, the CIA and the State Department, in particular those of then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. The Weekly Standard also published portions of an email that appeared damning to Clinton.
“The actual e-mail (from Rhodes) appears to show that whomever leaked it did so in a way that made it appear that the White House was primarily concerned with the State Department’s desire to remove references and warnings about specific terrorist groups so as to not bring criticism to the department,” Tapper wrote Tuesday.
Salon’s Joan Walsh wrote, “Significantly, the Rhodes email doesn’t even mention the controversial Benghazi talking points. Reporting by Stephen Hayes of the Weekly Standard paraphrased Rhodes’ email the same way – to depict him jumping in behind Nuland and protecting the interests of the State Department.”
According to Tapper, “Whoever provided those quotes seemingly invented the notion that Rhodes wanted the concerns of the State Department specifically addressed.”
The source for the ABC and Standard stories also singled out State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland as being particularly demanding with regard to assuring that her leadership would not look negligent or inattentive to warnings signs and signals leading up to the attack. Tapper said that upon viewing the full email chain, Nuland was merely one of many officials expressing concerns about how their agencies would be viewed by the public.
Further, Walsh posited, “Presumably, someone changed Rhodes’ email before leaking it to Karl, but ABC News hasn’t replied to the scoop by Tapper (who used to work there). “
“ABC’s story added fuel to the Benghazi fire,” she said, “we’ll see if CNN’s helps put it out.”