Fox News originally ignored a House GOP report debunking many of its Benghazi myths but is now attacking the report's credibility to promote the need for more Benghazi Select Committee hearings.
In November, the House Intelligence Committee, chaired by Republicans, released the results of a lengthy investigation that "debunk[ed] a series of persistent allegations" perpetuated by conservative media outlets about the events and culpability surrounding the 2012 attacks on U.S. diplomatic facilities in Benghazi, Libya. The report reaffirmed the findings of several previous investigations and once again determined that "there was no intelligence failure, no delay in sending a CIA rescue team, no missed opportunity for a military rescue, and no evidence the CIA was covertly shipping arms from Libya to Syria."
Fox News remained mostly silent in the wake of the report's publication, giving the report only cursory coverage while flagship news program Fox News Sunday ignored it entirely. The network's lack of coverage earned condemnation from CNN media critic Brian Stelter and even Fox's own media analyst, Howard Kurtz. The absence of coverage stood in stark contrast toFox's exhaustive focus on the formation of a select committee to investigate Benghazi in June, when the network devoted at least 225 segments to the select committee over a mere two-week span.
With another Benghazi Select Committee hearing scheduled for December 10, Fox has changed its approach from silence to overt attempts to undermine the GOP report's credibility.
Bret Baier, host of Fox's Special Report, claimed on December 3 that "many" believe the House Intelligence Committee's Benghazi report "went soft on the Obama administration and was filled inaccuracies" and emphasized the further investigation by the Benghazi Select Committee. To bolster this allegation, investigative reporter Catherine Herridge noted the "eyewitness accounts" of Kris Paronto and John Tiegen, who, according to Herridge, "say there was an intelligence failure. They were directly warned in late August a strike was likely, yet no Defense Department assets were available on the September 11th anniversary."
Special Report's December 3 panel went to further lengths to undermine the Intelligence Committee report as Baier, Fox News contributor Charles Krauthammer, The Weekly Standard's Steve Hayes, and The Hill's A. B. Stoddard suggested that the investigation was insufficient.
But Fox's latest attempts at subverting the committee report amount to nothing more than highlighting a smattering of Republican lawmakers who claim to remember events occurring differently than they were laid out in the final report. In a December 5 article for FoxNews.com, Herridge reported that newly declassified testimony contained the statements of members of Congress recalling that former CIA director David Petraeus connected the Benghazi attack to the protests against an anti-Muslim YouTube video in an off-the-record coffee meeting two days after the attack:
If the lawmakers' recollection is accurate, that means Petraeus' brief on Sept. 14, 2012, was instead in line with the White House, and then-Secretary Hillary Clinton's State Department. It was a State Department press release at 10:07 p.m. ET, before the attack was even over, that first made the link to the obscure anti-Islam video. The newly declassified testimony says $70,000 was spent on advertising in Pakistan, denouncing the anti-Muslim film.
During this testimony, GOP Rep. Jeff Miller questioned Petraeus' original testimony, stating the former CIA director "even went so far as to say that it had been put into Arabic language and then was put on this TV station, this cleric's TV station. I mean, [Petraeus] drove that in pretty hard when he was in here. "
Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., added "it was said in here a little bit earlier that the CIA never said Benghazi was part of a Cairo protest and of the video. And we were given just the opposite message by the Director of the CIA on the [September] 14th [2012.]"
Rogers noted there was no transcript for the brief, only staff notes, but after the Petraeus incident in September 2012, the practice was changed to always run a transcript on the briefings. The Sept. 14, 2012, brief was a coffee meeting with members.
USA Today reported that the Fox-promoted Select Committee may cost $1.5 million this year, despite numerous other independent investigations finding no wrongdoing with relation to the events in Benghazi.
From the December 4 edition of Fox News' Special Report with Bret Baier:
Loading the player reg...
From the November 25 edition of Fox News' Special Report:
Loading the player reg...
From the October 21 edition of Fox News' Special Report With Bret Baier:
Loading the player reg...
From the October 15 edition of Fox News' Special Report with Bret Baier:
Loading the player reg...
Washington Post columnist George Will ignored Colorado GOP Senate candidate Cory Gardner's controversial policy positions on women's rights to smear Sen. Mark Udall (D-CO) as a one issue candidate. But Gardner has supported measures that would severely limit women's reproductive choice.
On October 10, the Denver Post editorial board endorsed Republican Cory Gardner citing Udall's prioritization of what the Post called "his obnoxious one-issue campaign" on women's issues like abortion.
George Will parroted the Post's criticism of Udall on the October 14 edition Special Report with Bret Baier. Will claimed that "the whole war on women thing has been really worn out by this point," adding that the issue has been settled because contraception and abortion rights have been firmly ingrained in America for more than 40 years:
Fox News amplified the discredited right-wing claim that the legalization of same-sex marriage plays a part in the declining rate of heterosexual marriage.
On the October 13 edition of Special Report, host Bret Baier claimed "traditional marriage" has faced a number of obstacles this year, including the legalization of same-sex marriage in Alaska. Fox correspondent Shannon Bream cited a variety of factors that could explain the decline in heterosexual marriage, including the legalization of same-sex marriage in many states:
The idea that same-sex marriage somehow discourages heterosexual marriage has been embraced by extreme anti-LGBT rights groups like the Family Research Council and Focus on the Family, but has no basis in fact.
The Atlantic also pointed out that the link is unsubstantiated, because the decline in heterosexual marriage came before the rise of gay marriage:
Out-of-wedlock births and delayed marriage were already underway before the 1990s, when gay acceptance took off. This suggests that gay marriage isn't leading to the decline of marriage. Rather, the "decline" of marriage happened to pique media interest at the same time that homophobia got smoked -- in entertainment, in federal law, and in wedding chapels.
A deleterious effect on rates of opposite sex marriage has been argued to be a motivating factor for both the withholding and the elimination of existing rights of same sex couples to marry by policy makers-including presiding justices of current litigation over the rights of same sex couples to legally marry. Such claims do not appear credible in the face of the existing evidence, and we conclude that rates of opposite sex marriages are not affected by legalization of same sex civil unions or same sex marriages.
Fox News hyped a Watchdog.org study purporting to show Colorado recipients of government assistance programs accessed the government funds from exotic, out-of-state locations, suggesting the recipients were on lavish vacations. But Fox's report failed to mention that the study found only two percent of withdrawals were made outside of Colorado.
An October 6 Watchdog.org report found that $3.8 million was withdrawn by Colorado recipients of the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program (TANF), commonly referred to as "welfare," outside the state in the past two years. The study cited some of the more "exotic" places where these withdrawals had occurred, such as Las Vegas, Hawaii and the Virgin Islands.
Fox hyped the study on the October 8 edition of Fox and Friends. Co-host Elizabeth Hasselbeck interviewed Colorado State Representative Tim Dore (R) about the report, asking him how he plans to "specifically stop this spending of hard-earned tax dollars on vacation spots and strip clubs?"
Later, Special Report host Bret Baier covered the study claiming "your tax dollars are helping welfare recipients enjoy vacations at some very exotic destinations."
But Fox's coverage failed to note that Watchdog.org's study found that out-of-state withdrawals represented just 2 percent of Colorado program recipients' ATM withdrawals, and only 1.7 percent of withdrawals outside states bordering Colorado. The purported abuse is even more absurd for the specific destinations Fox highlighted: the $6,451 withdrawn in Hawaii, for example, represents 0.003 percent of the $170 million total.
Fox has a history of hyping misleading stories to demonize government assistance. Last month, Fox & Friends falsely claimed that TANF money in Colorado was being used to buy marijuana, leading to the passage of two pieces of legislation in the United States House of Representatives.
Fox News' Gretchen Carlson urged President Obama to follow "precedent" set by President George W. Bush and release 18 months of daily intelligence briefings to prove what his administration knew about the rise of the Islamic State (ISIS) -- despite the fact that Bush released only one intelligence briefing after years of pressure.
