On Friday night, Anderson Cooper revealed on his show that CNN used Ambassador Christopher Stevens’ personal journal as a source in its reporting after the deadly attack that killed Stevens and three other Americans in Benghazi, Libya.
Discussing when, specifically, the information was used, Cooper said:
On Wednesday of this week, we reported that a source familiar with Ambassador Stevens’ thinking said in the months before his death, Ambassador Stevens talked about being worried about what he called the never-ending security threats in Benghazi.
We also reported that the ambassador specifically mentioned the rise in Islamic extremism, the growing Al Qaeda presence in Libya and said he was on an Al Qaeda hit list. The information for that report, like all of CNN’s reporting, was carefully vetted. Some of that information was found in a personal journal of Ambassador Stevens in his handwriting.
We came upon the journal through our reporting and notified the family. At their request, we returned that journal to them. We reported what we found newsworthy in the ambassador’s writings… [Emphasis added]
Though Cooper appears to relay the information as nothing more than a side note, the Wall Street Journal is reporting that there is much more to the story.
Not only did CNN fail to mention for days the fact that it apparently used the personal journal of a murdered ambassador as a source, Stevens’ family reportedly asked CNN not to discuss the journal or its contents until they had a chance to review it.
Furthermore, Philippe Reines, a senior adviser to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, disputes CNN’s assertion that the network contacted the family within hours of finding the journal and readily agreed to return it. Apparently it took several attempts to get CNN to agree to hand over the private information.
State Department spokesman Philippe Reines called CNN’s actions “indefensible.”
Early Saturday morning, CNN published a story with more information on the journal, and how exactly it came into the network’s possession.
The network explains:
Four days after he was killed, CNN found a journal belonging to late U.S. Ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens. The journal was found on the floor of the largely unsecured consulate compound where he was fatally wounded.
CNN 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.
The journal consists of just seven pages of handwriting in a hard-bound book.
For CNN, the ambassador’s writings served as tips about the situation in Libya, and in Benghazi in particular. CNN took the newsworthy tips and corroborated them with other sources.