Fox News contributor Charles Krauthammer continued to hype the right-wing myth that President Obama was missing on the night of the September 11, 2012 attack on the American consulate in Benghazi, Libya.
During a May 14 panel discussion on the Benghazi investigation during Fox News' Special Report, Krauthammer requested photographic evidence of President Obama's whereabouts on the night of the Benghazi attack:
KRAUTHAMMER: And where was the president on that night? We've all seen the video and the pictures--well the picture of the situation room--of Obama on the night of the Osama raid. And everybody looks at that, oh yeah he was really involved in that. Show me a picture of where he was on the night of the attack in Libya.
The claim that Obama was absent the night of the Benghazi attack has been repeatedly debunked, both by former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin E. Dempsey.
In fact, the very photo Krauthammer requested has been available on the White House Flickr page since at least January:
Evening news coverage throughout April touched upon several economic issues, including income inequality, deficit reduction, and entitlement cuts. A Media Matters analysis of this coverage reveals that many of these segments lacked proper context or necessary input from economists, while some networks ignored certain issues entirely.
From the May 13 edition of Fox News' Special Report with Bret Baier:
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Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) and Fox News have come to the same conclusion -- describing the attacks on the U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya as an "act of terror" is different, and somehow less accurate, than describing them as a terrorist attack.
On September 12, 2012, the day after the Benghazi attacks, Obama delivered a speech in the Rose Garden in which he referred to the attacks as an "act of terror," saying: "No acts of terror will ever shake the resolve of this great nation, alter that character, or eclipse the light of the values that we stand for." The following day, Obama twice referred to the attacks as an act of terror, once in Colorado and once in Las Vegas.
During an appearance on Fox News' America Live, Issa accused Obama of minimizing the attacks by referring to them as an "act of terror," saying: "An act of terror is different than a terrorist attack. The truth is, this was a terrorist attack."
On Fox News' Special Report, chief Washington correspondent James Rosen shared Issa's sentiment that Obama downplayed the attacks. "Obama argued that he has been characterizing Benghazi from the get-go," he said. "But the president's words in the Rose Garden on September 12 were vague, not explicit." Rosen added: "What's more, the president spent the weeks after Olsen's testimony in campaign season continuing to steer clear of the terror label."
On September 13, 2001, former President George W. Bush described the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks as an "act of terror."
From the May 10 edition of Fox News' Special Report with Bret Baier:
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A New York Times article directly refutes the claims of House Republicans, including Speaker John Boehner, that State Department officials knew immediately that the attacks on a U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya in 2012 were connected to "Islamic terrorists." Fox News willingly repeated the attack on its evening programming May 9 -- but now that the Republican distortion has been exposed, will the network clarify its reports for viewers?
Boehner called for the release of a State Department e-mail sent in the wake of the Benghazi attacks that he claimed suggested the assault was perpetrated by "Islamic terrorists." At the House hearing on Benghazi on May 8, Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC), purporting to be reading from the email in question, quoted a State Department official as saying, "the group that conducted the attacks...is affiliated with Islamic terrorists." The phrase "Islamic terrorists" holds significance for Republicans who have suggested the administration knew from the outset that terrorists were behind the attacks but initially attempted to cover-up this knowledge for political reasons.
The May 9 editions of Fox News' Special Report with Bret Baier and Fox Business Channel's Lou Dobbs TONIGHT hyped the Republican line. According to a Nexis transcript search, Baier played clips of Boehner calling for the release of the e-mail, to which Fox guest and Fortune columnist Nina Easton responded, "I was happy to see Speaker Boehner call for the release of those internal e-mails. Anybody who thought that this was just a Republican hazing as the opposition party in power, I think those concerns were put to rest yesterday. I mean, there's so many unanswered questions."
Lou Dobbs also played Boehner's call for release of the e-mail, noting afterward that "somewhat predictably, no response from the Obama administration at this hour." Dobbs continued, claiming that Boehner's comments and the May 8 congressional hearings into the administration's response to the Benghazi attacks "open up new questions about the accuracy of the past testimony of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton."
The New York Times, however, obtained a copy of the e-mail in question and reported that the phrase conservatives are putting in the mouth of the State Department official -- "Islamic terrorists" - is in fact not used to describe the perpetrators of the attack. Rather, the official describes the perpetrators as having ties to "Islamic extremists" -- a distinction with a difference, according to the Times report:
[A] copy of the e-mail reviewed by The New York Times indicates that A. Elizabeth Jones, the senior State Department official who wrote it, referred to "Islamic extremists," not terrorists.
