Fox News host Neil Cavuto told Chairman of the House Select Committee on Benghazi Trey Gowdy (R-SC), that his on-going investigation into the attacks will only "carry currency" if the FBI acts against Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton or "recommends taking actions with the Justice Department."
Following the January 14 Republican presidential debate on the Fox Business Network, Neil Cavuto suggested to Gowdy that the only way for the Benghazi Select Committee to "carry currency" is "if the FBI acts on this or recommends taking actions with the Justice Department." Gowdy responded by suggesting that the committee's findings were a forgone conclusion, claiming "the smoking gun is the fact that she had her own unique server arrangement," but noted "whether or not there's any criminality ... the voters can judge that:
NEIL CAVUTO (HOST): At the Benghazi hearings a lot of people were saying, alright, Gowdy's got to deliver a knockout blow here. And after all those hours, [people are] amazed by your legal skills and ability to parlay this and go after her, maybe the mainstream media attention, all that they said in the end they didn't lay a glove on her. What do you make of that?
TREY GOWDY: I think the smoking gun is the fact that she had her own unique server arrangement.
CAVUTO: And that ironically could be her real Achilles heel.
GOWDY: But you know the world we live in Neil, once people know that she had her own server, that's no longer the smoking gun. But go back two years ago. If you were told that a Benghazi committee would find her emails that nobody else found, Chris Stevens' emails that nobody else found, and Patrick Kennedy, Susan Rice, you would say "they did a great job." Those are all home runs.
CAVUTO: But it's like people almost want to say, this will only carry currency I think, and I think you raise a number of great issues to your point, if the FBI acts on this or recommends taking actions with the Justice Department. What do you think happens if that happens, Congressman, but the Justice Department doesn't act?
Gowdy: There's one jury that our framers gave us every four years in November and the fact that DOJ may or may not do something, the voters can certainly mete out their own discipline and to Senator Rubio's point the mishandling of information, the decision to have your own server, whether or not there's any criminality, the jury can judge that. The voters can judge that.
The latest admission by Cavuto and Gowdy that the goal of the select committee is to "deliver a knockout blow" to Hillary Clinton comes after months of allegations that the committee abandoned conducting a comprehensive investigation into the attacks, turning its mission instead into a political "sham" meant to damage Clinton.
In October 2015, The New York Times reported that Bradley Podliska, a former investigator on the Republican-led Benghazi committee, accused the committee of becoming "preoccupied with the State Department's role in the controversy surrounding the Benghazi attack and less interested in a comprehensive investigation."
A month earlier, in September 2015, Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), came under fire for comments he made on Fox News' Hannity in which he boasted that the Benghazi committee was damaging Hillary Clinton's poll numbers. McCarthy's comments led to a repudiation from House Republicans with Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) calling on McCarthy to apologize.
Shortly before Michael Bay's latest movie, 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi, hit theaters, The Hollywood Reporter published a long report on how the film had been carefully marketed to conservative pundits. In return, the film was praised as "riveting" and "extraordinary" by people the studio could use to validate the movie to their hoped-for audience.
This is not a case of conservatives desperate for movies that speak even vaguely to their values getting hoodwinked by Hollywood.
President Obama is barely a presence in 13 Hours, and the film never mentions Hillary Clinton. But it's full of the kind of dog-whistles that are engineered to appeal to conservative moviegoers who have been imbibing conspiracy theories about Benghazi for years.
Over the years, the right-wing media has developed a series of myths around the idea that a "stand down order" was issued by someone high up in the Obama administration. According to the conspiracy, this was a "political decision not to rescue" the Americans because they were "expendable." According to CIA personnel, the Pentagon, the House Armed Services Committee, the Senate and House Intelligence Committees, Tripoli commander Lt. Col. S.E. Gibson, then-Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey, and nine other military officers, no such order was ever given.
13 Hours nods to the myth. As it becomes clear to the characters that the State Department compound has come under attack and Ambassador Chris Stevens (Matt Letscher) is endangered, the CIA contractors gear up and prepare to rush to their aid. This results in an angry confrontation between Tyrone Woods (James Badge Dale), the leader of the contractors, and the CIA base chief Bob (David Costabile), who wants them to wait while he tries to rally State's local Libyan guards rather than reveal the presence of the CIA base and endanger the lives of the Americans there.
"We're not supposed to be here," Bob tells Woods. "You will wait." Woods responds by mocking Bob's concerns and driving off with the other contractors as Bob is left to limply yell that they are not cleared to go.
The scene itself has some possible truth to it -- while there are disagreements over whether the real-life CIA contractors were literally told to "stand down," it's long been known that they argued with their base chief for roughly 20 minutes over how to respond to the attack before going to the State facility. But right-wing media have used the depiction of the events in the film as evidence that their initial conspiracy was accurate, moving the goalposts in order to justify their past claims.
To the conservative mythmakers, the "stand down order" is significant because, they claim, the United States had all sorts of military assets available that could have saved the lives of the Americans killed in Benghazi -- but those assets never showed up, because of the government's inexplicable refusal to use them. They specifically cite the supposed failure of the military to send a fighter jet over Benghazi as an example of the government's unwillingness to help Americans in peril.
In fact, several special operations teams were ordered to deploy, but did not arrive in Libya until long after the attack had concluded. The Republican-led House Armed Services Committee determined that there were not any "response alternatives that could have likely changed the outcome of the Benghazi attack."
Military leaders agree, including former Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who has accused critics who claim more U.S. forces should have responded of having a "cartoonish impression of military capabilities." Gates also explained why sending a fighter jet over Benghazi would have been a bad idea:
And frankly I've heard, well, why didn't you just fly a fighter jet over there to scare 'em with the noise or something. Given the number of surface to air missiles that have disappeared from Qaddafi's arsenals I would not have approved sending an aircraft, a single aircraft, over Benghazi under those circumstances.
Bay's 13 Hours shows the Americans under fire baffled by the inability of their government to provide aid, specifically their failure to have a fighter jet perform a flyover of the annex. CIA analyst Sona Jillani (Alexia Barlier) leads the effort, calling up the military and asking for a "low loud f-you flight," only to be rebuffed. "I called for air support -- it never came," she tells the contractors as they mourn for their fallen comrades.
At times, the film provides a broader perspective, briefly detailing the deployment of special operations forces and F-16s prepping on the tarmac. But most of the film is tightly centered on the events on the ground in Benghazi, and so it never explains why they don't show up. Without more explanation, viewers with limited knowledge of the attacks have little choice but to believe the right-wing narrative.
Right-wing media have spent years pushing the myth that the Obama administration deliberately misled the public by tying the attack to an anti-Islam YouTube video that triggered massive anti-American protests across the Middle East in September 2012.
As congressional investigations have found, the Obama administration had been referencing initial reports from the CIA that the Benghazi attacks had grown out of protests against the video. The attackers reportedly "did tell bystanders that they were attacking the compound because they were angry about the video," and the assault's alleged ringleader reportedly said that they were acting in "retaliation" for the video.
In one of the film's oddest moments, some of the special operators are talking on the roof of part of the CIA annex between attacks when one says he had heard that American press are reporting on the attack on the diplomatic facility, but that they are "saying it's a street protest about an anti-Islam film." "I didn't see a protest," another replies.
Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz (R-TX) began his closing statement on the Fox Business GOP debate with a plug for Michael Bay's Benghazi movie, 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers Of Benghazi. Cruz's movie endorsement parrots Fox News' campaign to use the movie to undermine Hillary Clinton. Recently Fox has co-opted the film as an attack against her presidential run and devoted a substantial number of segments to promoting the film, including an upcoming hour-long special on The Kelly File. A 13 Hours reference by Rick Santorum also made its way into Fox Business' undercard debate earlier in the evening. From the January 14 Fox Business' Republican Candidates Debate:
TED CRUZ: "13 Hours." Tomorrow morning, a new movie will debut about the incredible bravery of the men fighting for their lives in Benghazi and the politicians that abandoned them.
From the January 14 edition of Fox Business' Republican Presidential Candidates Debate:
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Conservative media are seizing on comments made by Congressman Trey Gowdy (R-SC), chairman of the House Select Committee on Benghazi in order to repeat debunked claims that American military forces were ordered to "stand down" and not help rescue those attacked on September 11, 2012 in Benghazi, Libya. In fact, numerous congressional investigations found that no such order was given to American military forces.
From the January 14 edition of Fox News' Happening Now:
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Right-wing media leapt to criticize the Iran nuclear deal following the brief detention of American sailors by Iranian forces in the Persian Gulf. However, foreign policy experts in the media are crediting the deal and the diplomatic contacts created by it for the quick release of the sailors.
From the January 13 edition of Fox News' America's Newsroom:
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From the January 13 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends:
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From the January 12 edition of Premiere Radio Networks' The Rush Limbaugh Show:
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Conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt dubiously claimed that a newly released email shows former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton broke a "statute [that] prohibits misuse of classified information" because she allegedly "directed [an aide] to alter and send [a document] over a non-secure system." Yet, according to a State Department review, officials "found no indication the document in question was sent to Secretary Clinton using nonsecure fax or email."
Fox News devoted numerous segments to reports of mass sexual assaults committed in Cologne, Germany on New Year's Eve by men "having a 'North African or Arabic' appearance," using the story to fearmonger about the "direct threat" posed by "how fast you allow ... Syrian refugees into this country." This reporting stands in contrast to Fox's history of downplaying sexual assaults when it doesn't fit their anti-refugee agenda.
The Washington Post's David Weigel highlighted how Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz "actually benefits from Trump's full-spectrum dominance of the national media conversation," which "obscure[s]" Cruz's extreme positions.
Donald Trump has dominated media coverage since June 2015, when he announced his presidential bid. In 2015, Trump received over 22 hours of air time on Fox and was covered on ABC's evening news program for 81 minutes, compared to Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders' one minute. Much of the coverage has focused on Trump's controversial positions and inflammatory rhetoric. Other GOP presidential candidates have attempted to distance themselves from Trump -- even though their own extreme positions often don't differ dramatically from Trump's -- but they have not received the same media condemnation.
In a January 7 post for The Washington Post's blog Post Politics, Weigel explained how "obscured by the endless Trump news-cycles" is the fact that "Cruz is the most conservative candidate" and is "ready to indulge questions" that are usually dismissed for their extremism. Weigel noted that "[w]ithout Trump in the race, questions and issues such as these -- the sort of things that have stymied some tea party candidates for lower offices -- might be controversial," but are overlooked because of Trump's media dominance (emphasis added):
So far, given the lack of damage from the Canada story to his image among conservatives, Cruz actually benefits from Trump's full-spectrum dominance of the national media conversation.
Cruz does this by blaming every incoming attack on two factors. The first is his strength in the polls; Cruz will suggest that "three weeks ago, every Republican was talking about Donald Trump." Not so much now, in his view. The second is the mainstream media, one of the softest targets in Republican politics. (Cruz's stump speech, which changes subtly from stop to stop, always includes a joke about reporters "checking themselves into therapy" after his hypothetical presidency ends in 2025.)
In Webster City, Cruz used most of his news conference to gently chide the media, saying they are not asking about anything Iowans seemed to be interested in. When CNN's Dana Bash asked whether Cruz would take Trump's advice and embark on a legal route to prove his eligibility to be president, he took another chance to ask why no one was covering the proverbial Real Issues.
After one more question about whether establishment Republicans such as McCain were feeling more confident in attacking him, Cruz started his town hall. Something obscured by the endless Trump news cycles was suddenly much clearer: Cruz was the most conservative candidate in the race and ready to indulge questions that other Republicans dismissed.
One questioner asked about the alleged influence of the Trilateral Commission and David Rockefeller, two bugbears of conspiracy theorists. "It's a very good question," said Cruz, pivoting to discuss the Medellin national sovereignty case, which is featured in some of his TV ads here. Another questioner asked whether the Federal Reserve was constitutional, prompting a short monologue by Cruz about why America should return to the gold standard.
And another questioner asked about the potential threat of Muslim courts issuing their own sharia-based rulings within the United States.
Without Trump in the race, questions and issues such as these -- the sort of things that have stymied some tea party candidates for lower offices -- might be controversial. But Trump, who has courted controversy again and again in the past few months, is in the race.
From the January 7 edition of Fox News' The Kelly File:
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