TheBlaze’s Jon Seidl contributed to this report.
A new report by CBS’s Major Garrett is circulating claiming that “Republicans” specifically leaked a set of emails about the Benghazi talking points that included some altered text.
In fact, Garrett went on the CBS evening news to explain:
Garrett’s point seems to be that Republicans misled the public by releasing a version of the Benghazi talking points emails that includes inaccurate or incomplete information. But the situation may be more convoluted than the article and television stories explain. Without a doubt, there are discrepancies between previous reports about the talking points and the emails that were released by the White House, however there are some important points and distinctions worth making.
Garrett pinpoints two key differences in his CBS News report about the email exchanges. When comparing the quotes, the text in the White House version is noticeably different from the version that was previously highlighted.
Garrett notes that one of the quotes in question belonged to national security adviser Ben Rhodes. The official’s comment in the email purportedly leaked (presumably to ABC’s Jon Karl) read, “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.” But the wording in the White House version said, “We need to resolve this in a way that respects all of the relevant equities, particularly the investigation.”
The words “State Department” were not present in this latter text.
The Rhodes issue isn’t the only difference noted by Garrett, though. The Huffington Post also summarized the changes between the White House version of the e-mails and the set that Garrett claims was put out by the GOP. Here’s another one of the disparities from these exchanges:
The GOP version of Nuland’s comment, according to CBS News: “The penultimate point is a paragraph talking about all the previous warnings provided by the Agency (CIA) about al-Qaeda’s presence and activities of al-Qaeda.”
The White House email: “The penultimate point could be abused by members to beat the State Department for not paying attention to Agency warnings.”
Regardless of who is right about the initial ABC News report, Business Insider notes that the State Department still had involvement in the White House’s version: “The emails released by the White House, however, do show a significant amount of concern on the part of the State Department. Brendan Buck, the spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner, said the emails showed the “political nature” of the State Department’s talking-point changes.”
Is there an explanation?
As TheBlaze reported earlier this week, this story isn’t new; disparities between the e-mails were already highlighted by CNN’s Jake Tapper earlier this week, as the host also noted that Rhodes didn’t mention the State Department in his official Benghazi correspondence.
While a possible explanation is not mentioned in Garrett’s report, TheBlaze previously highlighted one possible reason for the difference in wording. Here’s a portion of our previous report, which provides some context:
Tapper, who previously worked at ABC, reports that “whoever provided those accounts seemingly invented the notion that Rhodes wanted the concerns of the State Department specifically addressed.” ABC’s Jonathan Karl responded to Tapper’s report Tuesday by saying he quoted verbatim a source who had seen the original emails but was not permitted to make copies of them.
Karl said he contacted his source, who said that Rhodes’ 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.”
To review: The so-called GOP version of the emails consisted of someone reading the talking points to ABC News. This does not dismiss the differences, but it does add some more context to the scenario in helping to explain why the texts vary in the first place. And it certainly doesn’t implicate any obvious Republican source.
So that makes Garrett’s charge that it was “Republicans” who altered the emails much more curious. In fact, Garrett claims that there is a “Republican version” of the emails that was previously released and that this text is apparently inaccurate compared to the emails that were finally released by the White House this week. Throughout his report, Garrett even mentions this “Republican version.”
On Friday, Republicans leaked what they said was a quote from Rhodes: “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.”
But it turns out that in the actual email, Rhodes did not mention the State Department.
But that is a new charge. While it is entirely possible GOP members leaked the e-mails, there has been no admission of that publicly, and Garrett doesn’t cite sources.
So where does this all leave us? First, there’s no denying that there are discrepancies. But is it true that it was Republicans who either altered them or were behind intentionally misleading the public? As the CBS report stands, that allegation has not been proven.
(H/T: Huffington Post)
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