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June 17, 2014

Dana Milbank "Grossly Misrepresents" Heritage Briefing on Benghazi to Make It Sound Like a Hate Crime in Progress

I'm having a hard time seeing how this can be characterized as anything other than a deliberate smear and deliberate lie -- with a dollop of of risible ignorance thrown in to boot.

Before the quote, let me note that Milbank is an "opinion" writer and this was published in the Post's "Opinions" section. But that does not avail Milbank, because here is acting as a first-hand reporter of facts, not an after-the-fact commentator opining on facts reported by someone else.

Milbank's position as an "Opinion" writer does not give him license to misrepresent and, frankly, lie about actual facts he's reporting.

Heritage’s ugly Benghazi panel

DANA MILBANK Opinion writer

Representatives of prominent conservative groups converged on the Heritage Foundation on Monday afternoon for the umpteenth in a series of gatherings to draw attention to the Benghazi controversy.

Milbank is snarkily proud that he has no interest in the Benghazi matter -- that he is in fact fashionably ignorant about it.

We'll get to that later.

But this one took an unexpected turn.

What began as a session purportedly about “unanswered questions” surrounding the September 2012 attacks on U.S. facilities in Libya deteriorated into the ugly taunting of a woman in the room who wore an Islamic head covering.

The session, as usual, quickly moved beyond the specifics of the assaults that left four Americans dead to accusations about the Muslim Brotherhood infiltrating the Obama administration, President Obama funding jihadists in their quest to destroy the United States, Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton attempting to impose Sharia blasphemy laws on Americans and Al Jazeera America being an organ of “enemy propaganda.”

Then Saba Ahmed, an American University law student, stood in the back of the room and asked a question in a soft voice. “We portray Islam and all Muslims as bad, but there’s 1.8 billion followers of Islam,” she told them. “We have 8 million-plus Muslim Americans in this country and I don’t see them represented here.”

Panelist Brigitte Gabriel of a group called ACT! for America pounced. She said “180 million to 300 million” Muslims are “dedicated to the destruction of Western civilization.” She told Ahmed that the “peaceful majority were irrelevant” in the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and she drew a Hitler comparison: “Most Germans were peaceful, yet the Nazis drove the agenda and as a result, 60 million died.”

“Are you an American?” Gabriel demanded of Ahmed, after accusing her of taking “the limelight” and before informing her that her “political correctness” belongs “in the garbage.”

“Where are the others speaking out?” Ahmed was asked. This drew an extended standing ovation from the nearly 150 people in the room, complete with cheers.

The panel’s moderator, conservative radio host Chris Plante, grinned and joined in the assault. “Can you tell me who the head of the Muslim peace movement is?” he demanded of Ahmed.

“Yeah,” audience members taunted, “yeah.”

Ahmed answered quietly, as before. “I guess it’s me right now,” she said.

Then the video of the event was released -- by Media Matters, hoping to advance Milbank's smear.

Trouble is, the video shows nothing like what Milbank claims happened.

Even reliably-liberal-partisan Dylan Byers commented on the video thus:

He went on to write a column stating that Milbank had "grossly misrepresented" the exchange.

Among several other points, Byers notes:

Starting from the top:

1. Milbank reports that Ahmed said to the panel, “We portray Islam and all Muslims as bad, but there’s 1.8 billion followers of Islam. We have 8 million-plus Muslim Americans in this country and I don’t see them represented here."

In the very next paragraph, Milbank reports that panelist Gabriel, the ACT! founder, "pounced." He omits that, prior to Gabriel's answer, another panelist -- Frank Gaffney, president of the Center for Security Policy -- spoke for three minutes, thanked Ahmed for her question and largely accepted the premise of her statement.

"Well, I'm glad to see you're representing Muslims in this company," Gaffney began. "I don't want to speak for anybody but myself, but I think I can say safely that there isn't anyone on this panel who believes that all Muslims are the problem. I certainly don't." Instead, Gaffney differentiated between Muslims who "believe that it is God's will, Allah's will, to impose [Sharia law] on everyone else" and those who "don't follow that program and may not even know what it's about."

In his email [Note that Byers emailed Milbank to ask how he had gotten this so wrong-- ace], Milbank wrote, "Certainly, Gaffney was more gracious, and indeed things didn’t get wild in the room until Gabriel spoke. He did say, however, that the Muslims who are not part of the problem are those who don't speak Arabic and don't follow Sharia."

2. Milbank also omits that when Gabriel began speaking, she said to Ahmed, "Great question. I am so glad you are here and I am so glad you brought that up, because it gives us an opportunity to answer." She then said that on the panel, which was supposed to be about the death of four Americans in Benghazi, "not one person mentioned Muslims, or that we are here against Islam, or that we are launching war against Muslims."

"We are not here to bash Muslims. You were the one who brought up this issue about most Muslims, not us," Gabriel said to Ahmed. "And since you brought it up, allow me to elaborate with my answer. There are 1.2 million Muslims in the world today. Of course not all of them are radicals. The majority of them are peaceful people. The radicals are estimated to be between 15 to 25 percent according to all intelligence services around the world."

In his email, Milbank wrote, "Gabriel said she was glad the question was asked because it gave her a chance to respond. She accepted that the majority of Muslims are peaceful but said that was irrelevant because there were 180 to 300 million people dedicated to destroying western civilization."

