NBC Confused Libya with Egypt in Early Reporting

An article published in the early morning of September 12th by NBC News confused events taking place in Libya and Egypt. The article, which was reproduced over 1,200 times on the web, may have led to confusion about what happened in Benghazi on 9/11.

The article opens with an account of the attack in Benghazi, Libya that led to the death of an American Ambassador. It then transitions to a description of events in Egypt; however, the author wrote "Benghazi" when he should have said "Cairo."

The attack left much of the [Benghazi] consulate burned, witnesses said, and came hours after demonstrators in Egypt climbed the walls of the U.S. Embassy in Cairo to protest the video.

In Benghazi, protesters from various groups joined together to pull down the American flag in the embassy's courtyard and tried to raise a black flag with the words: "There is no God but Allah and Muhammad is his messenger."

Once the U.S. flag was hauled down, protesters tore it up, with some showing off small pieces to television cameras. Then others burned pieces of the flag before riot police arrived. Most of the 2,000 in the crowd later left. Some reports said warning shots were fired.

The word "Benghazi" above should have been "Cairo." We know this because all of the action NBC describes thereafter took place in Cairo, Egypt not in Benghazi, Libya. For instance, there were no TV cameras or massive crowds in Benghazi. In fact, it was well after dark when the attack began. Pulling down the flag, shredding it and burning portions of it all happened in Cairo as you can see here. Also note that the NBC report says this happened in "the embassy's courtyard." That can only refer to Cairo because the attack in Benghazi took place at a consulate, not an Embassy (the Libyan Embassy is in Tripoli).

Making errors in the midst of late night reporting on breaking news is an occupational hazard. Ordinarily a small mistake like this would not be a cause for concern, but in this case NBC's article containing the error was reprinted over 1,200 times on various websites. As a result, many people likely gained the impression that events in Benghazi, Libya were very similar to what took place in Cairo, Egypt (identical in fact!).

In reality, the two scenes were very different. In Cairo, a large group numbering over 1,000 carried signs and flags to the Embassy. They entered the compound in the afternoon and tore down the US flag with TV cameras watching. In Benghazi, a few dozen armed militants arrived at the consulate carrying rifles and RPGs in the evening. They blocked off streets and carried out a coordinated attack on the main building with grenades and mortars. They then attacked a safe house one kilometer away a little while later.

NBC's simple mistake created more confusion than clarity and may explain, in part, why so many people still believe the Benghazi attack was another protest gone wrong, not that different than the one that took place in Cairo.


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