CNN got an earful from the U.S. State Department Saturday night after the network was accused of using the late Libyan Ambassador Chris Steven's private journal in on-air newscasts, which the network removed from the U.S. consulate shortly after the deadly attack in Benghazi on September 11.
State Dept. spokesman Philippe Reines said in a statement to The Huffington Post that "given the truth of how this was handled, CNN patting themselves on the back is disgusting."
CNN claims to have found the journal on the floor of the consulate compound four days after the attack in which Stevens was killed. The network claims to have notified the Stevens' family about the discovery of the journal within hours of its retrieval. The news channel also claims that the private journal was only used for new tips that could later be confirmed by outside sources and that it was then given to a third party to be returned to the Stevens family.
However, the State Dept. does not buy this sequence of events, instead claiming the network ignored the wishes of the family and reported the contents of the journal before receiving approval from the family.
"Whose first instinct is to remove from a crime scene the diary of a man killed along with three other Americans serving our country, read it, transcribe it, email it around your newsroom for others to read, and only when their curiosity is fully satisfied thinks to call the family or notify the authorities?" Reines asked.
On Saturday night, CNN tried to defend itself in a statement claiming that "the public had a right to know what CNN had learned from multiple sources about the fears and warnings of a terror threat before the Benghazi attack which are now raising questions about why the State Department didn't do more to protect Ambassador Stevens and other US personnel."
CNN answered back with a statement aimed at the State Department, stating, "Perhaps the real question here is, why is the State Department now attacking the messenger."
The State Department admits that CNN did in fact contact the Stevens family to get permission to use contents of the journal in the network's news production, but claim the family would not allow for any such use until the journal was returned and the family was given the chance to look through its contents.
According to the department, CNN tried on three separate occasions to convince the family to allow the network to use the contents but were denied every time. As Reines wrote in his statement, "I guess four days was as long as CNN could control themselves, so they just went ahead and used it. Entirely because they felt like it. Anderson Cooper didn't even bother to offer any other explanation as to why the network broke its promise to the family."
Reines wrote that it's, "not a proud episode in CNN's history."