Several weeks before the 2004 presidential election, CBS News anchor Dan Rather ran a story on the network’s “60 Minutes” program about President George W. Bush’s service in the National Guard, claiming he had gone AWOL, among other improprieties. Mr. Rather cited several records and documents said to have been maintained by Mr. Bush’s deceased commander and provided by another National Guard official. As it turned out, however, the documents were later found to have been inauthentic and Mr. Rather’s career as a mainstream newsman was effectively ended.
Now comes the shocking revelation that CBS News withheld, until this past Sunday – two days before the election – a key portion of its “60 Minutes” interview with President Obama conducted within hours after his Rose Garden press conference on September 12, the day after the attack on the American consulate in Benghazi.
The newly released excerpt plainly confirms that President Obama misrepresented the facts when he claimed during the second presidential debate to have referred in the Rose Garden to the Benghazi attack as a terrorist act rather than a spontaneous reaction to an anti-Muhammad film.
It will be recalled that one of the electrifying moments in the second presidential debate was Governor Romney’s reaction to President Obama’s Rose Garden claim. Mr. Obama had been responding to a question about whether he and his administration refused to label the attack an act of terror (as opposed to a spontaneous reaction to an the anti-Muhammad film) because the administration had been boasting that terrorist groups were under control in that area.
Critics of Mr. Obama’s assertion pointed out that for weeks after Benghazi, administration officials uniformly maintained that the attack was a frenzied, popular response to the movie’s provocations. And a review of the Rose Garden transcript indicates it is quite a stretch to take Mr. Obama at his word. These are the relevant excerpts:
The United States condemns in the strongest terms this outrageous and shocking attack…. Since our founding, the United States has been a nation that respects all faiths. We reject all efforts to denigrate the religious beliefs of others. But there is absolutely no justification for this type of senseless violence. None. The world must stand together to unequivocally reject these brutal acts…. No acts of terror will ever shake the resolve of this great nation, alter that character, or eclipse the light of the values that we stand for….
So not only did the president frame the attack in terms of an “unjustified” reaction to the denigration of “the religious beliefs of others” – i.e., it was a riot by enraged Muslims – he also was plainly referring to “this type of senseless violence” when he used the phrase “acts of terror.”
Notwithstanding, the first clip of the interview put out by CBS on October 19, five weeks after the attack, appeared to support the president’s claim, carrying the following exchange between Mr. Obama and 60 Minutes correspondent Steven Kroft:
Kroft: But there are reports that they were heavily armed with grenades, that doesn’t sound like your normal demonstration.
Obama: As I said, we’re still investigating exactly what happened, I don’t want to jump the gun on this. But you’re right that this is not a situation that was exactly the same as what happened in Egypt. And my suspicion is there are folks involved in this who were looking to target Americans from the start. So we’re gonna make sure that our first priority is to get our folks out safe, make sure our embassies are secured around the world and then we are going to go after those folks who carried this out.
But here’s part of the newly released portion of that interview – and again, bear in mind that the interview was conducted the night after Mr. Obama’s Rose Garden press conference:
Kroft: Mr. President, this morning you went out of your way to avoid the use of the word terrorism in connection with the Libya attack. Do you believe this was a terrorism attack?
Obama: Well, it’s too early to tell exactly how this came about, what group was involved, but obviously it was an attack on Americans. And we are going to be working with the Libyan government to make sure that we bring these folks to justice, one way or the other.