How to Make the Administration Sound Like It Lied About Libya: Edit the Tape!

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Oct. 18 2012 10:33 AM

How to Make the Administration Sound Like It Lied About Libya: Edit the Tape!

Conservatives have started sending me links to the newest of American Crossroads' long web videos, arguing that it provides proof that contradicts my piece about Obama and Libya: That there's no video of Obama denying that terrorists attacked in Benghazi.

David Weigel David Weigel

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

Readers, I have to ask you to brace yourselves: The video is at least partly bogus. Watch it below, and notice the exchange between U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice and David Gregory.

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This is how the exchange appears in the Crossroads video.

GREGORY: That was spontaneous, was it a planned attack? Was there a terrorist element to it?
RICE: This is a response to a hateful and offensive video.

And this is the actual exchange from the September 16 episode of Meet the Press. I've bolded the parts that appear in the Crossroads video.

RICE: This is a response to a hateful and offensive video that was widely disseminated throughout the Arab and Muslim world.  Obviously, our view is that there is absolutely no excuse for violence and that-- what has happened is condemnable, but this is a -- a spontaneous reaction to a video, and it’s not dissimilar but, perhaps, on a slightly larger scale than what we have seen in the past with The Satanic Verses with the cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad.  Now, the United States has made very clear and the president has been very plain that our top priority is the protection of American personnel in our facilities and bringing to justice those who…
GREGORY: All right.
RICE: …attacked our facility in Benghazi.
GREGORY: Well, let’s talk -- talk about -- well, you talked about this as spontaneous. Can you say definitively that the attacks on -- on our consulate in Libya that killed ambassador Stevens and others there security personnel, that was spontaneous, was it a planned attack?  Was there a terrorist element to it?
RICE: Well, let us -- let me tell you the -- the best information we have at present.  First of all, there’s an FBI investigation which is ongoing. And we look to that investigation to give us the definitive word as to what transpired. But putting together the best information that we have available to us today our current assessment is that what happened in Benghazi was in fact initially a spontaneous reaction to what had just transpired hours before in Cairo, almost a copycat of -- of the demonstrations against our facility in Cairo, which were prompted, of course, by the video. What we think then transpired in Benghazi is that opportunistic extremist elements came to the consulate as this was unfolding.  They came with heavy weapons which unfortunately are readily available in post revolutionary Libya.  And it escalated into a much more violent episode.

Look, like I wrote yesterday, Rice was wrong here. She may have been purposefully misleading. There was apparently no protest used as a cover story by the attackers. But the attackers did cite the video in their reasons for committing the murders.

But the Crossroads video is attempting to change the record. When Gregory asked Rice whether terrorism occured in Banghazi, Rice did not mumble about the video. She offered some disclaimers then said that "opportunistic extremist elements came to the consulate." The idea that Rice foolishly claimed that the attack was part of a video protest, and nothing more, is a myth that only comes true with sketchy edits.

Also: Read Erik Wemple on what the Libya questioner wanted Obama to tell him, and what Obama did tell him when the cameras were off.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter.