Remember 24-hours ago, when we told you that the official story of who shot Bin Laden had given way to a stupid media feud? We underestimated the situation. It's downright ridiculous at this point. A day after CNN slapped Esquire in the face with a questionably sourced story denying several details in the magazine's widely read cover story about "The Shooter," the Navy SEAL Team 6 member who pulled the trigger and killed the world's most wanted terrorist, Esquire is hitting back with brass knuckles. Though Esquire's editor-in-chief David Granger had defended the magazine's account of that fateful evening, executive editor Mark Warren followed up on Wednesday with a pretty awkward finding: CNN had actually debunked its own story over six months ago.
In September 2012, CNN's Pentagon Correspondent Barbara Starr published a fairly scathing report showing how the play-by-play account of the Bin Laden raid written by Matt Bissonette under the pen name Mark Owen "differs from what U.S. officials have said publicly since the raid." This is awkward, because the somewhat sensational story by Peter Bergen that CNN published on Tuesday regards Bissonette's account as the most credible. More specifically, Bergen attempts to debunk Esquire's story with one told by an anonymous SEAL Team Six member who was not on the raid, one that, in Bergen's words, "is essentially the same as … Bissonnette's." Esquire's Warren is careful to point out that CNN's original story as well as a review "conducted by the head of US Special Operations Command" is consistent with the Esquire cover story that CNN attempted to debunk this week.
Confused yet? It's confusing. In plain English, the holes that CNN poked in Esquire's 15,000-word piece with a story that CNN had poked holes in last summer. That's still sort of confusing, isn't it? You know why? Because the media organizations grasping at anonymous sources to tell the story of America's most triumphant military victory in recent memory are reaching. We don't say that to discount the reporting. It's a story so shrouded in secrecy and myth that it requires some reaching. And sometimes when we reach, we miss, slip and fall right off the ledge of reason.