The State Department and CNN are digging in regarding the cable TV network’s finding and reporting on murdered U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens' personal journal over his family’s objections -- in what has devolved into a personal and public dispute between the agency and the news media.
CNN found the journal inside the charred and damaged U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, where Stevens and three other Americans were killed in a Sept. 11 uprising.
The news channel reported online Saturday that it found the journal four days after the attack, took "newsworthy tips" that it confirmed with at least once source familiar with Stevens' thinking, and reported the ambassador was concerned about security threats in Benghazi and a "rise in Islamic extremism."
A State Department official told Fox News on Monday that such issues are being addressed in the ongoing FBI investigation.
After the story, State Department spokesman Philippe Reines, a senior adviser to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, immediately called CNN’s actions "indefensible."
CNN responded by saying it did not initially report on the existence of a journal “out of respect for the family,” then felt issues raised in the journal required full reporting.
"Why is the State Department now attacking the messenger," the channel also asked, in the written statement.
The terse exchanges widened on Sunday when Michael Hastings, a correspondent for the website BuzzFeed, expressing the growing frustration with the administration over events related to the fatal attack, emailed Reines with several questions. Among the questions was why didn’t the State Department first search and find the journal.
The heated exchange over several emails included harsh words and a one four-letter word by Reines, followed by him signing off “have a nice life.”
Fox News learned Monday that the journal was supposed to be returned to the Stevens’ family through the Italian consul general in Benghazi. But it remains unclear whether that has happened.
Reines did not address the BuzzFeed flap but told Fox News in part: “Given the truth of how this was handled, CNN patting themselves on the back is disgusting.
“What they're not owning up to is reading and transcribing Chris' 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 United States of Chris's remains," he said. "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?”