New York Times Public Editor Margaret Sullivan probed deeply into the workings of her own newspaper, investigating complaints that The Times’ Benghazi coverage has been an administration whitewash driven more by politics than journalism.
Her conclusion, in a blog posted on the Times website,
“The angry criticism of The Times on Benghazi has been based largely on politics, not journalism, and fomented by Fox News.”
Seriously. Sullivan thinks critics – of both Obama and The Times — are the ones obsessed with politics, not Times editors and reporters. If The Times errs, she wrote, it’s because the newspaper has covered it “as a story about political divisiveness rather than one about national security mistakes and the lack of government transparency.”
A setup piece Sullivan links to about Wednesday’s congressional hearings on Benghazi drives that point home:
“The story of what might have happened inside the Obama White House on the night of the attack and the administration’s response in the days that followed has captivated conservatives on Capitol Hill and beyond … It is a subject of continuous debate and coverage on Fox News, among conservative talk show hosts and bloggers, and at town hall-style meetings with members of Congress.”
In other words, the real problem is the great unwashed American public, talk radio pundits and The Times’ favorite bogeyman, Fox News.
“The questions that have been raised fit neatly with conservative portrayals of a president and an administration indifferent and disengaged when it comes to terrorism,” Sullivan wrote. “They include why the president hesitated to call the attack terrorism outright and whether or not he went to bed that night knowing the compound was under assault or ordered his aides to rewrite the explanation of the attacks that Susan Rice, the ambassador to the United Nations, gave on television to deceive the country about their cause.”
Note that none of these question are, or will be, answered in The Times. The paper’s editorial writers will doubtless conclude that the president did call the attack terrorism – even though he didn’t — and that he did not order his aides to write the lies Susan Rice told on five morning talk shows the Sunday after the attack. (Someone wrote the talking points, but no one seems to know who.)
But the best part is Sullivan’s mention of conservative questions over whether Obama “went to bed that night knowing the compound was under assault.”
She doesn’t mention Obama went to bed that night in Las Vegas, where he flew in for a campaign fundraiser, knowing full well the compound was under assault and American diplomats were dying.
He just had more important things to worry about – mainly rubbing elbows with rap stars in the Sin City.
But for The Times, it’s Obama’s conservative opponents – and the paper’s critics – who are politically driven.
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