Thomas E. Ricks, the veteran defense reporter and author, said he expected his Monday morning appearance on Fox News to last about three minutes. It ended, in fact, after 90 seconds — his last sentence was a description of the network as “a wing of the Republican Party.”
After the interview, a Fox News staffer told Mr. Ricks that he had been rude.
The strange and unusually short interview segment quickly gained the attention of media critics, because criticism of Fox News is rarely aired on Fox News. Mr. Ricks said in an e-mail message afterward that he did not think he was being rude.“I thought I was being honest,” he said.“They asked my opinion, and I gave it.”
The topic was the attack on the United States’s diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya. Before being thanked and sent on his way, Mr. Ricks said he thought the controversy around the attack was “hyped, by this network especially.”
Fox News has devoted far more airtime to the events in Benghazi, on Sept. 11, than other television news networks, with numerous suggestions that the Obama administration is engaged in a cover-up. Erik Wemple of The Washington Post and the anti-Fox group Media Matters, among others, have documented the ups and downs of Fox’s reporting on the subject.
“Right now, pressure mounting on the Obama administration over its response to the deadly attack on our consulate in Benghazi,” the Fox anchor Jon Scott said before tossing to Mr. Ricks, a former Washington Post and Wall Street Journal reporter whose latest book,“The Generals,” was published last month.
After Mr. Ricks said that he thought that “Benghazi generally was hyped, by this network especially,” Mr. Scott homed in on the word “hype,” asking,“When you have four people dead, including the first U.S. ambassador in more than 30 years, how do you call that hype?”
Mr. Ricks answered,“How many security contractors died in Iraq? Do you know?”
Mr. Scott said he did not know.
“Nobody does, because nobody cared,” Mr. Ricks said.“We know that several hundred died, but there was never an official count done of security contractors dead in Iraq. So when I see this focus on what was essentially a small firefight, I think, No. 1, I’ve covered a lot of firefights, it’s impossible to figure out what happens in them sometimes. And second, I think that the emphasis on Benghazi has been extremely political, partly because Fox was operating as a wing of the Republican Party.”
That was the end of the segment.
“Alright, Tom Ricks, thank you very much for joining us today,” Mr. Scott said before his co-anchor tossed to a commercial break.
Mr. Ricks said in his e-mail that “I think the segment was about half as long as planned.” In the pre-interview with the producer in charge of the segment, Mr. Ricks expressed his point of view that the Benghazi controversy had been over-covered,“so they shouldn’t have been surprised when they pushed back on that, and I defended my position,” he said.
The producer, whom Mr. Ricks did not name, told him beforehand that he’d also have a chance to talk about the lack of combat readiness of some Army units, a subject he wrote a blog post about last Friday.“But they seemed to lose interest in that,” he said.
Mr. Ricks added,“One reason I spoke the way I did is that the hero of my new book is George Marshall, the Army chief of staff during World War II. He got his position by speaking truth to power, and I try to follow that example.”
A Fox News spokeswoman did not immediately respond to a request for comment about whether the interview segment was cut short.