Insults fly in emails between Hillary Clinton aide and Buzzfeed reporter

10:36 AM, Sep 25, 2012   |    comments
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(CBS News) -- Amid ongoing questions about the recent violence in Libya and possible related security issues, BuzzFeed reporter Michael Hastings on Sunday became embroiled in a heated email exchange with Philippe Reines, aide and spokesman to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who ultimately told him to "f**k off" and "have a nice life."

Hastings, who opted to publish the entire exchange on BuzzFeed Monday, initially wrote to Reines with questions about how and why CNN was able to acquire the personal diary of Christopher Stevens, the ambassador to Libya who along with three other Americans was murdered in Benghazi earlier this month.

"Why didn't the State Department search the consulate and find AMB Steven's diary first? What other potential valuable intelligence was left behind that could have been picked up by apparently anyone searching the grounds? Was any classified or top secret material also left?" Hastings asked in his first note.

He continued: "Do you still feel that there was adequate security at the compound, considering it was not only overrun but sensitive personal effects and possibly other intelligence remained out for anyone passing through to pick up? Your statement on CNN sounded pretty defensive--do you think it's the media's responsibility to help secure State Department assets overseas after they've been attacked?"

In his response, Philippe accused Hastings of being "needlessly antagonistic" before launching into a lengthy response criticizing CNN for using information from the diary in its reporting. CNN obtained the diary following the attacks in Benghazi, and according to BuzzFeed, the State Department had not previously known the diary existed.

The State Department called CNN's reporting "indefensible" and said the network had defied Stevens' family's wishes.

"What [CNN is] not owning up to is reading and transcribing Chris's diary well before bothering to tell the family or anyone else that they took it from the site of the attack. Or that when they finally did tell them, they completely ignored the wishes of the family, and ultimately broke their pledge made to them only hours after they witnessed the return to the Unites States of Chris's remains," the State Department said in a statement over the weekend, according to Politico. "Anderson Cooper didn't even bother to offer any other explanation as to why the network broke its promise to the family. And only did so after being contacted by a reporter asking about the diary and their convoluted sourcing. How do they justify that? They have yet to even try to defend the indefensible."

CNN defended its use of the journal, contending the network was "raising questions about why the State Department didn't do more to protect Ambassador Stevens and other U.S. personnel."

"Perhaps the real question here is why is the State Department now attacking the messenger," CNN said in a statement.

In the email thread between Hastings and Reines, Hastings called the State Department's statement "offensive" and accused the department, and the administration, of propagating "misinformation."

"The defense that the administration has offered that there was no intelligence warning of an attack is weak. If there was no intel, then clearly the CIA and other intel agents stationed in Benghazi weren't doing their jobs well. If there was intel, then we have some kind of cover-up--whether out of incompetence or ass covering before the election or just the trauma of losing four good men, it's hard for me to say at this point," Hastings wrote.

From there, the conversation devolved to personal insults: Reines wondered "Why do you bother to ask questions you've already decided you know the answers to?"

"Why don't you give answers that aren't bulls*** for a change?" Hastings responded.

Reines then called Hastings an "unmitigated a**hole" and directed him to "have a good day."

"And by good day, I mean F**k Off," he wrote. In a subsequent email he added: "Have a good life Michael."

The publication of the exchange - which is arguably unflattering to both parties - offers a rare glimpse at the often-fraught relationships between reporters and communications officials. Voters were also offered a glimpse of the tensions on the trail earlier this year, when Mitt Romney's travel press secretary Richard Gorka told the reporters to "kiss my a**" and "shove it."

Rick Santorum also lost his patience with reporters on the trail during his candidacy, after New York Times reporter Jeff Zeleny pressed him for details about comments he made calling then-rival Mitt Romney "the worst Republican in the country to put up against Barack Obama."

"You said Mitt Romney is the worst Republican in the country," Zeleny said to Santorum on the rope-line following his initial remarks. "Is that true?"

"Stop lying," Santorum said, alleging that he had been referring to Romney's record on health care. "Quit distorting my words ...It's bulls***."

Zeleny later told CBS News, however, that he suspected Santorum's outburst was a "tactic" aimed at building support among conservative Republicans.

"It is a very common tactic for Republican presidential candidates. Or even Democratic presidential candidates to try and use the media as a foil here," Zeleny told "CBS This Morning" at the time. "He clearly knew the cameras were rolling here."

President Obama, meanwhile, told reporter Neil Munro, of the conservative website Daily Caller, that "it's not time for questions" when Munro interrupted the president during June remarks about immigration in the White House rose garden.

"Are you going to take questions?" Munro asked.

"Not while I'm speaking," Mr. Obama said.

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