CBS News President David Rhodes described what the “government” believed about the Benghazi attack the day after it happened, saying it was not just a “mob reaction” to a film. He also predicted the incident would quickly become part of a political battle between President Obama and Governor Romney.
On 9/12/2012 CBS News President David Rhodes spoke to the Greater San Antonio Chamber of Commerce. He was a last minute replacement for anchor Scott Pelley who was unable to attend because he was covering the breaking Benghazi story.
Rhodes spoke for about 20 minutes and then took a couple questions from the audience. The first question was how he, as President of CBS News, decides when to cover a candidate’s statements about breaking news, i.e. when is Gov. Romney’s take important and when is it not?
Rhodes replied in the context of the big story that day, which was Benghazi. He pointed out that CBS had already covered statements earlier that morning by Secretary Clinton and the President (who made a speech in the Rose Garden that morning). Rhodes described both of these as factual statements about the incident with no political edge. He then turned back to politics saying, “Now we don’t think that’s going to last, as far as it being about the people we lost and the unfolding situation.”
At this point, Rhodes interjected a parenthetical note about the “pretty alarming” situation saying, “Our government thinks that, you know, there’s a really good chance thiswas not just a spontaneous mob reaction to what some thought was anoffensive film but actually a coordinated effort timed to the 9/11anniversary.”
Rhodes then returned to the issue of campaign politics saying “the Romney campaign is eager to make a point about how they think we’ve positioned ourselves facing the threat of radical Islam.” As for the President, Rhodes continued, “And even now we think that the President is making new comments in a new interview with us, for the same 60 Minutes project…in which he’s going to be critical back at Romney’s criticism of him.”Rhodes summed up saying “we’re within two months [of the election] and these things are pretty swiftly politicized.”
During the 60 Minutes interview with Steve Kroft Obama seemed to agree with what Rhodes had said of the attack:
Kroft: It’s been described as a mob action but there are reports that they were very heavily armed…with grenades. That doesn’t sound like your normal demonstration.
Obama: Right. 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, is that there are folks involved in this who were looking to target Americans from the start.
And yet, two days later, Obama’s spokesman Jay Carney was pushing the video as an explanation for what happened in Bengahzi and Ben Rhodes (David’s brother who is an adviser to the President) was sending an email suggesting Amb. Susan Rice should tell Americans the protests were about a video not a failure of foreign policy.