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WH Spin Team Zeroed in on Video as Cause of Benghazi

A newly released internal White House email, obtained by Judicial Watch, shows that White House communications officials were instructed to highlight the role of an anti-Muslim video in spurring the Sept. 11, 2012 Benghazi attacks in order to ensure President Obama avoided any blame.

While the email does not prove that White House officials knew the video was ultimately not the precipitator and that the incidents were a terrorist attack that resulted in the deaths of four Americans, it does show Obama aides had a motive for emphasizing the video over other possible causes.

Nevertheless, State Department official Gregory Hicks, who was on the ground at the time in Libya, said it was clear over there that the video played no role. And the email, from White House national security spokesman Ben Rhodes, was sent Sept. 14, after State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland suggested the assault was planned, calling it “clearly a complex attack.”

And of course, Obama himself tried to suggest – even during a debate with Mitt Romney – that he had characterized the attack as terrorism by calling it an “act of terror” on Sept. 12.

Either the White House knew it was terrorism or it didn’t – you can’t have it both ways.

The email suggests if the White House knew the assault was premeditated, it must have forgotten.

From Judicial Watch:

The Rhodes email was sent on sent on Friday, September 14, 2012, at 8:09 p.m. with the subject line:  “RE: PREP CALL with Susan, Saturday at 4:00 pm ET.”  The documents show that the “prep” was for Amb. Rice’s Sunday news show appearances to discuss the Benghazi attack.

The document lists as a “Goal”: “To underscore that these protests are rooted in and Internet video, and not a broader failure or policy.”

Rhodes returns to the “Internet video” scenario later in the email, the first point in a section labeled “Top-lines”:

“[W]e’ve made our views on this video crystal clear. The United States government had nothing to do with it. We reject its message and its contents. We find it disgusting and reprehensible. But there is absolutely no justification at all for responding to this movie with violence. And we are working to make sure that people around the globe hear that message.”

Among the top administration PR personnel who received the Rhodes memo were White House Press Secretary Jay Carney, Deputy Press Secretary Joshua Earnest, then-White House Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer, then-White House Deputy Communications Director Jennifer Palmieri, then-National Security Council Director of Communications Erin Pelton, Special Assistant to the Press Secretary Howli Ledbetter, and then-White House Senior Advisor and political strategist Davie Plouffe.

The Rhodes communications strategy email also instructs recipients to portray Obama as “steady and statesmanlike” throughout the crisis. Another of the “Goals” of the PR offensive, Rhodes says, is “[T]o reinforce the President and Administration’s strength and steadiness in dealing with difficult challenges.” He later includes as a PR “Top-line” talking point:

“I think that people have come to trust that President Obama provides leadership that is steady and statesmanlike. There are always going to be challenges that emerge around the world, and time and again, he has shown that we can meet them.”

The documents Judicial Watch obtained also include a September 12, 2012, email from former Deputy Spokesman at U.S. Mission to the United Nations Payton Knopf to Susan Rice, noting that at a press briefing earlier that day, State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland explicitly stated that the attack on the consulate had been well planned.  The email sent by Knopf to Rice at 5:42 pm said:

Responding to a question about whether it was an organized terror attack, Toria said that she couldn’t speak to the identity of the perpetrators but that it was clearly a complex attack.

In the days following the Knopf email, Rice appeared on ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox News and CNN still claiming the assaults occurred “spontaneously” in response to the “hateful video.”

Obama was of course engaged in a reelection campaign, and any indication that he had failed to protect Americans on the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks could have been political dynamite.

The press failed – and still fails – to adequately investigate the events surrounding Benghazi. Were this George W. Bush, they’d have plowed up the entire South Lawn and dug up the Rose Garden looking for clues.

And Elijah Cummings would be well into his impeachment hearings.

27 Responses to WH Spin Team Zeroed in on Video as Cause of Benghazi

  1. Rhodes lost me at:

    “I think that people have come to trust that President Obama provides leadership that is steady and statesmanlike. There are always going to be challenges that emerge around the world, and time and again, he has shown that we can meet them.”

