A central question of Fox News' latest documentary on Benghazi has already been answered by official congressional and State Department investigations into the terrorist attacks.
On August 27, Fox announced "13 Hours at Benghazi," a new documentary hosted by Special Report anchor Bret Baier that will reportedly include "exclusive" interviews with three American security personnel who were present for the September 2012 attacks. The production, scheduled to air September 5, is based on a forthcoming book written by journalist Mitchell Zuckoff and the CIA contractors.
According to Fox's announcement, the production will specifically 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."
The problem with this premise is that both of those questions have already been answered by official intelligence investigations.
As the Daily Beast's Eli Lake has explained, on the night of the attacks there was a 23-minute delay between the initial distress call from the diplomatic mission and when the CIA contractors departed the nearby Annex to respond. Despite suggestions from some in the intelligence community that this delay hindered their rescue effort, investigations found no evidence that the CIA operatives were delayed by "orders from above," as Fox's announcement suggests.
Instead, the Senate Intelligence Committee's January 2014 review of the attacks found that during that delay, the CIA's Chief of Base "attempted to secure assistance and heavy weapons" from US allies in the region, and that (emphasis added):
Although some members of the security team expressed frustration that they were unable to respond more quickly to the Mission compound, the Committee found no evidence of intentional delay or obstruction by the Chief of Base or any other party.
The State Department's independent Accountability Review Board also found the CIA team was not obstructed by officials:
The departure of the Annex team was not delayed by orders from superiors; the team leader decided on his own to depart the Annex compound once it was apparent, despite a brief delay to permit their continuing efforts, that rapid support from local security elements was not forthcoming.
Finally, the House Intelligence Committee, chaired by Republicans, also found no evidence that any response effort was blocked by official orders. According to Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger (D-MD), the "bipartisan, factual, definitive report" on the Intelligence Community's actions the night of the attacks "shows there was no 'stand down order' given to American personnel attempting to offer assistance that evening."
Fox's Bret Baier, the host of the upcoming special, reported on the House Intelligence Committee's findings on August 5.
Baier has hosted previous Fox specials on Benghazi and has repeatedly used his Fox News program to promote myths about the attacks and their aftermath. The false claim that CIA contractors received "orders to wait" was also pushed by 60 Minutes' infamous since-retracted Benghazi report, which featured a discredited "eyewitness" account from a British security contractor.
A new report by the House Intelligence Committee reportedly concluded that there was no intentional wrongdoing in how the Obama administration responded to the 2012 attacks in Benghazi. After two years and countless independent investigations, when will Fox News finally end its nonstop scandal-mongering?
Newly released transcripts of congressional testimony from nine military officers confirmed that no "stand down" order was issued during the September 2012 Benghazi attacks, again debunking Fox News' constantly-cited myth.
The Associated Press reported July 10 that previously classified testimony given to Congress from the military officers "undermines contentions by Republican lawmakers that a 'stand-down order' held back military assets that could have saved the U.S. ambassador and three other Americans killed at a diplomatic outpost and CIA annex in Benghazi, Libya." Instead, the military officers confirmed that the Special Operations team of four who were in Tripoli that night "were instructed to help protect and care for those being evacuated from Benghazi and from the U.S. Embassy in Tripoli. The senior military officer who issued the instruction to 'remain in place' and the detachment leader who received it said it was the right decision and has been widely mischaracterized."
This new testimony confirms previous reports that debunked the false claim that someone in the Obama administration or military had denied assistance to Americans at the diplomatic facilities in Benghazi the night of the terrorist attacks. Lt. Col. S.E. Gibson, the former commander of a four-member Army Special Forces unit in Tripoli, Libya, and Gen. Martin Dempsey, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, both told congressional committees over a year ago that no stand down order was given. Multiple CIA senior officers have repeatedly denied the false charge. In early 2014, a House Armed Services Committee report and a bipartisan Senate Intelligence Committee report put the myth to rest.
As Media Matters previously noted, Fox News was a primary force behind the false "stand down" story claim. Just a month after the attacks they repeatedly suggested that the Obama administration had made a "political decision" to allow Americans to be killed, and pushed variations on the false "stand down" narrative in 85 primetime segments in the following months. The network has continued to push the myth long after it was debunked, citing questions of why military aid was supposedly withheld as a rationale for the establishment of the House select committee on Benghazi.
A six-member quick reaction team and 60 Libyan militiamen in Benghazi responded to the attack, and reinforcements from the embassy in Tripoli arrived the same night.
NBC's David Gregory pointed a series of questions about Hillary Clinton's role in the 2012 Benghazi attacks to Senator Rand Paul (R-KY), allowing Paul to attack Clinton with the long-debunked smear that she was aware of the need for additional security forces at the Benghazi compound yet denied the requests.
On the June 22 edition of NBC's Meet The Press, host David Gregory posed a series of questions on Hillary Clinton's role in the 2012 attacks on diplomatic facilities in Benghazi, Libya, but failed to correct Sen. Paul's false smears that Clinton refused requested security. While discussing the possibility of Clinton running for president in 2016, Gregory asked Sen. Paul about whether "the prosecution of foreign policy," is "the main argument" against Clinton's candidacy. In his response, Paul invoked the debunked myth that Hillary Clinton refused "multiple requests for more security" in the months leading up the attacks.
Later in the interview, Gregory asked whether Benghazi is "disqualifying" for Clinton's potential 2016 candidacy, again allowing Sen. Paul to claim that Clinton "was not responsive to multiple requests for more security." Paul concluded that the American people "want a commander in chief that will send reinforcements, that will defend the country, and that will provide the adequate security," implying for a third time that Clinton refused security she knew was necessary to the Benghazi compound:
Fox contributor Lauren Ashburn complained that "it's just not fair" for critics to hold Fox News accountable for any misinformation and biased commentary made on-air by the network's paid hosts and contributors, suggesting the network shouldn't be held responsible for a recent conspiracy theory about the timing of Benghazi suspect Ahmed Abu Khattala's capture, which originated on Fox.
Khattala was taken into U.S. custody on June 17 for his role in helping lead the 2012 attacks on a U.S. diplomatic outpost in Benghazi, Libya.
Fox News hosts and correspondents began immediately questioning the curious timing of Khattala's capture, speculating that it was intended to help Hillary Clinton's book tour and Fox News interview, ignoring the months of planning and preparation spent prior to Khattala's capture. The network even attempted to legitimize its hosts' conspiracy theories by pretending the speculation originated outside of the network.
On the June 22 edition of Fox News' MediaBuzz, Ashburn defended her network, complaining "it's just not fair" for critics to hold Fox News accountable for the conspiracy theories pushed by its hosts and contributors on-air if their commentary isn't an official statement from the network. Discussing criticisms the network received for questioning the timing of the Benghazi suspect's capture, Ashburn said, "the more outlandish the comments, the more the websites are going to say 'oh my gosh, Fox News said this, and they made this point,' and it's funny because Fox News didn't say that, those individual contributors said that." Ashburn concluded "it's just not fair to do that":
Fox News reverted to long debunked Benghazi myths to attack Hillary Clinton for her Tuesday interview on Fox, during which she stood by the fact that intelligence at the time linked the Benghazi terror attacks to an inflammatory anti-Islam video.
On the June 18 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends, co-hosts Steve Doocy and Brian Kilmeade discussed the interview, criticizing Clinton for standing by "the administration mantra" that the 2012 Benghazi attacks were linked to the inflammatory anti-Islam video. Kilmeade argued that Clinton defended the link despite the fact that former CIA acting deputy director Mike Morell said that there was "no way" the attacks had "anything to do with the video," while Doocy accused the administration of pushing the video link to protect the administration "in advance of an election." Baier followed suit on America's Newsroom, criticizing Clinton for asserting "the fact that a video was a part of the situation on the ground in Benghazi":
Fox News attempted to legitimize its hosts' conspiracy theory that the timing of Ahmed Abu Khattala's capture was "curious" by pretending the speculation originated outside the network.
Ahmed Abu Khattala was taken into U.S. custody on June 17 for his role in helping lead the 2012 attacks on a diplomatic outpost in Benghazi, Libya.
