Dana Milbank or your lyin’ eyes?

In his most recent Washington Post column, Dana Milbank purported to report on a program hosted by the Benghazi Accountability Coalition at the Heritage Foundation. As you might guess from the subject of the panel if not the venue, Milbank came to bury the panel, not to praise it. The subject all by itself seemed to put Milbank in a bad frame of mind; he described it as “the umpteenth in a series of meetings to draw attention to the Benghazi controversy.”

Milbank obviously deems the attention devoted to the subject by the likes of us as disproportionate to its importance. Possible malfeasance involving government officials misleading the American people about a life-and-death matter involving Americans serving abroad must be a trifle. Refusing to take the officials at their word betrays a bad attitude if the officials include the most senior members of a Democratic administration.

Anyway, Milbank had a column to write and had no intention of carefully conveying the substance of the panel presentation. Rather, he sought to portray the program as a hatefest. “What began as a session purportedly about ‘unanswered questions’ surrounding the September 2012 attacks on U.S. facilities in Libya,” Milbank wrote, “deteriorated into the ugly taunting of a woman in the room who wore an Islamic head covering.” Milbank proceeds to serve up what he presents as an account of a question raised by the Muslim woman and a frenzied assault on the woman by the panelists and the audience.

At Hot Air, Noah Rothman notes that Media Matters for America dug up a video of the exchange in question. Media Matters apparently thought the video supported Milbank’s account. As Rothman writes, the video suggests just the opposite. Rothman pronounces Milbank’s account utterly dishonest. Dylan Byers reviews Milbank’s account in light of the video and judges that it “disproves or casts doubt on several of Milbank’s assertions.”

In an email message to Byers, Milbank contends that you had to be there to feel the hate: “I was there in the room yesterday, and the reaction in the crowd – the long, standing ovation, the cheers for [Brigitte] Gabriel, the fingers pointed at [questioner Saba] Ahmed, the war whoops — was intense, and a bit scary. The video captures some but not all of that.”

The video raises the clichéd Marxian question: Are you going to believe me, or what you see with your own eyes? The video allows us to arrive at our own conclusion. Salon’s Joan Walsh weighs in on behalf of Milbank; she apparently disagrees with Milbank’s contention that you had to be there. My conclusion: the notion that Milbank might be an honest broker of information in his column can now be put to rest.

UPDATE: Milbank stands behind his column in this response to Byers. Ed Morrissey also poses the Marxian question here.

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