"When it's Democrats, it's politics. When Republicans cover it up, it's a scandal. It should be on the front page of The New York Times. It would be on the front page of every newspaper in America. But when Democrats cover up, you think it's rude political games."
When Morning Joe panelist Donny Deutsch tried to suggest Thursday that Republican criticism of Benghazi was all political, host Joe Scarborough lost it, leading to a screaming match about media bias.
The Thursday morning discussion focused on the release of a damning Benghazi email via a lawsuit by Judicial Watch and Jay Carney's strange "Jedi mind trick" response to the email, claiming it had nothing to do with Benghazi.
The segment began with Scarborough asking NBC White House correspondent Chuck Todd about the memo and Carney's response. Todd took the White House position that it was no big deal:
Todd: I know that you're shocked that any administration would worry about how their foreign policy is being portrayed in a crisis moment. It's shocking.
Scarborough: No. That's not so shocking as much as it is how shocked and stunned and deeply saddened they acted afterwards and said this is a CIA report and "How dare you second guess the CIA or say that Susan Rice is political." This is a pretty big embarrassment for the White House, is it not?
Todd: They were overly defensive in the moment. At the time they did believe the video was having an impact. This is where the level of belief is, I think, in why this is such -- you're not really going to ever rationally have a debate about this. Because if you believe -- if you don't believe the White House ever thought the video had a -- was involved -- was sort of an instigator in Benghazi, if you believe they were lying about that the whole time, then it doesn't matter what they say or do. You’re just going to believe they made up that story. You'll say they were lying about it. At the time, and I can tell you everybody I’ve ever talked to about this, everything I’ve read about this of original documentation at the time they did believe that the video had something to do with starting that -- that it involved some sort of protest in Benghazi too. If you look at what they were dealing with at the time in Arab capitals all around the Arab there were protests popping up and they did think Benghazi was part of it. So that's sort of where this this dispute lies which is do you believe -- if you don't believe the White House ever believed that, that they were making it up the whole time then this is a massive cover-up and all that.
After some prodding by Willie Geist, Todd admitted that the White House had no explanation for why they hadn't released the email without a lawsuit and a judge compelling the release.
Scarborough turned to ad executive Donny Deutsch, asking about the White House messaging. Deutsch replied with a warning to the GOP and the battle was on:
Scarborough: You talk about double speak. I mean, Donnie Deutsch, I mean, manage the brand here where the spokesperson for the White House is saying a directive to Susan Rice about Benghazi is not about Benghazi. It's about broader Middle East policy. No. It's about Benghazi.
Deutsch: I want to put up a warning for Republicans. Obviously the Republicans are jumping in. I think this is fools gold for 2016. I do not think Benghazi -- I think if they focus on this --
Scarborough: (getting louder) What about the cover-up for the White House? Everybody here is apologizing (referring to Todd's answer)
Deutsch: (matching his volume) I am not. I am talking about political strategy. Okay. I think that
Scarborough: OK-- but why are you jumping to political strategy instead of --
Deutsch: I'm giving my point of view.
Scarborough: Why aren't you talking about what Jay Carney did, the double speak?
Deutsch: It is double speak, but I’m talking politics, it's a political show.
Scarborough (talking over Deutsch): Tell me what's the politics about the White House lying about something we all know they're lying about. With saying it's not about Benghazi when you know it's about Benghazi and we know it's about Benghazi and Chuck Todd knows it's about Benghazi. Everybody watching knows it's about Benghazi. And you're talking about how the Republicans -- you see the White House spokesperson lying on national television. You see an ABC newsperson shocked that he's lying and treating the press corps and Americans like their stupid. He says it's not about Benghazi. Republicans and conservatives have been called fools for a year now saying this happened. They don't release it with the original documents released. They finally reluctantly are forced to release it. Then you have the White House lying about it yesterday saying it's not about Benghazi. And your only reaction is, hey, Republicans better not overreact to the cover-up?
Deutsch: -- that we as voters understand both Republicans and Democrats are political animals and are going to manage a crisis in their situation to their face. So what I am saying -- it's both --
Scarborough: When it's Democrats, it's politics. When Republicans cover it up, it's a scandal. It should be on the front page of "the New York Times." it would be on the front page of every newspaper in America. But when Democrats cover up, you think it's rude political games.
Deutsch: I'm saying it is a reality.
Scarborough: It's a disgrace, Donny.
Deutsch: It is not. And I am saying that if Republicans bite, it's a stupid move. And what I just said --
Scarborough What about the media biting? What about the media doing their job? What about the media calling a cover-up a cover-up?
Deutsch The media has covered this. You're pointing to a spokesperson of the president. What I am saying is I think the average American can sit back and say, yeah, that presidential office was trying to manage this crisis just like a Bush White House, just like a Clinton White House would. The reality of what I’m saying is a political football --
Scarborough We're going to get you video.
Each day at the end of the Morning Joe program all the regular panelists stand together and discuss what they learned during that day's show. On Thursday after the shouting match, Donny Deutsch was missing from that last segment. The ad exec's absence may have nothing to do with the argument; however, it was unusual that he didn't participate.