CNN has finally revealed the “source familiar with Ambassador Stevens’ thinking” upon which it based much of its reporting in the week following the attack on our embassy in Benghazi and the murder of Ambassador Chris Stevens. That “source” was his own, handwritten journal–and CNN used it for its reportage despite the wishes of Stevens’s family.
On Friday, September 21, CNN host Anderson Cooper made the admission on his Anderson Cooper 360 show saying that much of the “information was found in a personal journal of Ambassador Stevens in his handwriting”:
We came upon the journal through our reporting and notified the family. At their request, we returned that journal to them. We reported what we found newsworthy in the ambassador’s writings. A reporter followed up on what we found newsworthy, as I said, in the ambassador’s writings.
This rather benign explanation, though, runs quite contrary to what the Wall Street Journal reported, which was that the family had asked CNN not to use the journal at all:
CNN obtained a personal journal that belonged to the slain American ambassador to Libya, Christopher Stevens, and broadcast reports based on its contents against the wishes of the Stevens family, according to relatives and State Department officials who were asked to intervene by the family.
A spokesman for the Department of State said that the incident was, “not a proud moment in CNN’s history.”
The family had insisted that CNN not use Ambassador Stevens’s journal for its reporting until the family had a chance to review its contents. But, CNN ignored the wishes of the aggrieved family by using the journal for a week’s worth of reporting.
CNN also left its own audience in the dark as to the truth that this “source familiar with Ambassador Stevens’ thinking” was Stevens’s own journal. After a week of plumbing the journal for its insight into the situation in Benghazi, CNN didn’t inform its audience of the existence of the journal until pressured to do so on Friday.
CNN later claimed that it did not reveal the existence of the journal out of “respect to the family.” But that “respect” didn’t go far enough for CNN to acquiesce to the family’s wishers not to use its contents in the first place.