It happens now and again in the world of news. An organization comes up with a stunning news report, and other outlets decline to follow up on the news. They just stay quiet. A number of scenarios are possible:
1) The outlet just has much better sources than the rest of the media;
2) The story is bunk;
3) The story is true, but the news contradicts what the rest of the media has already reported.
Last Friday, Fox News came up with a conversation-driver. A piece under the byline of reporter Jennifer Griffin opened with these revelations:
Fox News has learned from sources who were on the ground in Benghazi that an urgent request from the CIA annex for military back-up during the attack on the U.S. consulate and subsequent attack several hours later on the annex itself was denied by the CIA chain of command — who also told the CIA operators twice to “stand down” rather than help the ambassador’s team when shots were heard at approximately 9:40 p.m. in Benghazi on Sept. 11.
Ever since that story dropped, the Erik Wemple Blog has been following its Internet following. The story gained immediate traction in conservative media, with pickups by PJMedia, TheRightNewz, PatriotsforAmerica, among others. ABC News’s Jake Tapper wrote a post detailing just how President Obama managed to wiggle out of a question on the Fox News report in an Oct. 26 interview with a Denver TV station.
Yet the big guns of Beltway journalism have largely treated the Fox report with silence. This non-development hasn’t met with silence from the mainstream media’s critics. “ABC, CBS, NBC, The Washington Post, and the New York Times are so vested in the re-election of Barack Obama that they are deliberately spiking this huge story. It’s sickening,” says Media Research Center President Brent Bozell.
Following the Fox News piece, the Erik Wemple Blog began polling news organizations as to why they hadn’t yet published a follow-up on the Fox piece. Among the pollees, there was uniform resistance to speaking on the record — it’s not just federal government agencies that get nervous about addressing matters of national security.
One thing is clear, however, and it’s that on-the-record denials from government sources have cooled top media outlets on the Fox reporting. Here, for example, is the statement issued by the CIA following publication of the Fox story:
We can say with confidence that the Agency reacted quickly to aid our colleagues during that terrible evening in Benghazi. Moreover, no one at any level in the CIA told anybody not to help those in need; claims to the contrary are simply inaccurate. In fact, it is important to remember how many lives were saved by courageous Americans who put their own safety at risk that night—and that some of those selfless Americans gave their lives in the effort to rescue their comrades.
Other agencies have also issued denials of the Fox story. Denials notwithstanding, The Post’s David Ignatius columnized earlier this week that Griffin’s reporting “raised questions about the attack that deserve a clearer answer from the Obama administration.”
Should the non-Fox media also be hopping on the Fox report? That issue — and how Fox has promoted the story — deserve a clearer answer from the Erik Wemple Blog. Series time.