Fox News' latest attempt to use the September attack on a U.S. diplomatic facility in Benghazi, Libya to blame Hillary Clinton for the deaths of U.S. personnel has been undermined by several news outlets.
Fox has claimed that a new Republican report on the Benghazi attack proves that Clinton falsely claimed she was unaware of requests for additional security at the Benghazi compound because she personally read and signed off on a cable responding to one such missive. Reporting from The Washington Post, the Associated Press, and Foreign Policy, however, demonstrates that all such messages from the State Department to diplomatic facilities abroad are sent out over the secretary's signature.
On April 23, Republican congressional committee chairmen released a report on the September 11, 2012, attacks on a U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi that resulted in the deaths of U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three others. The report claimed that an "April 2012 cable from Secretary Clinton" was a "critical cable" that responded to the U.S. ambassador's request for additional security resources by calling for reductions in security. The GOP's evidence that this cable came personally from Clinton is that it bore her signature [emphasis in original]:
State Department officials in Washington acknowledged that the Benghazi Mission lacked sufficient resources to protect its personnel in a deteriorating security environment. However, in a cable signed by Secretary Clinton in April 2012, the State Department settled on a plan to scale back security assets for the U.S. Mission in Libya, including Benghazi. Specifically, despite acknowledging Ambassador Cretz's March 2012 cable requesting additional security assets, the April plan called for the removal of the two remaining MSD teams, the third initially deployed MSD team having been previously removed.
Fox News, which has spent months pushing falsehoods and conspiracies in an attempt to politically damage the Obama administration, subsequently seized on the report to claim that it undermines then-Secretary Clinton's January 23 testimony that the cables requesting additional security did not reach her desk and were handled by subordinates.
But several news outlets have reported that it is routine for outgoing messages from the State Department to be sent under the secretary's name without the secretary's direct involvement. An Associated Press article on the House Republican report stated that "every cable from Washington to the department's field offices is sent over the secretary of state's name." Foreign Policy concurred, reporting:
It's not clear who in the State Department sent the April 19 response. But as a general rule, "every single cable sent from Washington to the field is sent over the secretary of state's name," a former State Department official noted, adding, "Though they are trying to make this new, it's not. After 30+ hearings and briefings, thousands of pages, this has all been addressed."
And The Washington Post similarly reported: "Many State Department cables routinely go out with the secretary of state's name, and it was not immediately clear whether this one was personally written by Clinton."
But Fox News has repeatedly treated the House report's claims credulously. In an April 23 segment on Fox News' Special Report, national security correspondent Jennifer Griffin quoted the section of the report that claims then-Secretary Clinton personally approved of security reductions, and that the action contradicts her prior testimony. On April 24, Fox & Friends co-host Brian Kilmeade claimed during an interview of Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) that the GOP report "sharply contradicts [Clinton's] sworn testimony."
Earlier today, Fox News' opinion programming claimed the Obama administration "pressured" Air Force Gen. William Shelton "to change his testimony" about the effects of a broadband system on military GPS in order to help out a Democratic donor. Fox's opinion programming ignored the fact that coordination of Defense Department testimony is routine.
And surprise, surprise, Fox's "straight news" division did the exact same thing with this story. On Special Report with Bret Baier, Fox News' Pentagon correspondent Jennifer Griffin claimed that "Republicans on Capitol Hill say that General William Shelton, the top commander at U.S. Space Command told a closed door briefing of lawmakers that the Obama administration had urged him to downplay" concerns over the broadband system.
Griffin later added: "Sources tell Fox that General Shelton was asked by the White House to say that the Pentagon would try to resolve the problems of GPS with more testing. General Shelton pushed back and Republicans are asking why the White House tried to change a U.S. general's testimony."
But Griffin's story is laughably one-sided.
Griffin failed to mention that Defense Department testimony is routinely reviewed and coordinated with administrative agencies as the Department of Defense Office of Legislative Counsel makes clear. Moreover, the White House Office of Management and Budget has the mission of "clearing "agency views on legislative proposals and testimony to ensure consistency in the Administration's policy positions." In other words, clearing and coordinating General Shelton's testimony is standard process.
Fox News is suggesting that President Obama has broken a promise he made in March that he would not put boots on the ground in Libya. But as Fox itself is reporting, there are a total of "[e]ight boots ... belonging to four individuals" on the ground.
And those four individuals are "military personnel with expertise in explosives" and "general security" personnel advising the State Department on how to rebuild the U.S. embassy in Tripoli. So it sure does not appear that Obama has broken any promises not to put boots on the ground to fight in Libya.
Nevertheless, here's supposed "straight-news" anchor Jenna Lee beginning a report by claiming that "We've heard the president and others say that there will be no boots on the ground in Libya and now we know that there are boots on the ground":
The story also made Fox's evening "straight news." On The Fox Report, correspondent Jennifer Griffins' concluded a segment on "U.S. boots on the ground in Libya" by stating that "Both State Department and Pentagon officials today insist that this is not a breach of the president's promise not to place boots on the ground, a promise that he made back in March." The host of the show, Shepard Smith, sarcastically replied to Griffin stating, "And they also insist it's not a war so there you go."
An article on FoxNews.com parroted the same information in an article titled "U.S. Boots on the Ground In Libya, Pentagon Confirms." The article stated that "Obama assured Americans in March when the bombing campaign over Libya began that there would be no boots on the ground. From the East Room of the White House on March 18, he said: "The United States is not going to deploy ground troops into Libya."
On March 21, Fox News repeatedly claimed that reporters from other U.S. outlets, but not from Fox News, were lured to Muamar Gadhafi's compound in Tripoli and successfully used as human shields. But Fox had to "clarify" the story late that evening when it turned out that someone from Fox News was also at Gadhafi's compound.
From the March 21 edition of Fox News' On the Record With Greta Van Susteren:
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On Special Report, Jennifer Griffin reported that a former Pentagon chaplain had "arranged" for the nonprofit Christian Embassy to film at the Pentagon, but not that, according to the inspector general's report, he did so in part by "mischaracterizing the purpose and proponent of the video" by "impl[ying] that the video was being produced to document the Pentagon Chaplain's ministry rather than to promote a non-Federal entity," a violation of Department of Defense regulations.