CNN Defends Coverage of Slain Libya Ambassador's Diary
The network's global managing editor, Mark Whitaker, says reporting Christopher Stevens' worries about terrorist threats was of "national interest"; meanwhile, the State Department goes on the attack.
Mark Whitaker, executive vice president and managing editor for CNN Worldwide, is defending the network's reporting of contents from slain Libya Ambassador Christopher Stevens' journal.
Stevens was killed earlier this month by an angry mob that blasted rocket-propelled grenades at the U.S. consulate in the Libyan capital of Benghazi. Three other American lives were also claimed in what Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has declared a "terrorist attack."
Four days later, while inside the embassay, a CNN correspondent discovered a seven-page diary written by Stevens. Last Wednesday on Anderson Cooper 360, Anderson Cooper cited a source as saying "that in the months before his death, he talked about being worried about what he called the never-ending security threats specifically in Benghazi."
On Friday, Cooper revealed that the journal was a partial source of information for CNN, and that the network had alerted the family to its existence.
"At their request, we returned that journal to them," he said on the air. "We reported what we found newsworthy in the ambassador’s writings. Our reporting followed up on what we found newsworthy, as I said, in the ambassador's writings."
CNN affirmed Cooper's remarks in a statement to Politico.com, maintaining that the channel "notified Stevens' family about the journal within hours after it was discovered and at the family's request provided it to them via a third party."
Meanwhile, the State Department is none too pleased with the situation. Clinton's senior adviser who was the liaison between CNN and the Stevenses, Phillipe Reines, lashed out at CNN in a lengthy response on the political news site, accusing the network of invading Stevens' privacy and disregarding an agreement with his family not to report on the diary's contents until they had a chance to read it. An excerpt as follows:
"State department officials got involved in the middle of all of this but when we talked directly to the family, their main concern was that they wanted the physical journal back and that they didn't want personal details from the journal revealed," Whitaker told Soledad O'Brien. "We felt we had to respect that, and as a result, we didn't immediately report on the existence of the journal or any of those details."
"However, we thought there was a legitimate national interest in pursuing this question of the possible terror threat," he added. "And therefore we continued to report over the following days and got extra sources about the ambassador's thinking and other evidence of a security threat."