Fox News is attempting to revive the manufactured Benghazi scandal by highlighting a new report that U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens was labeled a "John Doe" when checked into a Libyan hospital following the September 11, 2012, attack on U.S. diplomatic facilities in Benghazi. While some on the right have described hiding Stevens' identity as "simple" and "common sense," Fox News claims that the decision is further proof of a Benghazi cover-up.
On the May 31 edition of Fox News' America's Newsroom, co-host Martha MacCallum hosted former CIA covert operations officer and President of Diligence LLC Mike Baker to discuss this latest revelation from the attacks. Baker recognized the decision to label Stevens as "John Doe" as the right move while simultaneously using the new information to indict the Obama administration over Benghazi. Although Baker views the decision to use a pseudonym as necessary, he cites it as an example of the Obama administration hiding details about the attack, saying: "The problem here is that we're getting these details over 8 months after the attacks, and the administration continues to not stand up and say 'look, this is what took place, these are the details we have.'"
On May 30, CBS News' Sheryl Attkisson -- whose reporting on Benghazi has garnered praise from a host of Fox News personalities as well as rumors that she will be leaving CBS for Fox News in the future -- broke the story that U.S. officials instructed Benghazi Medical Center to use a "John Doe" pseudonym on the death certificate of Ambassador Christopher Stevens after he was killed during the attack. Attkisson reported:
A familiar local to whom Americans refer as "Babakar" sent word to the U.S. embassy that Stevens had, indeed, passed away. Babakar sent some of his associates to recover Stevens' body at the hospital. When hospital officials asked what name should be entered on the death certificate, U.S. officials relayed the message to use "John Doe." Babakar's associates eventually transported Stevens' body to the airport where it was turned over to Americans.
But Stevens' identity was concealed to protect the body of the slain ambassador. As Salon's Alex Seitz-Wald wrote:
Gregory Hicks, the No. 2 State Department officer in Libya, testified that the hospital Stevens was taken to was "controlled by Ansar Sharia," the very same jihadi group that had launched the attack on the diplomatic post.
Ansar Sharia -- or, for that matter, any other group that wanted to embarrass or even extract a ransom from the U.S. -- would probably have been thrilled to find the ambassador's body lying in their hospital. So it makes perfect sense that U.S. officials would try to conceal Stevens' identity as much as possible.
Fox's focus on the John Doe revelation marks the latest in a long line of manufactured Benghazi conspiracies being pushed on the network, none of which hold up under scrutiny. In a PBS interview with Charlie Rose, Politico's Mike Allen explained that Republicans' ongoing obsession with Benghazi is an attempt to tarnish Hillary Clinton's potential presidential bid in 2016:
ALLEN: Privately, Republicans say that Benghazi probably wouldn't be an issue if it weren't for Hillary Clinton. Unlike the IRS -
ROSE: If this wasn't for her in 2016, this wouldn't be an issue?
ALLEN: Yeah, because it's something that people don't understand. Even the White House will tell you it's never going to be resolved to anyone's satisfaction, but there is going to be a real effort to make it last.
And when we're talking about these three controversies, we should remember, world event history tells us that world events can change everything. Somebody pointed out to me that if the Boston marathon happened next week, this would all look different.