March 31, 2023

Media Decoder Blog: CNN Managing Editor Defends Reporting Based on Ambassador’s Journal

Mark Whitaker, the managing editor of CNN Worldwide, appeared on the network Monday morning to defend its use of a journal kept by the United States ambassador to Libya, Christopher Stevens, in its reporting on the attack of the consulate at Benghazi in which Mr. Stevens and three others were killed.

CNN on Saturday came under a withering attack by Philippe Reines, a department spokesman and senior adviser to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, who called the network’s actions “indefensible.” He said the network had agreed to abide “by the clear wishes of the Stevens family, and pledged not to use the diary or even allude to its existence until hearing back from the family,” according to a report by The Associated Press.

But four days later, “they just went ahead and used it,” he said.

Mr. Whitaker — appearing on a panel that included Fran Townsend, a former Bush administration official who is a CNN national security contributor, and hosted by Soledad O’Brien — said CNN had spoken with the Stevens family, whose main concerns were “that they wanted the physical copy of the journal back and that they didn’t want personal details from the journal revealed.”

He said the network had talked with the family about “what we could report because we thought that there were a lot of newsworthy issues that were raised, specifically on the issue of what the ambassador thought about possible terror threats and the fact that he might actually be a target of Al Qaeda.”

He said the issues were familiar to journalism:

How do you balance concerns from privacy against the public interest in learning information that is of vital national interest? And when you look at what we did at every step that is exactly the balance we tried to strike. We felt we had an obligation to the family not to talk about the journal or about personal details from the journal, on the other hand, as Fran said, we had not only the right but the obligation to continue to look into this issue of whether there were terror threats in advance, what not only Ambassador Stevens but Washington, the State Department, others in the administration might have known about it.

Article source: