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Rush Limbaugh discovers another left-wing plot that isn't

September 13, 2012|By James Rainey
  • Mitt Romney makes comments in Jacksonville, Fla., on the killing of a U.S. ambassador and three other Americans in Benghazi, Libya.
Mitt Romney makes comments in Jacksonville, Fla., on the killing of a U.S.… (Charles Dharapak / Associated…)

A right-wing blog and radio giant Rush Limbaugh have uncovered a vast left-wing conspiracy in the media, proved by how the press treated Mitt Romney after his controversial comments on Libya.

Limbaugh recounted the report in the Right Scoop blog about how a couple of reporters at Romney's Wednesday news conference engaged in "collaboration" in formulating questions for the Republican presidential candidate.

That, according to El Rushbo, once again proves the "corruption" of the media. What Limbaugh's commentary actually showed, unfortunately, is that he and the blog feeding his overheated imagination have no idea how the press routinely goes about its business with candidates of both political parties.

Here's what happened Wednesday: After attacks on U.S. diplomatic posts in Egypt and Libya, a furor erupted over whether the Obama administration had sympathized with the attackers more than the American victims. Four U.S. diplomats were killed in Benghazi, Libya.

PHOTOS: U.S. ambassador killed in Libya

Romney's claim of coddling extremists became problematic, because President Obama personally made no such statement. And the principal communication the Republican criticized (the U.S. Embassy in Cairo calling for an end to inflammatory speech like an anti-Muslim video that purportedly sparked unrest in both countries) came from a junior U.S. diplomat, writing before the attacks.

A few partisans have defended the timing of the Romney statement, but it came in for broad criticism, including from Republicans such as John Sununu, Peggy Noonan and Mark Salter, one of the top advisors to Sen. John McCain's 2008 presidential campaign.

Here's where we come to the press "conspiracy."

Romney canceled a campaign rally in Florida and held a news conference, and reporters, naturally, wanted to make sure that they got an answer from him on the crucial question of the timing of his remarks.

Reconstructions of the events had made it clear, after all, that the Republican candidate had, the previous night, criticized the Obama administration for failing to abhor violence quickly enough -- even though the statement Romney criticized as an apology came out before the violence occurred.

Cut to the report by Right Scoop blog. The blog offered audio of chatter prior to the news conference at Romney's campaign offices in Jacksonville. Here is a part of the transcript:

CBS REPORTER: "Yeah that’s the question. I would just say do you regret your question."

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: "Your question? Your statement?"

CBS REPORTER: "I mean your statement. Not even the tone, because then he can go off on ..."

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: 'And then if he does, if we can just follow up and say 'but this morning your answer is continuing to sound ...' – *becomes unintelligible*”

CBS REPORTER: "You can't say that."

PHOTOS: Paul Ryan's past

Later, the CBS reporter added: "I'm just trying to make sure that we're just talking about, no matter who he calls on, we're covered on the one question.”

The unidentified reporter responds: "Do you stand by your statement or regret your statement?"

There it is: proof of media corruption, Limbaugh said.

If that is true, then the corruption goes on every day in America, in city halls, statehouses and, yes, the White House, by reporters of every possible political persuasion. Yes, they talk to each other. And sometimes even "collaborate" on how to best use their limited time with the politicians they cover.

A couple of veteran White House reporters confirmed in interviews Thursday that they routinely talk to colleagues about how they might question President Obama and how to pair questions and follow-ups to try to minimize evasions.

That process has gone on through Republican and Democratic presidencies. It has become particularly important when the media confront Obama, because he has done few news conferences in recent months.

PHOTOS: Mitt Romney on the campaign trail

"Especially with Obama, if you know the questions are going to be limited, we will talk to each other," said one White House reporter, who asked not to be named because members of the press corps keep their internal conversations confidential. "If you think he will call on only three or four people, you want to make sure you have the right question, that there won't be repetition or that there might be a follow-up to get the question answered."

Another veteran scribe at the White House confirmed that pattern, dating to President George W. Bush and before. He added: "It's pretty routine."

So much for the conspiracy. Of course, this post will now go down as part of the "cover-up" of the conspiracy. It's grand living in a fact-averse world.

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james.rainey@latimes.com

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MORE COMMENTARY FROM JAMES RAINEY:

Romney should triple-down on Libya: Rally with Rev. Jones!

Obama's pizza man, Romney's doughnuts and the politics of food

Obama says he'd walk GOP dogs, wash cars for a little cooperation

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