Washington Post fact checker Glen Kessler on Tuesday examined the controversy over Benghazi emails the White House released last week, dishing out “three pinocchios” to the administration’s claim that Capitol Hill Republicans “doctored” quotes to “smear the president.”
Kessler sides with ABC White House correspondent Jon Karl, who in March wrongly attributed quotes from White House officials that were based on “summaries,” by chalking up the inconsistency as a simple transcribing error. To that end, Kessler says that other reporters at CBS and the Weekly Standard similarly based their stories on notes taken of the actual emails. After Karl’s colleagues at CBS and CNN called into question the material he obtained, he apologized for the error but maintained that the story “entirely stands.”
“Republicans would have been foolish to seriously doctor e-mails that the White House at any moment could have released (and eventually did),” wrote Kessler. “Clearly, of course, Republicans would put their own spin on what the e-mails meant, as they did in the House report. Given that the e-mails were almost certain to leak once they were sent to Capitol Hill, it’s a wonder the White House did not proactively release them earlier.”
Ultimately, Kessler adds, “[t]he burden of proof lies with the accuser….we see little evidence that much was at play here besides imprecise wordsmithing or editing errors by journalists.”
Several people in attendance at or with knowledge of two private congressional briefings earlier this year aimed at informing members on the administration’s response in the wake of the attack told TPM last week that lawmakers and staff were given ample time to take notes or transcribe material as needed.
“When I say they were allowed to have the documents for as long as they wanted, they were allowed to take notes for as long as they wanted as well,” an intelligence official told TPM.