Immediately, Fox anchors questioned the "curious timing" of Khattala's capture, speculating that it was intended to help President Obama in the polls or to give Hillary Clinton a good headline for an upcoming Fox News interview. After the breaking report on Happening Now, co-host Jon Scott pointed out that Khattala had given media interviews before his capture, and said the "obvious question" is "why now?" Minutes later on Outnumbered, the hosts called the arrest "too neat" and "too cute," speculating that it was timed to be "a great thing to announce" during Clinton's Fox interview.
On June 18, Fox hosts concealed that the speculation of "curious timing" began on their own network, noting that "some" people had made serious claims that the timing looked suspicious without identifying the origin. On Fox & Friends, co-host Steve Doocy spouted:
It was yesterday that it was announced that we finally went in and got him. And to some, they said, 'Now isn't that curious timing? The same day that Hillary Clinton is showing up on Fox News, they are able to announce we got the bad guy.'
During Fox News' interview with Hillary Clinton, Bret Baier rehashed an already-answered question about whether or not the former secretary of state had been in contact with then-Defense Secretary Leon Panetta the night of the attacks on the U.S. diplomatic facilities in Benghazi, Libya, despite a House committee determining months ago there was no evidence that Clinton had done so.
Baier and fellow Fox host Greta Van Susteren interviewed Clinton on June 17 as part of her tour for her new book, Hard Choices. Baier focused much of his questioning on the September 2012 attacks in Benghazi, asking Clinton whether or not she had spoken with Panetta the night of the attack:
BAIER: Did you talk to Secretary Panetta that night?
CLINTON: I talked with [then-CIA] Director [David] Petraeus. I talked on a video -- secure video conference with a full array of officials. I knew because I had talked with the National Security Adviser, Tom Donilon, that Secretary Panetta and [Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff] General [Martin] Dempsey were doing everything they could. We had open lines.
BAIER: You didn't speak to him that night?
CLINTON: I didn't. You know, I can't recall. I know that the Defense Department was in the room in the video conference that I held.
This isn't the first time Fox has pushed the false claim that Clinton spoke to Panetta the night of the Benghazi attack. The network hasrepeatedly speculated that a "stand down order" had been issued the night of the attacks on Benghazi, often linking that false claim to Clinton or Panetta.
However, a February 2014 report on the Benghazi Investigation from the House Armed Services Committee definitively found that Clinton did not communicate with Panetta on September 11, 2012, during the attacks on Benghazi:
"[A]s to specifics" of the U.S. reaction, Secretary Panetta testified to the Senate that the President "left that up to us." Secretary Panetta said the President was "well informed" about events and worried about American lives. He and General Dempsey also testified they had no further contact with the President, nor did Secretary of State Hillary Clinton ever communicate with them that evening.
Nearly 40 percent of Fox News' interview of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was devoted to the September 2012 Benghazi attacks, worth over $2 million in publicity value.
On June 17, Fox anchors Bret Baier and Greta Van Susteren interviewed Clinton during her book tour for her new memoir, Hard Choices. Baier started the interview by asking Clinton about the capture earlier that day of a suspect in the attacks on U.S. diplomatic facilities and focused on Benghazi for most of his questions.
According to a Media Matters analysis, Baier devoted 12 minutes and 16 seconds to questioning Clinton about Benghazi during the interview -- 38 percent of the total interview, which was 32 minutes and 10 seconds long. According to TVEyes' "national publicity value," the time Fox News devoted to Benghazi during the interview carried a value of approximately $2,169,986.34.
Previously, Media Matters found that just two weeks of Fox's obsessive Benghazi coverage in early May was worth over $124 million. TVEyes Media Monitoring Suite, a subscription-only database of television broadcasts, estimates the value of 30-second slots on any given program. Fox's June 17 interview with Clinton was estimated at $88,450.53 per 30 seconds.
From the June 17 edition of Fox News' Special Report with Bret Baier:
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From the June 17 edition of Fox News' Special Report With Bret Baier:
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An alleged ringleader of the September 2012 attacks in Benghazi, Libya, who is now in U.S. custody, reportedly told other Libyans during the attack that he was responding to an anti-Islam video that had been published on YouTube, demolishing a prominent right-wing media attack.
Conservatives in the media have fixated on Obama administration statements shortly after the attacks suggesting that the video had been a motive for the attackers. Conservatives have alleged that these statements were part of a deliberate effort to deceive the American people about the cause of the terror attacks in order to bolster President Obama's re-election campaign.
Abu Khattala told Libyans the night of the attack "that he was moved to attack the diplomatic mission to take revenge for an insult to Islam in an American-made online video," according to The New York Times. From the Times:
What he did in the period just before the attack has remained unclear. But Mr. Abu Khattala told other Libyans in private conversations during the night of the attack that he was moved to attack the diplomatic mission to take revenge for an insult to Islam in an American-made online video.
An earlier demonstration venting anger over the video outside the American Embassy in Cairo had culminated in a breach of its walls, and it dominated Arab news coverage. Mr. Abu Khattala told both fellow Islamist fighters and others that the attack in Benghazi was retaliation for the same insulting video, according to people who heard him.
In an interview days after the attack, he pointedly declined to say whether he believed an offense such as the anti-Islamic video might indeed warrant the destruction of the diplomatic mission or the killing of the ambassador. "From a religious point of view, it is hard to say whether it is good or bad," he said.
The Times article is consistent with media reports from the scene of the attack that suggested the anti-Islam video had been a motive for at least some of the attackers. That video triggered anti-American protests across the Muslim world.
Lara Logan is reportedly back at work at CBS News' 60 Minutes after a six-month leave of absence, even as questions linger over the network's investigation of her botched Benghazi report.
Logan and her producer Max McClellan took leaves of absence in November following an internal review into their October 27 report on the 2012 attacks on U.S. diplomatic facilities in Benghazi, which the network was forced to withdraw. Logan's report was based on the unreliable testimony of an "eyewitness" named Dylan Davies and crumbled once it became clear that he had lied about being present at the besieged diplomatic compound during the attack, telling the FBI he had never been there. That triggered a firestorm of coverage, with media observers suggesting that the debacle had permanently damaged the brands of CBS News and 60 Minutes. The CBS internal review found that Logan's story "was deficient in several respects."
According to the Associated Press on June 4, "CBS News spokeswoman Sonya McNair said Wednesday that Logan is back. She had no details on when the correspondent resumed work and what stories she is working on."
In a statement, Media Matters founder David Brock said:
The flawed 60 Minutes report on Benghazi permanently damaged the credibility of both the show and of CBS. A New York magazine report made clear that a lion's share of the blame for massive errors in that report belongs to Lara Logan. CBS indicated that they were serious about rebuilding its brand and taking accountability. Having Logan back on 60 Minutes shows the exact opposite.
The conservative Benghazi conspiracy theory has gotten so dense that it's almost impossible for even a well-intentioned, aggressive reporter to get through an interview with a GOP congressman leaving his audience better-informed than it was at the start.
Take the following interview CNN's Jake Tapper did on Friday with Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT). Chaffetz is a member of the Oversight Committee who makes regular media appearances accusing the Obama administration of wrongdoing during and after the attack on our diplomatic facility 20 months ago. Tapper is clearly doing his best to fact-check Chaffetz's claims in real time, repeatedly pushing back against false claims. But Chaffetz is throwing out so many falsehoods and half-truths that it's impossible for him to get them all.
Tapper is right to push back against Chaffetz's attacks on Hillary Clinton for linking the Benghazi attack to an anti-Islam video and his suggestion that no one in the State Department was punished for the security failure. Unfortunately, there were many more misleading and false claims that went unaddressed, including:
None of this is a knock on Tapper, who clearly attempted to hold Chaffetz accountable during the interview. But because there are so many lies at the center of the Benghazi conspiracy, and because conservatives are so willing to promote those lies in interview after interview, some of them will inevitably get through and mislead the audience.
This is a vulnerability in the media environment without an easy solution. But it's becoming increasingly clear that the current strategy for journalists of litigating and re-litigating Benghazi with congressional Republicans isn't going to leave their viewers better-informed.
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.