Washington Post media reporter Erik Wemple has just launched what he calls a “massive series” that will look at how the media covers Hillary Clinton, who is almost certainly running for president in 2016. The second part of the series (you can read part one here) examines New York Magazine’s lengthy profile/interview of the former Secretary of State. In his headline, Wemple accuses the publication of whitewashing Benghazi:
The message of this treatment, though, is that Benghazi is merely and exclusively a political matter, not one of leadership and preparation and integrity. For instance, those security problems — can they be legitimately dismissed in just a sentence fragment? Even Obama administration officials have conceded that the security failures constituted a significant breakdown. How much of the failure appropriately belongs to the State Department’s leader?
There are many more substantive questions regarding Clinton and Benghazi, including why she couldn’t be bothered to represent the administration on the Sunday talk shows on Sept. 16, instead leaving that task to U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice, who bombed. And those conspiracy-theory-producing talking points: Clinton reportedly played little or no role in their evolution. Why?
Hagan, too, spins Clinton’s famous outburst on Capitol Hill as evidence of Republican attempts to “goad” her, rather than as an example of a public official using righteous indignation to duck a question. At issue was the administration’s initial explanation that the Benghazi attack sprung from spontaneous protests associated with an anti-Muslim video. That account wasn’t valid. In a January hearing, Sen. Ron Johnson pushed Clinton on the matter[:]
Wemple goes on to criticize Republicans for overreaching on Libya, which is not an unfair point, but his insight into how New York Magazine covered Benghazi without really covering it is important.
By portraying Hillary’s fatal leadership failure in Libya (and it was a massive one, especially when it came to security) as nothing more than a political/partisan problem (as opposed to a genuine weak point in her resume), New York Magazine, and by extension, the mainstream media, can check off the Benghazi Box without hurting Clinton.
I suspect this will be the overall media’s Benghazi playbook forever more.
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