Current Events

ABC’s Botched Reporting on White House Benghazi Emails Becomes Deepening Problem For the Network

In a bizarre twist this week, it was discovered that ABC’s recently reported emails in regards to the Benghazi controversy were actually doctored by Republican aides.

In light of these new developments, the network has come under scrutiny for claiming it had “obtained” emails that, according to CBS News, were actually notes taken by GOP aides who were being briefed on the emails. Making matters worse for ABC, the characterization of the White House emails by the GOP aides were inaccurate.

According to, here’s a timeline of ABC’s role in the matter:

Friday, May 10 – Morning: Karl’s explosive report that ABC had “obtained” 12 different versions of the administration’s talking points on the Benghazi attack quickly made the controversy the top news item of the day as every other news organization rushed to aggregate and digest his report (including Salon).

Friday, May 10 – Afternoon: As Karl’s report ricocheted across Washington, Republicans seized on it and the White House launched a counter-offensive, hosting a series of deep background calls with reporters to try to put out the fire. The importance of the report can’t be overstated. As Jonathan Chait wrote, “Karl’s report produced among mainstream and liberal reporters a sense of embarrassment at having dismissed the story as a weird partisan obsession.” The New Yorker’s Alex Koppelman wrote that after dismissing the Benghazi controversy for some time, “now there is something to it.”

Sunday, May 12: The damaging narrative is cemented on the Sunday Morning talk shows, where the Benghazi emails get top billing.

Tuesday, May 14: The story begins to crumble after CNN’s Jake Tapper — ironically a former ABC reporter until recently — obtains one of the full emails in question, showing the version that Karl reported contradicts the original. “Was ABC News used by someone with an ax to grind against the State Department? It looks possible,” Joan Walsh wrote. She would later be proved correct.

Karl responds, but instead of correcting the record and apologizing, doubles down and says he was “quoting verbatim a source who reviewed the original documents and shared detailed notes.”

Wednesday, May 15: After stonewalling, the White House, releases over 100 pages of emails relating to the Benghazi attack, proving the email, as Karl originally reported it, was incorrect. ABC reported White House national security adviser Ben Rhodes seemed to intervene on behalf of the State Department in a turf battle with the CIA. But the original emails revealed he did not mention the State Department at all.

Thursday, May 16: CBS’ Major Garrett confirms speculation that it was Republican congressional aides who edited the emails by fabricating the bit about the State Department and other pieces. As Salon reported last week, some lawmakers and aides saw the emails in March and said nothing. But, as Kevin Drum speculates this morning, “riding high after last week’s Benghazi hearings, someone got the bright idea of leaking two isolated tidbits and mischaracterizing them in an effort to make the State Department look bad.”

Although it’s highly unlikely that Jonathan Karl would have reported information he knew to be false, there’s no doubt that ABC failed to do the proper scrutiny before airing the story. Making matters worse, other correspondents claimed they had “obtained” the  emails when they were simply looking at notes taken by GOP aides during briefings.



  1. Avatar

    Michael C. Burgess

    May 18, 2013 at 9:02 pm

    If you were punked by Republicans, you need to suffer the same fate as Dan Rather.

  2. Avatar


    May 18, 2013 at 9:43 pm

    The major networks are unfortunately beginning to earn the label “lamestream media”. Unless they want to join the dubious company of Fox, InfoWars, Drudge, and Breitbart they had better take a deep breath and start vetting their information before rushing to air. The screwups during the Boston bombings should have been a warning, but apparently it went unheeded. Being first with the news if it is reported incorrectly certainly doesn’t add anything except more confusion to the public discourse.

  3. Avatar


    May 18, 2013 at 10:10 pm

    The WH e-mails are evidence in the ongoing Benghazi investigation and congressional proceedings. Wouldn’t altering them for the purpose of deception constitute a violation of 18 U.S.C. 1512(b)? §1512 outlaws obstruction of federal congressional, judicial, or administrative activities by intimidation, threat, corrupt persuasion, or deception. It is confirmed that the source of the falsified information is a Republican on Capitol Hill. Will exposing the source of an intentional and criminal obstruction of justice be included in the investigation?

  4. Avatar

    A Frazier

    May 20, 2013 at 3:24 am

    You write this article as though innocent emails were exchanged back and forth, and then Republicans doctored them to make them bad when they weren’t. Some details were in error in the initial report, but not to the extent that you’re making out. There were hearings where many of the things ABC reported were confirmed, not to mention the released emails, which further confirmed much of what was reported. Are you in this for party politics, or are you in this for America? What is your agenda? Separation, or the truth? If you want to tell the story with a liberal spin, then so be it, but at least offer both sides of the argument and all the available facts. This article is shameful and irresponsible.

  5. Avatar

    david saint

    May 21, 2013 at 11:10 pm

    lol actually hes doing pretty good..Mark Cuban put him front and center on his network, and he seems thrilled cause Cuban doesnt interfere with the programming.

  6. Avatar

    Progressive Texas Democrat

    September 10, 2013 at 11:39 pm

    And that’s why the Daily Show and the Colbert Report have more credibility than network news.

  7. Avatar


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