Fox has fixated on Obama's Presidential Daily Briefs (PDB) amid ongoing U.S. air strikes against the Islamic State, reviving long debunked claims that the president skipped his scheduled briefings and thus missed intelligence on the terror group. The October 1 edition of The Real Story With Gretchen Carlson took a similar route, as Carlson and network anchor Bret Baier discussed a recent call by Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) for Obama to release 18 months of his PDB in order to prove when he first learned of the Islamic State from the intelligence community. According to Carlson, "President Bush did do it, so there is precedent for this," and the pair speculated about the chances of Obama doing the same now. Baier predicted that it was "not likely," adding, "There is a precedent here, in that, the last time we dealt with a big intelligence question prior to 9/11, the 9/11 Commission met with President Bush and President Bush did come forward with the Presidential Daily Briefs."
Though idealized by Carlson and Baier, Bush's "precedent" on releasing PDBs is not one of disclosure.
Under pressure from the 9/11 Commission, the Bush administration fought the release of PDBs for two years. Ultimately, they released only one, titled "Bin Laden Determined To Strike in US," years after the 2001 attack on the World Trade Center. From The New York Times:
On April 10, 2004, the Bush White House declassified that daily brief -- and only that daily brief -- in response to pressure from the 9/11 Commission, which was investigating the events leading to the attack. Administration officials dismissed the document's significance, saying that, despite the jaw-dropping headline, it was only an assessment of Al Qaeda's history, not a warning of the impending attack. While some critics considered that claim absurd, a close reading of the brief showed that the argument had some validity.
That is, unless it was read in conjunction with the daily briefs preceding Aug. 6, the ones the Bush administration would not release. While those documents are still not public, I have read excerpts from many of them, along with other recently declassified records, and come to an inescapable conclusion: the administration's reaction to what Mr. Bush was told in the weeks before that infamous briefing reflected significantly more negligence than has been disclosed. In other words, the Aug. 6 document, for all of the controversy it provoked, is not nearly as shocking as the briefs that came before it.
Fox News' Special Report left out necessary context when previewing former Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta's upcoming interview with 60 Minutes in which he stated, "it was important for us to maintain a presence in Iraq."
During his September 19 coverage of Panetta's statement, host Bret Baier depicted Panetta's account of the 2011 withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq as the latest in "a very public back-and-forth between the White House and the Pentagon." Baier added, "Now this weekend, 60 Minutes has an interview with former CIA director and former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, in which he will say the U.S. should not have pulled out all of its troops out of Iraq in 2011":
But Baier failed to mention that the Iraqi government refused a deal to allow U.S. military forces to stay in Iraq. As the New York Times reported in 2011, "Iraqis were unwilling to accept" the terms of a Status of Forces Agreement to leave thousands of troops as a residual force. Fox News has repeatedly failed to mention this important detail.
During his 60 Minutes interview with Panetta, CBS' Scott Pelley provided the crucial bit of context that the Iraqi government "didn't want the U.S. force." Watch:
From the September 15 edition of Fox News' Special Report with Bret Baier:
Loading the player reg...
From the September 8 edition of Fox News' Special Report With Bret Baier:
Loading the player reg...
Fox News exploited witnesses to the Benghazi attacks to further its Benghazi hoax just days before a GOP-led select committee holds its first public hearing, even though these witnesses were previously interviewed in congressional investigations that months ago debunked claims made during the Fox News Reporting: 13 Hours at Benghazi special.
The September 5 Fox special featured interviews with three CIA security contractors who were present in Benghazi during the September 2012 attacks, and aimed to answer "Whether or not military assistance was requested by the security team and whether orders from above hindered their response to the violence that claimed the lives of U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans." The chairman of the Benghazi Select Committee already took notice of the Fox program and used it to justify the establishment of his committee.
The witnesses on Fox mentioned that they requested the support of combat aircraft and insisted, contrary to multiple independent and congressional reports, that they were told to "stand down" by the chief of the CIA base in Benghazi. They later claimed that if there had been no delay, Ambassador Stevens would still be alive:
What Fox failed to mention was that the CIA officers and contractors present in Libya during the attacks were previously interviewed by Congress in private testimony before a House intelligence subcommittee. This testimony destroyed the myths that anyone had been ordered to "stand down" and that a speedier response would have saved more lives.
