This is another case of Republicans blaming the White House for their own laziness, and the media buying it.
The emails Republicans have been accusing the White House of not releasing were actually released two months ago, senior administration officials told Salon yesterday during a conference call. House Speaker John Boehner skipped out on that briefing.
Furthermore, House and Senate Intelligence Committee members were briefed in March about the emails, senior administration officials told Salon. This is confirmed by Saxby Chambliss’ comment to The Hill at the time in February, where he says the emails put to rest many if not all of the committee’s concerns.
The emails were again shared with Congress during John Brennan’s confirmation hearing, Alex Seitz-Wald pointed out in his Salon column. That’s not a cover-up.
This might explain why Boehner made a fool of himself yesterday when his “smoking gun” email didn’t reveal what he said it would reveal about Benghazi. Boehner made a big stink that the email would prove that the administration had changed its talking points from “Islamic terrorists” to “Islamic extremists”, when in fact, the email said “Islamic terrorists.”
Boehner charged that the administration would not let them keep a copy of the email, but Boehner did not attend the briefing, so the truth is that he got second hand information about what it said. The Press needs to ask Boehner if he’s in the habit of making serious accusations based on unconfirmed hearsay. They should also ask why he didn’t attend the briefing.
Boehner also suggested that the emails were being hidden from the public, but according to senior administration officials speaking to Salon, they were not classified. Thus, Republicans were free to address any concerns they had when they were briefed on the emails months ago.
During Wednesday’s hearing, Republican Rep. Gowdy seems to have deliberately misled the committee, and only a copy of the email provided to the New York Times proved him wrong:
During Wednesday’s hearing, Representative Trey Gowdy, Republican of South Carolina, read an excerpt from the e-mail, quoting what he said was a reference to the local militant group that carried out the attack, Ansar al-Shariah, as having links to “Islamic terrorists.”
But a copy of the e-mail reviewed by The New York Times indicates that A. Elizabeth Jones, the senior State Department official who wrote it, referred to “Islamic extremists,” not terrorists.
The distinction is important, administration officials said, because while the White House did not initially characterize the attack as terrorism, senior officials, including Ambassador Susan E. Rice, acknowledged the possibility that extremists had been involved in the assault.
John Boehner should know better than to take Gowdy’s word; he is not known for his accuracy, but rather for his willingness to perpetrate any conspiracy theory going. Gowdy was a big pusher of the now dead Fast and Furious opera, aimed at destroying AG Eric Holder.
As the media runs with the “cover up” meme and even knowledgeable pundits are conceding to reality that sure, the administration should have released those emails sooner, it turns out that the emails were released several times over the past months. Republicans either skipped the briefing where they were released, or read them back then and claimed that their concerns had been addressed.
But now Republicans are pretending they never got them, or that they say something they don’t say. Speaker John Boehner charged publicly that the emails said something they didn’t. It turns out that the Speaker must have gotten his information second hand, because he skipped a briefing held two months ago, during which those emails were released.
This is hardly the first time Republicans skipped briefings on Benghazi. Senator McCain was so busy making accusations on TV that he skipped a briefing on the issue last November. He was literally on TV demanding answers as the answers were being given in a meeting he skipped to be on TV.
It’s time for the media to start questioning Republicans as to where they are getting their information and why they are making accusations for which they don’t have proof. Even worse, they need to be called out when the evidence is submitted and it contradicts their allegations. These are serious charges to be making in a hearing, especially now that we know they were inaccurate and were based on recollection instead of evidence.
The media needs to start asking for proof before running with the hopeful and sloppy narratives of a desperate party that is proving that just like when Clinton was in office, their only function is to drum up charges, obstruct government, and waste money.
Ms. Jones is the co-founder/ editor-in-chief of PoliticusUSA and a member of the White House press pool.
Sarah hosts Politicus News and co-hosts Politicus Radio. Her analysis has been featured on several national radio, television news programs and talk shows, and print outlets including Stateside with David Shuster, as well as The Washington Post, The Atlantic Wire, CNN, MSNBC, The Week, The Hollywood Reporter, and more.
Sarah is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists.