Fox News personalities are questioning the timing of the Obama administration's capture of Ahmed Abu Khattala, suspected leader of the 2012 Benghazi attacks, ignoring the complicated logistics involved in carrying out the dangerous apprehension in an unstable foreign country.
From the June 12 edition of Fox News' Special Report with Bret Baier:
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Right-wing media's latest "Benghazi bombshell," scandalizing claims about the attackers' cell phone usage during the assault, follows a now-familiar pattern: recasting history to accuse the Obama administration of inappropriately referencing an anti-Islam YouTube video in connection with the Benghazi terror attacks.
Fox News host Steve Doocy attacked Hillary Clinton's statement that Ambassador Chris Stevens was in Benghazi in September 2012 of his own volition -- a fact supported by independent investigations and Congressional testimony -- as a "flat-out ... lie."
Fox News ran with the unsubstantiated and explicitly discredited claim that the U.S. might have paid a cash ransom to an Afghani militant group in exchange for the recent release of an American soldier, an assertion that has been repeatedly denied by the White House.
During the June 9 edition of America's Newsroom, co-host Martha MacCallum and Fox's senior political analyst Brit Hume hypothesized that in addition to releasing five Guantanamo Bay detainees in exchange for the release of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, the U.S. may have paid a cash ransom to the Haqqani network, Bergdahl's captors. Hume claimed that because the Haqqani network "is interested in money," "that gives rise to the question, which the administration has yet to answer, as to whether in addition to the release of these five Taliban prisoners, some ransom was paid."
MacCallum ran with the ransom idea:
MACCALLUM: A lot of layers and a lot of questions. And I would imagine Congress would have questions about that money as well.
HUME: Of course.
MACCALLUM: Whether or not they would have been put in the loop on that, right?
HUME: Sooner or later that question's going to be asked to somebody under oath, or perhaps the administration may come out and say, 'Yes, in addition we paid X amount of money to get this guy freed because we thought it was so important. And we'll see how people react to that.
MACCALLUM: But that raises the question then, why would you need to release these Taliban prisoners if that was part of the deal? And that goes back to perhaps some of these other questions about --
HUME: Well if it turns out that ransom was paid -- and this is speculation -- if it turns out ransom was paid, and that was what did the trick, that really does, as you suggest Martha, sharpen the question of well, why did you need to release these Taliban starting-five, as they've been called by some people?
Fox even floated their theory in the following segment with Republican Congressman Kevin McCarthy (CA), asking McCarthy, "What about this other question with the money ... how will you get to the bottom of the question whether or not money was exchanged?"
It's a conspiracy theory that parrots Fox contributor Oliver North's unsourced speculation that "somebody paid a ransom" for Bergdahl -- and one that has already been explicitly debunked.
The White House has flatly denied that money was exchanged for Bergdahl's release. While a ransom was previously considered as a possibility in the prisoner swap negotiations, a National Security Staff spokesperson explicitly denied the idea last week, according to the Houston Chronicle:
The White House countered Rep. Steve Stockman, R-Clear Lake, in a statement Friday after the congressman had questioned whether President Barack Obama paid ransom for Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl's release.
"The United States did not provide money in return for Sgt. Bergdahl," National Security Staff spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said.
In fact, after Fox's lengthy speculation, an official White House Twitter account reiterated the fact that no cash was exchanged in response to right-wing claims:
Since the release of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, media have scandalized the administration's negotiations with the Taliban, conducted through a third-party, despite the fact that foreign policy experts and military leaders have long acknowledged the necessity of such negotiations.
Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen condemned the White House visit by the parents of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, the U.S. soldier held captive in Afghanistan for five years, as "utterly repellent," even though Cohen acknowledged that the circumstances surrounding Bergdahl's capture are unclear.
In a June 4 post, Cohen attacked President Obama for inviting Bergdahl's parents to the White House on May 31 to announce that his release had been secured. Noting reports that Bergdahl may have been captured by Taliban combatants after leaving his post on his own volition, Cohen labeled Bergdahl a "deserter" despite admitting that the "ultimate truth about Bergdahl has yet to be determined":
On Jan. 31, 1945, the U.S. Army executed a soldier from Detroit named Eddie Slovik. He was what we would now call a loser -a petty thief, a self-proclaimed coward and, by his admission, a deserter. He was the first U.S. soldier executed for desertion since the Civil War and, as far as I can tell, the last. He soon became the subject of a book and a movie - and then slipped into history, ignominious and pathetic in death and now almost entirely forgotten.
Now, all these years later, deserters are treated somewhat differently. Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl is accused by some of his Army colleagues of deserting his post in Afghanistan, leaving behind his weapon and his body armor. He was taken prisoner by the Taliban and was just swapped for five terrorists who were being held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. If the charges are true, the Taliban got back valuable and esteemed warriors and the United States got a deserter.
Cohen went on to question the President's "huggy session" with the Bergdahls and made clear that he is "not for executing deserters, but I am not for hugging parents, either":
But the Rose Garden production sticks in my craw -- Obama leaving with his arms around Bergdahl's mother and father. So touching. So warm. So utterly repellent! Did the president know that their son was being accused of desertion? Did he care? As commander in chief, did he ponder what he owed the many millions of soldiers who were also scared or fed up with war -- but did not allegedly amble off? Did he consider how Bergdahl's platoon was exposed and what could happen to the men who went out in search of him?
Truly, I find it necessary to have retrieved Bergdahl ... in some way. The freeing of five killers of Americans as part of the deal bothers me, but maybe there was no other way. But I am even more bothered, though, that the president and his incautious mouthpiece Susan Rice -- she said Bergdahl served "with honor and distinction" -- turned what had to be a sordid but possibly necessary deal into a virtual patriotic exercise. It was fundamentally a lie. It was frankly sickening.
Cohen's column echoes right-wing attacks on Bergdahl's father, Bob, who grew out his beard in solidarity with his captive son. Fox contributor Laura Ingraham claimed Bob Bergdahl looked like a "terrorist," and Fox host Bill O'Reilly said he was "insulted" by his appearance at the Rose Garden.
While Cohen claimed to be "sicken[ed]" by the treatment of the Bergdahls, he has also written that "people with conventional views must repress a gag reflex" when considering interracial families.
Right-wing media greeted news of the release of the only U.S. soldier held captive in Afghanistan with claims that his freedom was timed to distract from the controversy plaguing the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).
Fox News host Andrea Tantaros completely fabricated a passage from Hillary Clinton's forthcoming memoir, claiming that the former secretary of state wrote that she "doesn't care" about the details of U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens' death during the Benghazi attacks. Widely reported excerpts from Clinton's book contradict Tantaros's attack.
On the June 2 segment of Outnumbered, co-host Andrea Tantaros attacked Clinton based on the recently released excerpt of her new book Hard Choices, which discussed the attack on Benghazi that led to the death of Stevens and three others during the September 2012 attacks on diplomatic facilities in Benghazi, Libya. After proclaiming that the book was "disingenuous," Tantaros launched into an assault on Clinton, claiming that she wrote in the book that "she didn't care about" how Stevens was murdered or who had done it (emphasis added):
TANTAROS: And also, for her to just disregard how Ambassador Stevens got killed -- in that same chapter she says, "Well it doesn't really matter what led up to it. It's like the intruder getting into your house. It is what happened afterwards." That was supposedly a friend of hers. If it were a friend of mine, and I were Secretary of State, I would care about how he was murdered in the first place, and certainly about still bringing whoever did it to justice. And she in the book says she doesn't care about either one.
According to Politico's exclusive report on the excerpt, the truth is almost exactly the opposite. Not only did Clinton take personal responsibility for the attack, but she also expressed her grief at the loss of her colleague while explaining that her highly publicized and often mischaracterized "what difference does it make" remark was pulled out of context:
Early on in the chapter, she describes her grief over losing U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three of his diplomatic colleagues -- "a punch in the gut," she writes -- and says she takes responsibility.
The deaths of "fearless public servants in the line of duty was a crushing blow," Clinton writes. "As Secretary I was the one ultimately responsible for my people's safety, and I never felt that responsibility more deeply than I did that day."
Clinton also addresses her much-seized-upon remark before a congressional committee in January 2013, when she used the phrase "what difference at this point does it make." Republicans have claimed it betrayed Clinton's lack of interest in getting to the bottom of the attack. Clinton writes that her words were blatantly twisted.
"In yet another example of the terrible politicization of this tragedy, many have conveniently chosen to interpret" that phrase "to mean that I was somehow minimizing the tragedy of Benghazi. Of course that's not what I said," she writes. "Nothing could be further from the truth. And many of those trying to make hay of it know that, but don't care."
She adds, "My point was simple: If someone breaks into your home and takes your family hostage, how much time are you going to spend focused on how the intruder spent his day as opposed to how best to rescue your loved ones and then prevent it from happening again?
Tantaros's false assertion is just the latest attempt by Fox to to spin the former Secretary of State's words in order to fit its debunked Benghazi narratives and undermine Clinton's efforts to correct the record.
The Washington Post's Bob Woodward suggested that a "neutral" investigation of the Benghazi attacks could be appropriate to "see if there is new information," ignoring the neutral, nonpartisan Accountability Review Board investigation which has already issued twenty-nine foreign security recommendations that the State Department is continuing to implement.
Weekly Standard writer and Fox News contributor Stephen Hayes broke ranks from his fellow conservatives and colleagues at Fox by agreeing with Hillary Clinton's assessment that her critics have mischaracterized her congressional testimony on the Benghazi attacks.
On May 30 Politico published advance excerpts from Clinton's upcoming memoir, Hard Choices, in which she details her time at the State Department during the attacks in Benghazi and criticizes Republican efforts to exploit the tragedy. Writing on her congressional testimony on the attacks, Clinton argued that the controversy surrounding her response to a question from Sen. Ron Johnson is "yet another example of the terrible politicization of this tragedy." Clinton points out that her"what difference at this point does it make" statement did not "mean that I was somehow minimizing the tragedy of Benghazi" and that "many of those trying to make hay of it know that, but don't care."
In a May 30 post at The Weekly Standard, Hayes agreed that Clinton's critics have "badly mischaracterized the now infamous question." Hayes went on to correctly note that Clinton's response was simply "an attempt to redirect the questioning from its focus on the hours before the attacks to preventing similar attacks in the future":
Hillary Clinton is right about Benghazi -- or at least she's right about one thing.
According to a story by Maggie Haberman about the Benghazi chapter in Clinton's forthcoming book Hard Choices, the former secretary of state contends that some of her critics have badly mischaracterized the now infamous question she asked at a January 23, 2012, congressional hearing: "What difference, at this point, does it make?"
She's right, they have. The question, which came in the middle of a heated back-and-forth with U.S. senator Ron Johnson, was not so much a declaration of indifference as it was an attempt to redirect the questioning from its focus on the hours before the attacks to preventing similar attacks in the future.
Hayes has previously defended Clinton from attacks mischarcterizing her exchange. On the April 30 edition of Hannity, Hayes stood up for Clinton against those who labeled her attitude about the attack as indifferent and again corrected the record:
HAYES: Let me start by actually defending Hillary Clinton, which I don't do often in the context of Benghazi. You know, that sound bite has been, I think, misinterpreted by some to be a declaration of her indifference as to what had actually happened on the ground in Benghazi when she says, "What difference, at this point, does it make?" She wasn't saying, basically, I don't care, you know, we're beyond it, it doesn't matter. What she was saying is it doesn't matter how it happened.
Despite Hayes' correction to critics who willfully misinterpreted Clinton's words, conservatives continue to hold up her remarks as a false indication of indifference.
Fox News hosts falsely suggested former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton lied in her upcoming book about the CIA's involvement in the development of talking points used by the Obama administration to discuss the September 2012 Benghazi attacks.
In the days immediately following the attacks on U.S. diplomatic facilities in Benghazi, then-U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice and other members of the administration described the assault as developing from spontaneous protests against an anti-Islam video that had been posted on YouTube, which had inspired riots across the Muslim world. That conclusion was largely consistent with the analysis of the intelligence community at the time. But because it was later revealed that there was no protest in Benghazi, conservatives led by Fox News have since claimed the Obama administration engaged in a deliberate effort to deceive the American people about the cause of the attacks.
Politico reported on a chapter of Clinton's memoir, Hard Choices, in which she criticized Republican efforts to politically exploit the Benghazi attacks. Clinton also defended Rice's description of the attacks, noting that she had been using talking points derived by the intelligence community. From the May 30 Politico article:
She defends then-Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice for describing the Benghazi attack as a "copycat' of the video-spurred Cairo protests when she appeared on Sunday TV shows days later. Rice, Clinton writes, was relying on existing intelligence. The talking points she used were written to help members of Congress address the attacks, and the information began with and was signed off on by CIA officials. Intelligence officials didn't know Rice would use them, Clinton writes.
The talking points have been a focus of Republican critics, who insist they stemmed from the White House as an effort to control a politically sensitive issue -- a terrorist attack on the eve of Obama's reelection.
On the May 30 edition of Fox & Friends, co-host Steve Doocy responded to the article by criticizing Clinton for "doubl[ing] down on saying it was a video" that motivated the attack. During a discussion with Fox's Geraldo Rivera, co-host Brian Kilmeade disputed Clinton's explanation that the CIA played a role in developing the talking point narrative stating, "specifically she says the CIA signed off on Susan Rice's talking points, when we have the deputy director [...] on the record saying I knew nothing about a video."
