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.

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