White House emails obtained by ABC News and other organizations last week that purportedly detailed extensive editing of talking points Obama officials used in the aftermath of the Bengahzi, Libya attacks appear to have been misquoted or mischaracterized to emphasize the administration’s focus on those talking points, according to CNN‘s Jake Tapper.
ABC News reported that White House Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes wrote an email dated 9/14/12 that said the State Department’s concerns about the details of the attack needed to be addressed in the final talking points. Rhodes was responding to State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland, who emailed that she was concerned the talking points could damage “my building’s leadership.”
“We must make sure that the talking points reflect all agency equities, including those of the State Department, and we don’t want to undermine the FBI investigation,” Rhodes said, according to ABC. “We thus will work through the talking points tomorrow morning at the Deputies Committee meeting.”
According to CNN, the actual email from Rhodes, also dated 9/14/12, reads:
“Sorry to be late to this discussion. We need to resolve this in a way that respects all of the relevant equities, particularly the investigation.
“There is a ton of wrong information getting out into the public domain from Congress and people who are not particularly informed. Insofar as we have firmed up assessments that don’t compromise intel or the investigation, we need to have the capability to correct the record, as there are significant policy and messaging ramifications that would flow from a hardened mis-impression.
“We can take this up tomorrow morning at deputies.”
CNN speculates that whoever leaked the White House emails “seemingly invented the notion” that Rhodes, a White House official, wanted State’s concerns specifically addressed. Asked about the ABC report on Friday, White House press secretary Jay Carney said that the only edit the administration made to the talking points was to a “non-substantive correction,” changing the word “consulate” to “diplomatic post.”
Carney on Tuesday accused Republicans of editing the emails in order to to serve a political agenda.
“I think the entire e-mail, the report I read showed the entire e-mail, and what it showed is Republicans who were leaking these press, these e-mails that had been shared with Congress didn’t just do that, they decided to fabricate portions of an e-mail and make up portions of an e-mail in order to fit a political narrative,” he said at a White House press conference.
Update: A spokesman for ABC News tells the Washington Post: “Assuming the email cited by Jake Tapper is accurate, it is consistent with the summary quoted by [ABC’s] Jon Karl.”
Late Update: ABC’s Jon Karl responds:
I asked my original source today to explain the different wording on the Ben Rhodes e-mail, and the fact that the words “State Department” were not included in the e-mail provided to CNN’s Tapper.
This was my source’s response, via e-mail: “WH reply was after a long chain of email about State Dept concerns. So when WH emailer says, take into account all equities, he is talking about the State equities, since that is what the email chain was about.”
Igor Bobic is the assistant editor of Talking Points Memo, helping oversee the site’s coverage of politics and policy in Washington. While originally from Bosnia and Herzegovina, Igor feels best at home on the beaches of Southern California. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.