But initial intelligence did, in fact, suggest that the inflammatory anti-Muslim YouTube video may have been linked to the attacks.
Fox News is using a flawed Benghazi report from ABC to spin an outlandish new conspiracy theory, insinuating that the Obama administration let Americans die while it was preoccupied with emailing YouTube about an anti-Muslim video.
On May 22, ABC News White House correspondent Jonathan Karl reported that new information showed that the White House had contacted YouTube the night of the attacks and later concealed the correspondence. The reality is that Karl's so-called new information, based on a selective leak from Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA), was reported by ABC way back in September 2012. Although Karl based his report on warmed-over information already in the public record, Fox jumped at the opportunity to revive the lie that the Obama administration abandoned Americans under fire.
Watch Fox & Friends use Karl's report to revive the zombie lie that the White House "certainly hesitated to send in help for the four Americans who were killed in Benghazi" and instead spent time contacting YouTube:
Fox News repeatedly spun the words of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) to suggest she had finally acknowledged the importance of the select committee on Benghazi, when in fact Pelosi had stressed her objections to the committee and called it an unnecessary "partisan exercise."
After airing House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi's remarks about appointing Democrats to the Republican-led House select committee on Benghazi, Fox News immediately misled viewers about what she said, claiming that Pelosi conceded the committee is a "serious effort" when she did not.
On May 21, Fox News' The Real Story aired live Pelosi's statement on the selection of Democratic members to the Benghazi select committee. Pelosi prefaced the announcement by making clear her objection to the formation of the committee, outlining the numerous prior investigations and blasting the Republican mismanagement of the investigations. Pelosi labeled this latest select committee "an unnecessary partisan exercise." She went on to explain Democratic participation in the committee as a way to "fight for a fair hearing and process" (emphasis added):
PELOSI: Unfortunately, the Republican obsession with Benghazi has not been about the victims or their families or our country. We had hoped the house Republican leaders would not go down the path forming a select committee. We've already been there. Eight reviews have been conducted in the House and Senate, 25,000 documents released, millions of taxpayer dollars spent. It was not necessary to put the families or our country through this partisan exercise once again. Over the past two weeks, we have engaged in good-faith discussions with Speaker Boehner on the shape and standards of the select committee. We had hoped for a level of fairness and transparency and balance, especially considering the subject matter. We were not able to reach any agreement.
Regrettably, the Republican approach does not prevent the unacceptable and the repeated abuses committed by Chairman Issa in any meaningful way. That is all the more reason for Democrats to participate in the committee, to be there to fight for a fair hearing and process, to try to bring some openness and transparency to what's going on. What is the purpose of this investigation? What is the timetable? What are the milestones? What are they hoping to achieve? I could have argued this either way. Why give any validity to this effort? But I do think it is important for the American people to have the pursuit of these questions done in a fair and open and balanced way as possible. That simply would not be possible leaving it to theRepublicans. That's why I'm appointing my distinguished colleagues here today to serve on the select committee.
Shortly after Pelosi made her statement, host Gretchen Carlson cut away from the press conference to discuss the issue with Fox chief intelligence correspondent Catherine Herridge. Despite Pelosi's clear dismissal of Republicans' handling of the investigation, Herridge baselessly characterized Pelosi's announcement as "a real recognition that this is going to be a serious-minded investigation" while ignoring Pelosi's criticism of the committee as "an unnecessary partisan exercise":
HERRIDGE: I think what we heard is a recognition by the Democrats that they must now engage in a very serious way with the Republican-led select committee. This is a reflection of the fact that the members of this Republican select committee are very serious in nature and are communicating that this will be a broad and vast investigation where they already believe that there are gaps that need to be filled in between the various committees that have already looked at it. So this is a recognition by the Democrats that they must seriously engage and that it would be a political mistake not to be engaged and to leave some of these issues unanswered, especially leading up to the midterm elections.
Looking at the composition of this committee, what strikes me is almost everyone has relevant experience on the requisite oversight committees that looked into Benghazi. What is also striking to me is -- I think you can make the argument that several of the committee members are true partisans and have been on the attack on Benghazi from the get-go. So they seem to have been picked by the speaker as a way to answer these Republican allegations that the administration in effect dropped the ball on Benghazi, they misled the American people and, even more specifically, that there was real negligence at the state department that was led by Mrs. Clinton.
The bottom line for the folks at home is that the Democrats recognize it's going to be a serious effort and it would be a political mistake not to engage in the fullest possible way.
While Herridge portrayed the Democratic members of the committee as "true partisans," she did not attribute partisan motive to the Republican members, asserting that have "the requisite oversight background, also a legal background" and will "move through this in a very methodical way."