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Opinion: Columnists

David Freddoso: Without real journalism, 'you're on your own'

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Photo - Witnesses Mark Thompson, the State Department's acting deputy assistant secretary for counterterrorism, Gregory Hicks, former deputy chief of mission in Libya, and Eric Nordstrom, the State Department's former regional security officer in Libya, prepare to testify before the House. House Republicans insist the Obama administration is covering up information about the attack, rejecting administration assurances to the contrary and stoking a controversy with implications for the 2016 presidential race.  (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
Witnesses Mark Thompson, the State Department's acting deputy assistant secretary for counterterrorism, Gregory Hicks, former deputy chief of mission in Libya, and Eric Nordstrom, the State Department's former regional security officer in Libya, prepare to testify before the House. House Republicans insist the Obama administration is covering up information about the attack, rejecting administration assurances to the contrary and stoking a controversy with implications for the 2016 presidential race. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

"Who's tweeting about Benghazi? Rich, middle-aged men and Chick-fil-A lovers."

That note, sent from the Washington Post's Twitter account on Wednesday, elicited anger for its flippant treatment of the deadly Sept. 11, 2012, attack that killed four Americans in Libya.

But more troubling than the flippancy was the tweet's tone-deafness. Whose fault is it, after all, if only conservatives are discussing this major story? If media outlets like the Washington Post had taken the Benghazi story a bit more seriously last fall, it might not be so.

But they simply assumed the best about the competence and sincerity of President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, leaving this territory to Fox News and outlets that wealthy chicken-lovers read.

Meanwhile, Americans were deceived, and the Post's Glenn Kessler seems to have caught up with that fact. "One generally presumes that top government officials have access to classified information and firsthand accounts not available to the media," Kessler wrote.

"But in this case either their judgments were colored by media accounts as well -- or they took advantage of the media's reporting to obscure some politically difficult news," he said.

The absence of journalistic curiosity following the Benghazi attack stands out as an extraordinary case of media malpractice. We think of journalists as skeptics, but where could one find a more credulous lot?

They took, at face value, the contention that a low-budget movie trailer on YouTube had spontaneously caused a coordinated ground and mortar attack by at least five dozen well-armed militants on an obscure American diplomatic facility.

Further, this spontaneous eruption of anger supposedly occurred at the very moment when the U.S. ambassador happened to be visiting from a distant capital, and the attackers managed to find and kill him.

Contrary to the administration's position until now, the deceptions that followed the attack appear to have been cooked up without reference to information provided by intelligence or diplomatic sources on the ground.

Yet the "YouTube demonstration" story was spread as fact, not only by U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice in her famed media blitz, but by Obama himself.

And Clinton not only invoked "The Innocence of Muslims" video when standing before the flag-draped coffins of those slain in Benghazi, but even told the father of slain former SEAL Tyrone Woods, in private, "We're going to have that person arrested and prosecuted that did the video."

We now have information that suggests she knew better all along, and -- even worse -- that this deception might have complicated efforts to get the FBI to the scene of the attack to investigate.

Speaking of that FBI investigation, it was constantly cited last fall as an excuse for further delaying the release of information. There's an investigation, so don't jump to conclusions -- well, except maybe that one conclusion about the YouTube video.

So, did the White House, already sensitive to charges it was too soft on terror, concoct its deception because an election was approaching? Does this explain the irritation shown by Clinton's chief of staff that Gregory Hicks, the deputy chief of mission in Libya, dared speak freely with a member of Congress without a political babysitter present at all times?

"You're on your own" is a phrase that Obama frequently invoked during the last campaign to describe the cartoonish version of laissez faire anarchism that would supposedly result in America if he were not re-elected.

The same phrase appeared Wednesday in different context, from Eric Nordstrom, former regional security officer in Libya. "You're on your own," he said, was the message the administration had sent by failing to provide requested security before the attack, failing to provide support as it raged, and then afterward assigning all blame to low-level bureaucrats, sparing senior officials including Clinton.

"You're on your own" is the message sent when Hicks, a 22-year Foreign Service Officer, was demoted for questioning the cover story about the YouTube video.

But the phrase applies equally to the media and where they left the public on Benghazi -- on their own. You're on your own finding the truth when news organs decide to stop asking serious questions and impose a blackout on a major story.

Examiner Columnist David Freddoso is editor of the Conservative Intelligence Briefing.

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David Freddoso

Deputy Opinion Editor
The Washington Examiner