Fox News is obsessively promoting as a "smoking gun" the debunked allegations that Hillary Clinton intentionally misled the public about the Benghazi attacks, knowingly telling the public that an inflammatory video spontaneously inspired the violence while privately acknowledging it was pre-planned. However, Clinton has explained that the State Department's understanding of and explanation for the attacks changed as "piecemeal" and "conflicting" early intelligence reports were replaced by more reliable information.
From the October 20 edition of Fox News' Special Report with Bret Baier:
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From the September 30 edition of Fox News' America's Newsroom:
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Fox News cited anonymous sources to scandalize the State Department's decision to recategorize some of Hillary Clinton's emails, using technical language to avoid admitting that the emails were simply designated as privileged communications -- a common type of redaction to protect agency deliberations. Instead, Fox hyped the change as evidence of a concerted cover-up to "hide classified info."
Fox News chief intelligence correspondent Catherine Herridge baselessly compared Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton's email use as secretary of state to David Petraeus' illegal mishandling of classified materials, claiming like Clinton's emails, "none" of Petraeus' "information was marked as classified, and he was successfully prosecuted." Herridge ignores the fact that Petraeus pleaded guilty to "unlawfully and knowingly" removing classified documents "without authority" to an "unauthorized" location, while Clinton's email practices were in line with State Department regulations, and there's no evidence that Clinton was aware of any classified information in her unmarked email correspondence. From the August 17 edition of Fox News' Happening Now:
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Conservative media are likening Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton's email use as secretary of state to retired Gen. David Petraeus' illegal mishandling of confidential information, claiming a "double standard" because Petraeus was convicted of a misdemeanor, while Clinton is not under criminal investigation. But that comparison ignores the central fact that Petraeus knowingly handed over classified materials to his biographer, while Clinton followed State Department rules concerning private email use and was unaware of any classified information in her unmarked email correspondence.
Fox News pundits repeatedly pushed -- and then walked back -- a false narrative propagated by an anti-Islam blogger that an "ISIS-linked" Twitter account warned of the Tennessee shooting prior to the attack.
From the July 16 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor:
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Fox News reported that an "ISIS-linked" Twitter account warned of today's shooting in Tennessee before it happened, but the tweet in question was sent after the attack had ended. The falsehood was propagated by anti-Islam blogger Pamela Geller before spreading through conservative media
Four Marines were killed when a shooter fired on two military sites in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Fox News reported that the attacks may be connected to ISIS because an ISIS supporter purportedly discussed the shooting on Twitter before it happened. Fox host Sean Hannity repeated the false claim on his radio show.
In fact, the tweet Fox News referenced was posted well after the shooting had already occurred. Mashable editor Brian Ries first pointed out the discrepancy.
On Your World, Fox's chief intelligence correspondent Catherine Herridge reported, "the last investigative thread I would mention at this point is that we're taking a hard look at a Twitter account -- an ISIS-linked Twitter account -- that seemed to have foreknowledge of the shooting in Chattanooga. The tweet went out at 10:34 with the hashtag Chattanooga referring to American dogs and a likely shooting. This of course was about 15 minutes before the shooting took place."
On his radio show, Fox News host Sean Hannity also referenced the inaccurate information.
HANNITY: We have a report from Robert Spencer's Jihad Watch, that he's put together -- a timeline regarding today's, what they are now calling a domestic terrorist act in Chattanooga. We have four Marines that have been killed. By the way, our thoughts, our prayers are with the families and the entire military community there. According to the AP, the shooting started around 10:30, 10:45. The Islamic State tweeted a warning about the attack, posted at 10:34 a.m. The ISIS tweet specifically mentioned Chattanooga, which is an obvious reference to the attack. If it's true that ISIS was taking credit for the shooting at the exact same time, or maybe slightly before the shooting commenced, that would be pretty strong evidence of a connection. And Spencer reminds us the Islamic State has called on Muslims to murder American military personnel here in the U.S.
The source of the claim is conservative blogger Pamela Geller, who has a long history of anti-Muslim activism.
Geller made the claim on Twitter and on her blog, writing, "This morning an ISIS supporter tweeted this at 10:34 am -- the shooting started at 10:45." The report cited by Hannity from Jihad Watch cites Geller as the source. Spencer has often worked with Geller on anti-Muslim projects.
But the tweet was posted at 1:34 p.m. Eastern time, not 10:34 a.m., as Geller asserted. According to news reports, the shooting "unfolded at two sites over 30 minutes" and started "around 10:45 a.m. ET."
The image of the tweet she references on her blog appears to be stamped with the Western time zone -- Twitter time stamps are based on the user's time zone, not the time zone of the person who made the tweet.
Media Matters took this screenshot of the ISIS supporter's Twitter account at 5:13 p.m. ET, and it shows that the post was made 4 hours previously (near the 1 o'clock hour Eastern time).
Conservative blog Weasel Zippers also made the erroneous conclusion about the tweet in a post headlined, "Islamic State Account Tweets Warnings About Chattanooga Moments Before Shooting Began."
UPDATE: After this story was published, Fox News began to pull back on their allegation. From Special Report with Bret Baier:
BRET BAIER: Let me be careful about the tweet to the ISIS-related account. In Garland, Texas we know that it came out before the shooting, before that happened. In this case, the time stamp does say 10:34, but we don't know if that's Pacific time, Mountain time, Eastern time, so we have to be careful about it coming out before the shooting. Point is there are ISIS accounts that are pointing directly to this incident and touting it as one of own.
UPDATE #2: On The O'Reilly Factor, this story was addressed at least three more times.
At the top of the Factor, O'Reilly reported the "sensational" ISIS tweet story, even after admitting it wasn't "exactly clear whether it's accurate."
Midway through the show, Catherine Herridge reappeared and admitted that "there are now some questions about the time stamp on one of the ISIS tweets earlier today." When O'Reilly pressed her on how she learned about the tweet, she said, "I first saw it this afternoon, it was part of the social media that was circulating."
At the end of the Factor, Special Report anchor Bret Baier clarified the timing of the tweet, saying that "all indications now are that it came out after the attack." When O'Reilly asked if that meant the ISIS tweet story was "a bogus situation," Baier replied, "yeah."
Fox News revived the baseless conspiracy theory that the nearly three-year old federal investigation into former CIA director David Petraeus is an attempt by the Obama administration to silence Petraeus on the 2012 Benghazi attacks.
The New York Times reported on January 9 that the FBI and Justice Department prosecutors recommended federal charges against former CIA director David H. Petraeus for providing "classified information to a lover while he was director of the C.I.A." Petraeus subsequently resigned as director of the CIA after his affair was made public.
But on the January 12 edition of Fox News' Special Report, chief intelligence correspondent Catherine Herridge lent credibility to GOP concerns that the federal investigation into David Petraeus is an attempt by the Obama administration to silence Petraeus' testimony on the 2012 Benghazi, Libya terrorist attacks.
The segment also included a statement from Thomas Dupree, former deputy assistant attorney general under George W. Bush, who explained that "just being quiet, staying mum, invoking your Fifth Amendment rights," while being charged with a felony "could be the safest course." Herridge ended her report noting that the GOP-led Benghazi select committee still hopes to call Petraeus as a witness in their investigation.
In 2012, Fox repeatedly pushed the baseless accusation that Petraeus was "being blackmailed by the White house to toe the company line." Fox's smear was parroted by radio host Rush Limbaugh who speculated that Petraeus resigned to escape an attempt by the Obama administration to manipulate him into lying about the Benghazi attack.
The imaginary scandal was later denounced on Fox News, when Fox's Geraldo Rivera called it "absolutely reckless," and pointed out that Petraeus himself cited his extramarital affair as the reason for his resignation.
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 October 20 edition of Fox News' Special Report:
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Fox News claims new bombshell evidence finds that President Obama was in the White House during the 2012 attacks on Benghazi, a fact that was public knowledge since January 2013.
Fox News chief intelligence correspondent Catherine Herridge recycled House Republicans' discredited, year-old allegation that former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton signed off on reducing security at the Benghazi compound ahead of the 2012 attack there, scandalizing a State Department cable bearing her signature.
Fox News' Catherine Herridge claims that a classified 2012 Department of Defense (DOD) memo would demonstrate that the Obama administration had deliberately concealed the fact that the Benghazi attack was perpetrated by terrorists. But news reports and subsequent investigations show that administration officials were quick to acknowledge the attackers' apparent links to terror groups.