Fox News' James Rosen claimed that Marine Corps Colonel George Bristol admitted to giving what "some will call" a stand down order to Lieutenant Colonel S.E. Gibson during the September 2012 attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi. But both Bristol and Gibson have said that no "stand down" order was given.
Rosen appeared on the July 31 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor to discuss a briefing on Benghazi given to the House Armed Services Committee by Bristol, who commanded an Africa-based task force at the time of the Benghazi attack. Rosen claimed that Bristol acknowledged he had given Gibson, who commanded a small team of special forces troops in Tripoli, what "some will call ... a stand down order":
O'REILLY: Now there was a hearing today, the House Armed Services Committee. General George Bristol who was in charge, I guess, of the African forces that could have helped the four Americans, including the Ambassador to Libya killed in Benghazi, he testified. But I'm reading over the notes here Rosen, and I've only got thirty seconds, Bristol would not say who told him not to help them. Is that true?
ROSEN: Well, first of all this wasn't a hearing, it was a briefing, which was being kind to the guy. He wasn't put under oath, so he didn't really have to testify. But he led this task force in Northern and Western Africa, and he acknowledged that he was the guy, a Marine colonel, who had the conversation with an Army lieutenant colonel who was on the ground in Tripoli and who was ready to get a whole bunch of guys on an airplane and fly from Tripoli to Benghazi to try and rescue our guys, which is the distance from Richmond, Virginia to Chicago, Illinois. It's not a short trip. And Col. Bristol, who is retiring effectively tomorrow, did acknowledge that he told Lt. Col. Gibson "stay in Tripoli." Some will call that a stand down order, Bill.
O'REILLY: Is Bristol taking the rap? That he did it? That he wouldn't order anybody?
ROSEN: He's saying, in essence, "I told them stay in Tripoli in case our embassy there -- "
O'REILLY: Did he say if anybody ordered him to say that?
ROSEN: No. He said it was his decision.
Rosen's claim is at odds with statements by both Bristol and Gibson. The Hill reported that Bristol told the congressional panel that no "stand down" order was given. Furthermore, according to a press release issued by the House Armed Services Committee, Bristol told the committee he gave Gibson "initial freedom of action to make decisions in response to the unfolding situation in Benghazi."
The former commander of a four-member Army Special Forces unit in Tripoli, Libya, denied Wednesday that he was told to stand down during last year's deadly assault on the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi.
In a closed-door session with the House Armed Services Committee, Lt. Col. S.E. Gibson said his commanders told him to remain in the capital of Tripoli to defend Americans in the event of additional attacks and to help survivors being evacuated from Benghazi.
"Contrary to news reports, Gibson was not ordered to 'stand down' by higher command authorities in response to his understandable desire to lead a group of three other special forces soldiers to Benghazi," the Republican-led committee said in a summary of its classified briefing with military officials, including Gibson.