The distinction is important, administration officials said, because while the White House did not initially characterize the attack as terrorism, senior officials, including Ambassador Susan E. Rice, acknowledged the possibility that extremists had been involved in the assault.
Fox News is no stranger to carrying water for the Republican Party, and the network has led the charge to push Benghazi cover-up conspiracies. But now that the latest GOP line on Benghazi has been exposed, will Fox inform its viewers?
Leading up to yesterday's House Oversight Committee hearing on Benghazi, the conservative media worked diligently to drive home the idea that the "whistleblowers" who testified had been silenced and were unable to make their voices heard to Congress or other investigative authorities. Much of that narrative was driven by Republican attorney Victoria Toensing, who portrayed her own struggles with bureaucratic red tape as evidence of an administration cover-up. Fox News' Special Report cited Toensing on April 29 in reporting on allegations that "the Obama administration is trying to intimidate potential whistleblowers into silence."
But the testimony of Gregory Hicks, one of the three witnesses at yesterday's hearing, put lie to the notion that the administration was suppressing his voice and opinion. Hicks, we learned, had already spoken with Congressional investigators in Libya. And he had been interviewed -- twice -- as part of the State Department's independent internal investigation. That, combined with the fact that other Benghazi survivors and witnesses have spoken to the FBI, the State Department, and Congress, dismantles the idea that the administration worked to keep Hicks or his cohorts from being heard.
Hicks caused a brief stir yesterday when he testified to Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) that he had been told by the State Department "not to allow the [regional security officer], the acting deputy chief of mission, and myself to be personally interviewed" by Rep. Jason Chaffetz when the Utah Republican led a Congressional delegation to Libya to investigate the Benghazi attacks. Some conservatives misinterpreted Hicks' testimony to mean that Hicks had been ordered not to speak to Chaffetz, period. Hicks, however, later clarified his remarks when questioned by Rep. Jackie Speier (D-NY), explaining that he had been told not to speak to Chaffetz without a State Department attorney present.
Fox News contributor Charles Krauthammer revived the right-wing myth that President Obama was absent on the night of the September 11, 2012, attack on the American diplomatic facility in Benghazi, Libya.
Three State Department officials testified on May 8 before the House Oversight Committee about the deadly attacks in Benghazi. During a Special Report panel discussion about the hearing, Krauthammer suggested that Obama was missing the night of the Benghazi attack, saying: "Where was the commander-in-chief when all this -- the one man who can authorize and order troops to move above everybody and instantly is commander-in-chief. Where was he for these hours when the fight was raging? Has anybody asked it? Has anybody answered that?"
The claim that Obama was missing during the Benghazi attack has been long debunked. During a February 7 congressional hearing, former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta attested to the fact that the White House was in contact with military officials and was "well-informed" during the attack, as reported by the Associated Press:
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., questioned whether Panetta spoke again to Obama after that first meeting. The Pentagon chief said no but that the White House was in touch with military officials and aware of what was happening.
"During the eight-hour period, did he show any curiosity?" Graham asked.
Panetta said there was no question the president was concerned about American lives. Exasperated with Graham's interruptions, Panetta said forcefully, "The president is well-informed about what is going on; make no mistake about it."
Right-wing media are using a congressional hearing to push new myths about the Obama administration's response to the September 11, 2012 attacks on a U.S. diplomatic facility in Benghazi, Libya. In fact, these myths are discredited by previous congressional reports and testimony, which show that the politicized nature of the hearings come from right-wing media and Congressional Republicans, that the military could not have rescued personnel from the second attack, that the administration was in constant communication at all levels during the attacks, and that the intelligence community believed there was a link to an anti-Islam video at the time of the attacks.
Fox News is falsely suggesting a new Weekly Standard article proves the CIA didn't link the Benghazi attacks to an anti-Islam YouTube video. In fact, CIA talking points obtained by the conservative magazine actually demonstrate the intelligence community believed there was a link between the attacks and reactions to the video.
Conservative writer Stephen Hayes' piece for The Weekly Standard reported that an initial September 14 draft of talking points by the CIA's Office of Terrorism Analysis stated that members of an al Qaeda-linked terrorist group were involved in the Benghazi attacks, but that point was later removed by administration officials. Hayes provided images of various versions of the CIA's talking points, including a bullet in "Version 1" stating: "We believe based on currently available information that the attacks in Benghazi were spontaneously inspired by the protests at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo and evolved into a direct assault against the U.S. Consulate and subsequently its annex."
In the final version of the document, that bullet read:
The currently available information suggests that the demonstrations in Benghazi were spontaneously inspired by the protests at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo and evolved into a direct assault against the U.S. diplomatic post and subsequently its annex. There are indications that extremists participated in the violent demonstrations.
In his piece, