MSNBC host Alex Wagner — who for months, if not years, routinely denied there was anything to Republican allegations of a White House coverup on Benghazi — now admits there may actually be a problem with the Obama administration’s response to the 2012 attack.
“There probably is something for Republicans to complain about,” she said regarding Benghazi, “for the American public to perhaps be distressed or dismayed about.”
But she hastened to add that Republicans “have effectively ceded all legitimacy on the issue” by refusing to budge on such a “fringy” topic — leaving out her role in pushing the story to the fringe.
On Tuesday, government watchdog Judicial Watch released emails between top White House advisers and former U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice, documents earlier withheld by the Obama administration and only released after a lengthy fight in federal court.
The emails coached Rice on talking points for an upcoming Sunday show blitz and ordered her to explain that the attacks were the result of an isolated YouTube incident unrelated to President Obama’s broader anti-terror policies.
The YouTube story soon unravelled, but the White House refused to admit that they politicized the talking points in the weeks leading up to the 2012 presidential election. And for years MSNBC — including Wagner herself — provided the president cover for his claim.
“What we now are dealing with is a group of conservatives and a Republican Party with whom facts are fungible,” she told Chris Matthews in February, claiming that an official Senate report and a now-debunked New York Times story on Benghazi are “actual facts” that clear the administration of wrongdoing.
That tune changed Wednesday. “That is the question: Why did this email only come out now?” Wagner asked. “The mere existence of this email that wasn’t in the original binder full of emails is going to give fuel to this . . . The White House has not done a stellar job of managing this.”
Former White House national security spokesman Tommy Vietor agreed. “I don’t totally understand why [the email] wouldn’t have just been thrown out with the rest,” he claimed — although he still said this new round of Benghazi stories are about “basically nothing.”
Politico reporter Glenn Thrush thought he understood, however. “The one thing I would quibble with my good friend Tommy on is that there’s no political context,” he noted. “We were right in the middle of a presidential election campaign. We were in the heat of the debate season. I think clearly everyone was watching it also in mind.”
After months of denying any politicization of the Benghazi talking points, Wagner felt compelled to agree. “And isn’t there something to be said about just wearing the scarlet letter?” she said smilingly. “As Glenn points out, this was a few weeks before a presidential election.”
“Yes, there was a practical reality that this was happening six weeks before an election,” she noted, “and also any administration wants to convey control.”
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