Fox News contributor Karl Rove is baselessly claiming the Obama administration's "lie" linking the attacks on U.S. diplomatic facilities in Benghazi, Libya to an anti-Islam video was "cooked up" by White House aides and an aide to U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice.
As part of its effort to turn Benghazi into Obama's Watergate, Fox has regularly perpetuated falsehoods about talking points the administration generated after the attacks that were used by Rice in interviews on the Sunday political talk shows. The network has paid special attention to what emails between administration and intelligence officials concerning the editing of those talking points do and do not say about the anti-Islam video, which Rice linked to the attacks during those interviews. Those false attacks have been revived in light of reports that President Obama plans to appoint Rice as his new National Security Advisor.
Discussing Rice's move to the White House on the July 5 edition of America's Newsroom, Rove claimed that "we do not know the answer of who is the author of the lie that this is all because of an anti-Muslim video," and went on to suggest that the talking points emails suggest that the idea came from discussions between White House aides Ben Rhodes and Tommy Vietor and an unnamed aide to Rice, who Rove believes was UN mission communications director Erin Pelton:
ROVE: We do not know the answer of who is the author of the lie that this is all because of an anti-Muslim video. Now, we have an idea. There are these emails that were released, they released 100 emails about the Benghazi situation. Remember, on Saturday morning, [September] 15, the CIA talking points are gutted at a White House National Security Council deputies meeting. Sunday morning, Susan Rice is on television saying it was the anti-Muslim video. How did we get there? Late in the afternoon, starting at 5:59 p.m., on Saturday afternoon, we start having an exchange of emails from an unnamed person at the U.S. mission at that United Nations with two low-level White House National Security Council communications guys, Ben Rhodes, who's in charge of communication for the National Security Council and one of his deputies, a guy named Tommy Vietor.
BILL HEMMER (ANCHOR): And they go back and forth for a period of six or seven hours.
ROVE: They go back and forth over a number of hours about the talking points. Now this would lead me to believe that this unnamed person, who might be Erin Pelton, the communications director at the U.S. mission at the United Nations, and Ben Rhodes and Tommy Vietor, that that's the transmission line to Susan Rice--
HEMMER: From the White House.
Rove offered similar claims in a May FoxNews.com column, asking whether "the USUN staffer, Mr. Rhodes and Mr. Vietor were responsible for cooking up the absurd and misleading storyline that an anti-Muslim video caused the death of four Americans," suggesting that their "principal concern might have been the election less than two months off."
In fact, the Benghazi emails released by the White House show only that the USUN official sought to confirm with the White House that the final version of the Benghazi talking points were what Rice should use in her interviews. In the sole exchange between the U.S. mission to the UN and the White House included in the emails, a USUN official asks Rhodes and Vietor if a forwarded version of the final talking points represented the "final language" that Rice should use on Benghazi, with Rhodes replying, "Yup."
Moreover, Rove's suggestion that aides at the White House and USUN created the link between the video and the talking points for political reasons ignores the fact that such a link is established in the very first version of the talking points, which was generated by the CIA's Office of Terrorism Analysis.
That version of the talking points indicated that "the attacks in Benghazi were spontaneously inspired by the protests at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo and evolved into a direct assault against the U.S. Consulate and subsequently its annex." Then-CIA director Gen. David Petraeus later expressed disapproval of the final version of the talking points because they left out details linking the attack to the Cairo protests. The protests in Cairo, along with demonstrations throughout the Muslim world, were generated by news of the anti-Islam video.
Indeed, earlier in the segment, Rove acknowledged that the final version of the talking points said the attacks were "spontaneously inspired by the protests at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo," but claimed they "make no mention of the anti-Muslim video," ignoring that those protests were triggered by the video. Rove also ignored that the initial version generated by the CIA -- displayed on-screen by Fox News during the segment -- featured identical language.
The CIA's account, later highlighted by Rice, was not "absurd," as Rove suggests -- several on-the-ground media reports from Libya have linked the attacks to the video, with The New York Times reporting that "Libyans who witnessed the assault and know the attackers" say they cited the video.
But it's long been clear that Rove and his compatriots at Fox are less interested in the facts of the Benghazi story than they are with attempting to damage the Obama administration.