, WASHINGTON, Sep 25 – CNN on Monday hit back at accusations by a top US State Department official that it had engaged in “distasteful” reporting by using the contents of a diary belonging to slain US ambassador to Libya.
CNN anchor Anderson Cooper argued that details about security at the US mission in Benghazi attacked by militants were important public information, even as a new expletive-laden exchange with the top aide at the centre of the row emerged.
The State Department is still reeling from the death of ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans in the September 11 attack, and an FBI investigation has been launched as well as an official review of security.
Philippe Reines, a close aide of US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, told reporters in a statement on Sunday that the US television network displayed “atrocious behaviour” in using Stevens’s diary against his family’s wishes.
“I’ve said many things over the last few days about CNN. Much of it not very nice. But not one word was questioning anyone’s right to ask questions. There are certainly questions to be answered,” Reines told AFP late on Monday.
“And there’s nobody who wants those answers more than everyone at the State Department who worked with, knew, loved Chris, and are grieving over his death, and for the three Americans killed that night,” he said in an email.
But he said the heart of the issue was his allegation that CNN broke its promise to the ambassador’s family not to use the contents of the diary, which “was just wrong. Plain old wrong.”
“If they believed the contents compelled them to report on them, then they should have simply explained that to the family that very first day.”
Reines confirmed to AFP that Libyan security officials had been asked to secure the ruins of the mission after all the American staff were evacuated in the hours of the attack.
“It is not entirely clear if that happened or when. Obviously it was not secured when CNN went to the site of the attack,” he said.