Anderson Cooper, in the span of just a couple of days and on both of his programs – CNN’s AC360 and his daytime talk show – drew the ire of everyone from officials at the State Department to fans of The Real Housewives of New Jersey. If you’ve followed both or either of these stories, you’ve seen someone who considers himself a journalist become someone who is only interested in getting a lot of attention, even if it means becoming a part of the story.
Earlier this week, CNN and Cooper became embroiled in a battle with the US State Department over a journal belonging to Ambassador Stevens who was killed on September 11th in Benghazi. It seems that a reporter from CNN, Arwa Damon, stumbled across the journal while she was wandering around the remains of the personal quarters of the embassy. She decided to take possession of it and, with the blessing of CNN, Anderson Cooper began reporting the information contained in the journal. The discovery of the journal, along with the way it was subsequently handled, revealed that a lot of people made a lot of mistakes. It isn’t only the fact that the reporter took the journal from what should be considered a crime scene – that’s just a tip of the iceberg. Any reporter who takes something away from the site of four murders calls journalistic integrity into question, and would mean, for any other situation, that the reporter could have been charged with tampering with evidence.
What makes this incident even stranger is the fact that no one had bothered to handle the embassy as a crime scene. No one had sealed off the grounds of the compound and, apparently, no one had even posted security of any kind to ensure that the site didn’t become some gruesome tourist attraction, open to anyone who wanted to take their own souvenirs from the building and its’ surrounds. In fact, as of this morning, some 16 days after the attack, the FBI hasn’t even made it into Benghazi. Secretary Clinton has stated that they’ve made it to Tripoli and are running into problems actually getting to the embassy. That could be, or it could also mean that she’s just not telling anyone where the agents are. Either way, it’s a very long time after an incident of these proportions to start and investigation.
In the meantime, CNN held onto the journal, taking it upon themselves to determine whether it was a private diary or a public document. I don’t think that it was their call or any of their business. Brain Williams didn’t go to Aurora, Colorado and enter a shooter’s apartment, poking around for explosive devices. Not only would he have been, more than likely, blown to hell, but it isn’t his job. Crime scenes, and everything they contain, are the business of trained investigators, not reporters.
CNN, Cooper and the State Department turned the matter into a very ugly cage fight. The State Department called the network “disgusting” and that the actions of their correspondent were “indefensible”. CNN, through Cooper, did try to defend their reporter and their reporting. They claimed that they has a duty to report what they had found under the premise that it was a matter of national security, about which the public had a right to know. The State Department countered that whatever CNN had or used should have been done with the permission of the ambassador’s family – that it was their property and their call. While I understand that the Stevens’ family is suffering, I think that this was a flimsy excuse by US officials, meant only to garner sympathy from the viewing public. Families of murder victims don’t get any evidence from the scene of the crime until those investigating it determine that it isn’t of any value to the investigation.
So, for all of the name-calling and righteous indignation on the parts of everyone in this debate, no one did what they were supposed to do. CNN, Ms. Damon and Anderson Cooper acted very unprofessionally. Damon should have turned that journal over if she feared that it would go missing, absent any security at the embassy. The State Department and the FBI fell down on the job by allowing over two weeks to pass without any real and purposeful movement on this horrendous crime. Everyone one of them owes the Stevens family, and the families of the three other embassy workers, an apology, at the very least.
On a much less important issue, Anderson Cooper created another brouhaha over an appearance by Teresa Giudice on his daytime talk show. Cooper, it seems, took the opportunity to give the New Jersey Housewife a verbal smackdown. He chastised and mocked her about some things she had said to Caroline Manzo regarding her weight. She used the term “blubber” when she was referring to Manzo’s figure during the HW’s reunion. He also reprimanded her for not contacting Jacqueline Laurita about her son’s diagnosis of autism. Teresa responded that Cooper didn’t know what they had said about her. I agree that the best argument isn’t “well, she said bad things, too”. Any parent knows that the answer to that is “well, if all of your friend decided to jump off of a bridge, would you do it, too?” Anderson did say something to that effect, asking her if she was a 12-year-old.
This set off a firestorm on Twitter, with pro and anti-Teresa folks voicing their very disparate opinions about the interview. Cooper took some real heat for it, where people called his integrity and impartiality into question. Obviously, he enjoyed every minute of it – the interview as well as the over the top reaction. He decided to have Teresa come back on his show today – you know, to make things look all fair and honest, because that’s what a professional journalist would do. I’ve posted the link to AC’s videos. I’m at the mercy of his website, because his talk show isn’t available in my area. I’ll rely on you to let me know how things go today between the two.
This is a little off topic, but it was another day Jacqueline spent on Twitter. She wanted to know if people on Twitter thought that Teresa was threatening her. Her evidence came in the form of screen shots of her own tweets and the whole thing was a little unsettling. Jacq must be advising Aviva on how to behave on Twitter. She’s still fighting with Ramona and viewers, as well as making claims that she was simply bringing the drama because the show was boring. All of the Housewives are now actresses, apparently. Does this mean that her phobias are scripted, too? Anyway, this was my favorite, which came in the middle of a heated exchange. Vassar would be proud.