Gabriel does claim that the "peaceful majority" of Muslims "were irrelevant” in the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, but she is not dismissing peaceful Muslims as unimportant. She's arguing that the existence of peaceful Muslims did not stop Sept. 11 from happening. (Gabriel's comparison to Nazi Germany -- “Most Germans were peaceful, yet the Nazis drove the agenda and as a result, 60 million died" -- is far more problematic, and arguably absurd, but she has every right to make it.)

3. Milbank then reports that Gabriel "demanded" to know if Ahmed was an American. Watch the video. Gabriel didn't "demand" anything. She wanted to know if Ahmed was an American because it was relevant to the point she was making, which is that, in her view, an American citizen should care more about the four Americans who died in Benghazi then worrying about the characterization of Muslims. In fact, Gabriel began by saying "I assume you're an American."

In his email, Milbank said, "I certainly think Gabriel’s extensive diatribe qualifies as taunting, and I don’t see how her asking the woman if she’s American can be seen as a friendly gesture."

And so on (read the whole thing).

Milbank's original deception is reporting this woman's charge -- a vague claim that the panel was Muslim-bashing -- without first stating if the charge was accurate or not.

He reports her charge as if the charge is, itself, a fair one.

But is it? He doesn't say. He implies it is, without saying so.

Note, however, what this panel was about. It was not about terrorism. It was not about Islam.

It was about the American government's response to Benghazi, including lying to the public and retaliating against internal whistelblowers.

How would Islam have even have come up, except as a brief tangent? It seems unlikely that it did -- and I imagine when the full video gets released, it will demonstrate, as one panelist told this woman, that this questioner was the only person talking about Islam, while all the panelists were focused on the Obama administration.

That is, she hijacked the panel to make her own point and toss out a vague charge of Serious You Guys Racism while doing so.

Mollie Hemingway has a great rebuttal to Milbank's smear as well.

This part of Milbank's original column shows him as biased and giddily ignorant. He's actually proud to know nothing at all about the subject he's allegedly covering. Watch and learn:

Plante had kicked off the forum by lamenting a “news media that is spectacularly uncurious when it comes to even the basic bare-bones facts of what happened in Benghazi that night.” But the hour that followed showed exactly why Americans (or at least the non-Fox-News-viewing subset of Americans) are rightly skeptical: The accusers’ allegations grow wilder by the day.

Plante cast doubt on whether Ambassador Chris Stevens really died of smoke inhalation, demanding to see an autopsy report.

Gabriel floated the notion that Stevens had been working on a weapons-swap program between Libya and Syria just before he was killed.

Panelist Clare Lopez of the Citizens' Commission on Benghazi said the perpetrators of the attack are "sipping frappes with journalists in juice bars."

Milbank reports that as a "wild claim" made by crazy Benghazi conspiracists.

He assumes that the panelists are lying, just making stuff up because they're Crazy People who Only Tell Lies.

That shows his blatant partisanship and stupid prejudice -- yes, Dana Milbank thinks anyone who isn't a card carrying leftist is cognitively incapable of telling lie from truth.

But it also demonstrates his willful ignorance, and how the average member of the media has so studiously avoided coming into contact with any contamination of facts about Benghazi.

They've cocooned themselves so thoroughly that no discomfiting information can penetrate them.

If Milbank's going to write about Benghazi -- offer "opinions" on it -- he at least should have a basic level of information about it. And before claiming that someone's statement about terrorists having frappes with journalists is some kind of wild-eyed lie, he might want to google it.

Because this wild-eyed conspiracy theory was reported by the New York Times about a month after the Benghazi attack:

Suspect in Libya Attack, in Plain Sight, Scoffs at U.S. By DAVID D. KIRKPATRICK

Published: October 18, 2012

BENGHAZI, Libya — Witnesses and the authorities have called Ahmed Abu Khattala one of the ringleaders of the Sept. 11 attack on the American diplomatic mission here. But just days after President Obama reasserted his vow to bring those responsible to justice, Mr. Abu Khattala spent two leisurely hours on Thursday evening at a crowded luxury hotel, sipping a strawberry frappe on a patio and scoffing at the threats coming from the American and Libyan governments.

That's the first f***ing paragraph, for crying out loud.

But Dana Milbank is defiantly ignorant. As they say: He doesn't know what he doesn't know.

That's real ignorance. Not knowing something is no sin. But being so actively ignorant to assume you know things (that this frappe business must be a Crazy Lie because Crazy Liars Tell Crazy Lies) to not even bother to check with a five second google search...?

And yet he offers his "opinions" on shit.

For all that they may be worth.

Googling "frappe" and "Benghazi" would have -- yesterday or before -- brought the New York Times article up near the top of the list.

Not today, though.

Today, this is the top hit disclosed by "frappe" and "Benghazi:"

Strawberry-Frappe-Sipping Benghazi Suspect Captured in Secret Raid

That's from the notorious rightwing conspiracy-sheet New York Magazine.

A one-second google search.

He couldn't be bothered.

Not only was this information -- known by anyone with even a passing familiarity with the Benghazi attack -- not part of his active knowledge base, but he refused to take even the most trivial steps to make it part of his potential knowledge base.

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posted by Ace at 03:07 PM

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