I feel like good old-fashioned rant against the Los Angeles Times coming on.
Today, there was explosive testimony from Greg Hicks regarding the Obama administration’s obstruction of a Congressional investigation into Benghazi. Hicks testified concerning how, after a career filled with awards and plaudits — and directly after Hillary Clinton and President Obama had praised his leadership during the terrorist attack in Libya — the State Department then criticized his “management style” just after he questioned why Susan Rice had gone on national TV portraying a terrorist attack as a protest. When he first raised the issue, he said, “the sense I got was that I needed to stop the line of questioning.”
More remarkably, he said, “I was instructed not to allow the RSO [Regional Security Officer], the acting deputy chief of mission and myself to be personally interviewed by Congressman Chaffetz.” He had never before been given such instructions with respect to a Congressional delegation.
A lawyer from State had tried to accompany him to his meeting with Chaffetz, and after the meeting he got a displeased phone call from Hillary confidante Cheryl Mills. After that, he said, he was “effectively demoted.”
Shocking stuff, bearing directly on the question of whether the Obama administration orchestrated a cover-up of the true nature of the terrorist attack — and giving an ironic meaning to Jay Carney’s absurd claim concerning the “remarkable level of cooperation that we’ve demonstrated with Congressional committees and investigators thus far.” Remarkable, indeed. I guess you could use that word to describe obstruction of justice.
Let’s say, for the sake of argument, that you were a complete partisan hack, totally in the tank for Obama, and you wanted to blunt the force of Hicks’s testimony regarding Benghazi. How would you go about whitewashing today’s hearings? I think you would follow this strategy:
- You would report today’s hearings as if nothing particularly significant had happened.
- You would prominently note that today’s hearings have been described by Democrats as partisan.
- You would note that a “independent” accountability review board had found no misleading behavior on the part of the Obama administration — ignoring questions that have been raised about the lack of thoroughness of that review board’s investigation.
- You would bury anything hurtful to the Obama administration deep down in the story, giving it virtually no prominence whatsoever — or perhaps just omit it entirely.
The editors at the Los Angeles Times, and their reporter Ken Dilanian, have followed this blueprint to a “T.”
In one of the most hackish pieces I’ve read in this paper in ages, the Los Angeles Times coverage of Hicks’s testimony bears this headline:
Envoy describes night of Benghazi attack
The totally unremarkable deck headline?
Greg Hicks, deputy chief of the diplomatic mission in Libya, tells Congress he was on the phone with J. Christopher Stevens just before the ambassador was killed.
Here’s how this dreck opens:
Minutes after Greg Hicks learned that the perimeter of the U.S. mission in Benghazi had been breached by men with guns, he punched a cellphone number to reach Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens, his immediate boss, who was at the scene.
“Greg, we’re under attack,” Stevens told Hicks, the deputy chief of the mission, Hicks testified to Congress on Wednesday.
Then the connection was lost. Hicks never spoke to his boss again. Stevens died soon afterward, as the Benghazi mission went up in flames around him.
Members of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee were universal in their praise of the gripping, soft-spoken, minute-by-minute account they heard Wednesday from Hicks, the first public testimony from a government official who was in Libya during the assault that killed four Americans in September.
What? That’s the story? What about the revelations that lawyers tried to keep him from talking to Congressman Chaffetz? What about the retaliation Hicks suffered for questioning Rice’s rewritten and absurd talking points?
Nope. We’ll have none of that. Instead, reporter Dilanian spews Obama talking points in the most blatantly partisan fashion imaginable:
Hicks and two other State Department witnesses shed little new light on the key questions at issue in the hearing: whether there was anything more the U.S. military could have done to thwart the attack and whether the Obama administration intentionally misled the American people when officials initially said the attacks stemmed from a protest.
An independent review board has concluded that neither charge is true, but the Republican-controlled House is pressing on with investigations, with particular interest in the role of former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, who may run for president in 2016.
Wait, what? A highly praised individual questions the official line that this was a protest, and is suddenly the victim of blatant retaliation and is told not to talk to Congress — and none of this sheds any light on whether the Obama administration misled the public?
As for the work of that “independent” review board — convened by Hillary Clinton — Hicks was interviewed by that board, but never had a chance to read their conclusions before they were issued. Somehow, oddly enough, the board didn’t tell us everything we heard about today. And that board has faced criticism for not interviewing other key players — not that you would know that from reading today’s L.A. Times article.
Three paragraphs from the end of the piece, this tidbit is neatly buried: “Hicks said he was disgusted when he heard U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice say on television Sept. 16 that the attacks stemmed from a protest over an anti-Islamic video. There was no protest, Hicks said.” So that revelation is about as far from prominent as you can get.
What about the pressure on Hicks to keep his mouth shut? And the retaliation he suffered when he did not?
Yup, you guessed it. As remarkable as it ought to seem given that this story was written by an ostensibly professional journalist working for a large metropolitan newspaper, there is not a single, solitary word in the article about any of that.
Disgusting partisan hackwork.
Let’s examine the faithfulness which with this story adheres to the blueprint outlined above. Pretend nothing remarkable happened? Check. Prominently note that today’s hearings have been described by Democrats as partisan? Check. Unquestionably report findings of “independent” accountability review board? Check. Bury or omit harmful facts? Check, checkity check check CHECK.
Mr. Dilanian, did you not watch today’s hearings, or are you just furiously spinning without any regard to a huge story that might not benefit the political party to which you obviously swear allegiance? Yes, sir, it is every bit that obvious — and my question is rhetorical. I know you watched the hearings, and I know that you are hiding the truth from your readers. It is an utterly shameful performance.
Mr. Dilanian: to you and your editors on this piece of misleading garbage, I say: I hope the Koch brothers buy your paper. I hold that hope so bad I can taste it. You are obviously one of the types who say they would leave if that happened. You are exactly the type of reporter who should leave. Your story is utterly dishonest and journalistically shoddy. You belong in D.C. as an Obama flack, not in Los Angeles as a purported journalist.
Leave. Take your spin to the political machine. Get out of my city and get off the pages of my city’s newspaper.
UPDATE: You want to know how terrible a job Dilanian did on this? He makes the New York Times coverage look responsible and fair.