The Truth About The Right's Latest Benghazi Attacks

››› ››› JEREMY HOLDEN & JESS LEVIN

In coverage of a May 8 House Oversight Committee hearing, conservatives are pushing new myths about the Obama administration's response to the attacks on a U.S. diplomatic facility in Benghazi, Libya. Here is the truth about what really happened.

Exposing The Myths Behind The Right-Wing's Trumped Up Benghazi "Cover Up"

MYTH: The White House And State Department Edited References To Terrorism Out Of Talking Points For Political Purposes

FACT: The CIA Signed Off On The Changes For Tactical, Not Political Reasons. Gen. David Petraeus, former head of the CIA, testified in November that the intelligence community signed off on the final draft of the talking points, and that references to terrorist groups in Libya were removed in order to avoid tipping off those groups. [The New York Times, 11/16/12]

FACT:  President Obama Had Already Referred To The Attacks As An Act Of Terror. On September 12, President Obama referred to the attacks as an act of terror when he spoke from the White House Rose Garden. One day later, Obama again referred to acts of terror at a campaign event. These comments undermine the myth that edits to a document that were made on September 14, after Obama had already labeled the attack an act of terror, demonstrate that the administration was trying to downplay the role that terrorism played. [Media Matters for America, 5/10/13]

MYTH: Benghazi Whistleblower Gregory Hicks Is Being Prohibited From Talking To Investigators And Members Of Congress

FACT: Hicks Was Interviewed Twice As Part Of The State Department's Independent Internal Investigation. After Gregory Hicks sat down for an initial interview with the State Department's Accountability Review Board, he asked for a follow-up interview to expand on issues that he felt needed amplification. And he was granted one. [Media Matters for America, 5/9/13]

FACT: Hicks Was Only Told He Was Not Allowed To Speak With A Member Of Congress Without A State Department Attorney Present. Following the attacks, Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) traveled to Libya, seeking to interview witnesses and survivor, including Hicks. Hicks testified that the State Department had instructed him not to speak to Chaffetz without a State attorney present -- a condition Hicks says was unusual, but which the State Department says is standard procedure. Hicks ended up speaking to Chaffetz without a State Department attorney present because, according to his testimony, the lawyer lacked the proper security clearance. [Media Matters for America, 5/9/13]

MYTH: Cheryl Mills Tried To Intimidate Hicks After His Meeting With Chaffetz

FACT: Hicks Admitted Mills Offered No Criticism Or Reprimand, Only That She Had Asked For A Report. While being questioned by Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), Hicks elaborated on a phone call from Cheryl Mills, at the time Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's chief-of-staff. Hicks made clear that he had received no direct criticism from Mills. It was the "tone of the conversation," he testified, that led him to believe Mills was unhappy with him. But MSBNC reported that Philippe Reines confirmed to them that he witnessed the conversation and that it was supportive. [Media Matters for America, 5/11/13; MSNBC.com, 5/8/13]

FACT: Congressional Republicans Are Falsely Framing The Phone Call As "Threatening." Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) repeatedly asked Hicks if Mills was "upset" with him during the phone call. Hicks answered in the affirmative. After Hicks finished describing his phone call with Mills, Jordan immediately characterized it as an act of retribution for not going along with the "cover-up." Rep. Ronald DeSantis (R-FL) told Hicks at one point that "we need to know who actually gave the order to stand down. I'd like to know why you've been demoted, why they -- the secretary's chief of staff called you and spoke with you the way she did." [Media Matters for America, 5/11/13]

MYTH: Hicks Is Being Punished For Speaking Out And Has Been Demoted And Received Criticism Of His Management Style

FACT:  Hicks Testified That He Voluntarily Chose Not To Return To Libya And That The Overriding Reason Was Because Of His Family. During his testimony, Hicks said that "based on criticism that I received, I felt that if I went back, I would never be comfortable working there, and in addition, my family really didn't want me to go back. We had endured a year of separation when I was in Afghanistan in 2006 and 2007. That was the overriding factor. So I voluntarily curtailed." [House Oversight Committee Hearing, 5/8/13, via Nexis] 

FACT: Embassy Staff Told ThinkProgress That People Were Upset With Hicks' Management Style Before The Attacks. State Department employees, who spoke to ThinkProgress on the condition of anonymity, said that the staff was upset with Hicks' performance since he was first assigned to Tripoli on July 31. Contrary to Hicks' claim that he was demoted out of retribution,  the sources said that Assistant Secretary Jones' meetings with the staff prior to Oct. 2 were "entirely" focused on Hicks' performance as a manager. ["EXCLUSIVE: Embassy Staff Undercut 'Whistleblower' Testimony On Benghazi," ThinkProgress, 5/10/13]

MYTH: The White House Refused To Send A Second Team To Benghazi Because Of Political Motivations

FACT: The Decision Was Made By The Head Of The Military's Africa Command, Who Was Concerned About Embassy Security In Tripoli. Diplomats on the ground the night of the attacks were concerned about threats to the Tripoli embassy complex, and a Pentagon spokesperson confirmed that the assessment of Special Operations Command Africa leadership at the time was that "it was more important for those guys to be in Tripoli" for embassy security. [Media Matters for America, 5/09/13]

FACT: Additional Reinforcements Would Not Have Been Able To Get To Benghazi Before The Second Attack Was Concluded. Transcripts of an interview Hicks gave to congressional investigators show that he said that the flight these special forces were scheduled to take, but did not, was scheduled to take off after 6:00 a.m., local time -- approximately 45 minutes after the attack at the CIA annex that killed two people. [Media Matters for America, 5/7/13]

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