  2. This is shocking, but not unexpected information on how MsRice came to tell a convoluted tale that caused the death of four Americans, and the wounding of an unknown number of American security personel.

    The question: how did the Egyptian US Embassy know that the riot/disturbance at their location was the result of anger about an obscure video that probably wasn’t available to anyone in Egypt?
    The Egyptian Embassy staff there issued/tweeted an apology for this video, then the WhiteHouse disavowed the tweet as not authorized, then the riot erupted in Libya, then it was back to the video again.
    And, therein lies the lies, the coverups, and the confusion about the Benghazi massacre.

    If we take away all the chatter about an offensive video, and just eliminate the planned attack’s cause, the coverup is and was to protect the President’s re-election chances as he vowed that Al Queda was “on the run”.
    A spin of the facts is standard election grandstanding, but it’s not who did it, or why it happened that angers Americans; we want to know why no one was sent to help the besieged Americans, why no one is held responsible, there were no followup demands to Libya authorities for action, and if help was available, who gave the “stand down” order.

    • Good summary and questions. I suspect it will take a very long time to get actual answers as opposed to WH gooboledygook and gibberish, served up with every response. For the millions of morons, who have not followed the events since 9/11/12, they would be overwhelmed by the web of lies, over more lies, wrapped in a video, folded in a drawer and locked away with a 1,000 keys and a 1,000 combination gym locks. To strengthen my point, have we seen any resolve to Fast and Furious? No. This admin. is adept and skilled by throwing obstacles as quickly as they are retrieved. Attempts to garner information are repelled by the DoJ and their evil elves. Put up a fuss, demand answers and one is accused of being a racist, anarchist or McCarthyism. The Left has been on the march since Woodrow Wilson, it’s been a hundred years of planning, plotting and polluting every aspect of our lives and some their success has been with the help of Republicans, who have dressed-up like a conservative, but behaved like whores behind closed doors.

      • Boy Sadie, are you on target; wish the media would FINALLY pick up on this and FINALLY get to the bottom of at least ONE of these investigations!

        • Not gonna happen. The media died and no one in the WH is willing to call the coroner to verify the dead bodies. The web is our last stand along with the voting booth and that’s questionable with dead voters continuing to cast ballots. Considering that the 2000 election raised hell, one would have thought that dead people would have been purged and each state would have had their act together. Guess again, it’s 14 years later and they’re still digging up bodies. UGH!

  3. Dr. K said this afternoon on “Special Report” that this process was a cover-up of a cover-up. The memo was so redacted when sent to committee it was unreadable. It took a court order to obtain it.
    Re: Obama claiming he called it terror at the debate: “Show the transcript, Candy.” I still can’t get over the fact that he got away with that and Romney didn’t call him out.

    • I remember that and thought – this is not a debate, it’s a creepy “dancing with stars” episode.

      I can’t get over how Crowley had the script ready for him. No collusion to see. Keep juggling the shiny objects.

  4. Nineteen months later, not a single person suspected in the attacks at the consulate or the CIA safe house, has been brought in for questioning by anyone.


    Not one survivor of that day has ever been interviewed by anyone in the hallowed American media. Not one.

    How’s that possible Keith? These are your peers, no?


  5. I shared in an earlier thread that Ben Rhodes is the brother of David Rhodes, President of CBS News. CBS pressured Sharyl Attkisson not to report on Benghazi and now we know why. I believe there needs to be further investigation into this tangled web of relationships between the media and the WH.

    • Everyone should stop watching all the MSM all together.
      Maybe the advertizers will get a little upset, and demand that
      they cover all news.

  6. “While the email does not prove that White House officials knew the video was ultimately not the precipitator and that the incidents were a terrorist attack that resulted in the deaths of four Americans” – the Rhodes email doesn’t prove that WH knew but the email from Deputy Secretary of State Beth Jones on September 12 certainly does as Ms. Jones reports that she told the Libyan ambassador that the attack was planned excecuted by Ansar Al Sharia. Funny when I first heard the reports of the attack the first thing I thought was “Islamic terrorists” – seems the WH thought so to.