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Friday’s news that one of America’s most revered public officials was resigning after admitting to an extramarital affair found cable news networks scrambling to make sense of the unexpected revelation.
Analysts noted that CIA director David Petraeus’ resignation after having a relationship with his biographer, Paula Broadwell, would have wide-ranging ramifications for the U.S. intelligence community and a Congressional inquiry into the attacks on an American consulate in Benghazi. The affair was unearthed as part of an FBI probe that discovered e-mails between the four-star general and Broadwell.
“This is very painful,” MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell said when reporting the news. “The personal and human drama here, the tragedy here of a life of public service and a life of valor, which has been cut short by his personal transgression, is pretty emotional and dramatic stuff.” She added: “I think there will be people questioning the Benghazi situation, but I think this has been put out in excruciating detail to try to say this was not about Benghazi.”
Her network colleague and Hardball host Chris Matthews spoke of Petraeus’ stature in America.
“This man was almost at the General [Douglas] MacArthur level a few years ago. People were talking about him coming in and being the Republican candidate for president,” Matthews said. “This is a big fall down from where he was in our national estimate.”
Also on MSNBC, chief foreign correspondent Richard Engel said it could be considered “the fall of an American hero.”
“This last decade didn’t create many heroes in the pubic imagination …. I think there’s only been two so far, and both of them have been brought down in scandal,” he said.
The other person he referred to was General Stanley McChrystal, who resigned in 2010 after he was quoted disparaging President Obama in a Rolling Stone article.
On CNN, Erin Burnett expressed shock, saying from her interactions with Petraeus, he seemed to be a man “who walked the walked and talked the talk.”
Also on CNN, Frances Fragos Townsend said it appeared the resignation did not have anything do with upcoming testimony on Benghazi.
“He’s taking personal responsibility. I think he’s holding himself accountable. There is of course the question of timing. Why now? How long has the investigation been going on,” she said.
Slate.com’s Fred Kaplan also appeared on CNN and shared a conversation he once had with Petraeus about officers forced out of the military because of infidelity.
“He spoke about them with this tone of contempt, that they had engaged in this dishonorable behavior,” said Kaplan. Kaplan added the general is probably not doing well with resigning and making the affair public.
“He’s deeply embarrassed…he resigned because he feels that he has violated a [moral] code.”
On Fox News Channel, Bret Baier called it a story “virtually no one saw coming,” while Ed Henry said “with crises in Iran, Syria, the last thing the White House wanted to be doing tonight was search for a new CIA director.”
On The O’Reilly Factor, Laura Ingraham wondered why we were hearing about the affair just days after the presidential election, and days before Petraeus was scheduled to testify about Benghazi.
Answering the question, Fox News correspondent Jennifer Griffin said, “The timing of this is very suspicious in terms of the fact that he will no longer have to testify before the House and Senate intel committees.”
“He’s choosing not to. There were going to be some heated discussions and questions from members of Capitol Hill who were frustrated by his previous responses about the Benghazi attacks …. The Senate and the House committees do have subpoena power and they could subpoena him.”
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