Recall, if you will, the news following the September 11, 2012 attack on the American embassy at Benghazi, Libya. With our embassy destroyed, our ambassador, a second diplomat and two former Navy seals that provided security all dead, the news began flowing along the usual channels.
The attack as explained by then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was a “spontaneous” uprising in reaction to a flagrantly anti-Islamic film released in the United States. Dutifully, this was largely the way that three of the major broadcast networks reported the incident; it then promptly faded from front pages and lead-stories, resurrected briefly several days later when President Obama spoke to the subject. The administration made it clear that the creator of the intolerant, insensitive film was going to be dealt with with harshness appropriate to his “crime.”
There were lingering questions from some quarters: how could it be called “spontaneous” when organized troops—some 150-strong—showed up armed to the hilt with RPGs, automatic weapons, hand grenades, truck-mounted artillery and even anti-aircraft weaponry? How was it that this action was “provoked” by a third-rate amateur film which had been almost universally ignored since its release some two years earlier? Why was a U.S. embassy, in such a volatile area of the world, on the anniversary of September 11, so poorly secured and so lightly defended? Why did repeated phone call pleas from Ambassador Stevens go unanswered? Why weren’t heavily armed and numerous CIA personnel, only a few blocks away, brought in as assistance? Et cetera. Et cetera. Ad nauseum.
Such questions, obvious grist for any reporter worthy of the title, were (apparently) never asked (or not visibly reported) by nearly all of the major media.
Fast-forward a year and a quarter. A staff member of a Republican governor who happens to be a front runner for the Republican presidential candidacy uses her political clout to cause a major traffic jam at the Fort Lee, New Jersey end of the George Washington Bridge to Manhattan. Ostensibly, it was pay-back to the mayor of Ft. Lee for his non-support of Governor Christie during his most recent re-election campaign.
Supposedly, Christie was unaware of the retribution and, after learning of it, took full responsibility for it having happened “on his watch.” He apologized profusely and immediately fired the responsible staff member.
The media reaction: headlines and front page news since the story broke; lead-in stories on major TV news; pointed jokes on late-night TV; lead-in segments on news panel shows such as This Week with George Stephanopoulos.
And each one of them had the same hard-hitting, down-and-dirty questions: is this the end of Christie’s political career? Did he know more than he is admitting? Does this doom his chance to be president? Is this an example of his bullying tactics? Will anyone ever be able to trust him again?
Consider the malfeasances exhibited in these two incidents—Benghazi and “Bridgegate” (as it was dubbed on one national news broadcast)—and consider the life and death or international consequences of both. Then consider the press coverage given and the overall tones of that coverage.
Is it just me or do you see a flagrant difference?