ABC’s Tapper disputes ‘boys versus girls’ narrative as the motivation for Obama’s Libya strike

Jeff Poor Media Reporter
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Earlier this week, The Daily Beast’s Howard Kurtz took a shot at the media’s coverage of the Libya intervention and suggested that the media as a whole were not taking a skeptical enough assessment of the intervention. On Thursday morning, ABC’s Jake Tapper took somewhat of an exception to the charge the media weren’t doing their job. In an appearance on the Fox Business Network’s “Imus in the Morning,” Tapper offered two examples of such skepticism.

“I can’t speak for anybody else, but I think our coverage at ABC has been respectfully skeptical, as a piece I did Monday for ‘World News’ was why are we there and how long are we going to be there,” Tapper said. “A piece I did yesterday for ‘World News’ pointed out that the president was referring to exit strategies when they weren’t exit strategies at all. So, maybe he — maybe Howard’s problem is he doesn’t watch enough ABC.”

Tapper explained that he believes the media has been “appropriately skeptical,” especially after the initial details were adequately reported.

“I’m saying I think we’ve been skeptical,” Tapper said. “I recall seeing Howard’s tweet about that, I think it was Monday morning. I would say that in general, any march to war, military operation or police action – whatever we’re calling this should be treated with a huge dose of skepticism by the media, that’s our role. Maybe initially in the first 24 hours there was a rush to provide the basic information about what was going on, that there wasn’t necessarily that step back where you do like, ‘OK, now that we’ve given you this information about what we’re doing and the extent of the involvement according to the government, etc., now it’s time for the skeptical question.’ Maybe that’s the phenomenon that was going on. But, that I mean, I just feel like we were pretty skeptical the whole time, appropriately skeptical.”

Tapper did question one of the storylines that has made the rounds in the media. In a Tuesday column, the New York Times’ Maureen Dowd advanced the theory that the Libyan intervention was an initiative by pushed by the women inside the White House  – particularly Obama national security aide Samantha Power, Sec. of State Hillary Clinton and U.N. ambassador Susan Rice.

“Yeah, I like Maureen a lot,” he said. “That column doesn’t square with my reporting. My understanding of what happened is — and I realize that she’s got columns to write and such, but my understanding of what happened is that it was not girls against boys. It was a little bit more complex than that and my understanding Sec. Clinton was actually pretty skeptical of military involvement and then her push, her real involvement in terms of tipping the scales came on Tuesday, two Tuesdays ago when she told President Obama that Arab countries were willing to commit military forces to the operation, that that played a significant role. But that’s not Sec. Clinton is more influential than others and all of these girls got together and pushed Obama to do — I mean, I think that’s a little silly.”


Tapper added Clinton wasn’t even part of the process when at the exact moment the decision was made.

“The meme out there that she did not start – this narrative that Samantha Power, Susan Rice and Hillary Clinton pushed Obama to go to war does not square with the reporting I have about how this decision was made,” he said. “My understanding is that Sec. Clinton wasn’t patched into the situation room that Tuesday night from 9 to 11, when President Obama was meeting with his advisers and coming up with instructions to first, Dr. Rice – what to do at the United Nations the next day, which is, this is really the big pivotal point and Sec. Clinton, I think she had communications problem and was not even patched into that call. And you know, I think Samantha Power, a very respected member of the team, but I would not put her in the top three influencers of President Obama.”

The ABC White House correspondent was incredulous over the idea that the boys versus girls storyline did anything to advance “a feminist agenda.”

“Even the whole point of separating boys versus girls, just to step back – like even the idea of separating boys versus girls, I don’t know that that advances a feminist agenda,” he added. “I thought the whole point of it is that individuals are individuals. That’s how I’ve been reporting this thing.”