A December 2013 Associated Press report on this testimony cited Rep. Lynn Westmoreland (R-GA), "who heads a House intelligence subcommittee that interviewed the employees," to explain that the CIA personnel were fully aware there would be no air support:
He explained that the lack of air support was clear to all CIA employees working in Libya because of a 2011 CIA memorandum sent to employees after NATO forces ended their mission in support of the Libyan revolution.
One contractor testified that he shouted repeatedly over the agency's radio system to his CIA security boss that they should request combat aircraft. But the security chief explained to lawmakers that he ignored his subordinate's demands because he said he knew that no combat aircraft were available for such a mission, Westmoreland said.
The testimony revealed that there was a delay in the CIA response team departing to the aid of those under attack at the diplomatic facility in an attempt to round up additional support for them from a local Libyan militia, and that "[s]ome CIA security contractors disagreed with their bosses and wanted to move more quickly." Westmoreland told AP that "he believes this disagreement was the source of allegations that the CIA ordered security personnel to 'stand down' and not help the people inside the diplomatic mission."
The full report from the GOP-led House Intelligence Committee ultimately found that "There was no 'stand-down order' given to American personnel attempting to offer assistance that evening," according to Rep. Mike Thompson (D-CA), a member of the committee. The Senate Intelligence Committee and independent Accountability Review Board also found that no orders from above obstructed the rescue operation, despite the suggestion by Fox that this occurred.
The AP report also said of the testimony by the CIA officers and contractors present in Libya during the attack:
None of those who testified said a quicker response would have saved the lives of Stevens and communications specialist Sean Smith at the temporary diplomatic facility.
The statements made by the CIA contractors in this Fox special are ultimately old news and don't match up with their testimony in a congressional investigation that debunked many of the network's narratives about the attacks.
After multiple investigations concluded that no "stand down" order was given to security personnel responding to the 2012 attacks in Benghazi, Fox News alleged that the delay security personnel took to enlist support amounted to a "stand down" order.
On the September 5 edition of Special Report, host Bret Baier once again hyped the asked-and-answered question from his Fox News special, "13 Hours at Benghazi," based on the accounts of three CIA security personnel who alleged they were delayed in responding to the diplomatic facility under attack in Benghazi, Libya. Baier criticized the "semantics" used by deputy State Department spokesperson Marie Harf, who during a press briefing explained that "there was no stand-down order" but there was a short delay "for very good security reasons to get additional backup and additional weapons" for the security personnel before responding to the attack.
Fox contributor Steve Hayes chided Harf, saying that "she admits that there was a delay" which is "the same thing" as a stand down order. Fox's Charles Krauthammer added that "there is no distinction between stand down and don't go."
Fox News' upcoming special report on Benghazi, which examines questions that have already been answered repeatedly by multiple congressional and independent investigations, is being used by Benghazi Select Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy (R-SC) to justify the establishment of his redundant select committee.
The special, titled "13 Hours at Benghazi" and hosted by Special Report's Bret Baier on September 5, is slated to explore "Whether or not military assistance was requested by the security team and whether orders from above hindered their response to the violence that claimed the lives of U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans." A Special Report segment teased the special by highlighting the reaction of congressional lawmakers including Benghazi Select Committee Chair Gowdy, who said in a press release:
[I]n response to recent reports from security personnel on the ground in Benghazi:
"The Committee has heard of these concerns and they go to the heart of why Congress established this Committee--to determine all of the facts of what happened in Benghazi before, during and after the terrorist attack that day. We welcome the opportunity, and expect, to talk to personnel who were on the ground in Benghazi, their superiors, and anyone with relevant information related to the Benghazi terrorist attack. There are still facts to learn about Benghazi and information that needs to be explained in greater detail to the American people. And this Committee will do just that."
As the Daily Beast's Eli Lake explained, on the night of the attacks there was a 23-minute delay between the initial distress call from the diplomatic facility in Benghazi and when the CIA contractors from the nearby CIA Annex departed to rescue the Americans there. Despite suggestions from some in the intelligence community that this delay hindered their rescue effort, repeated investigations found no evidence that the CIA operatives were delayed by "orders from above," as Fox's announcement suggests.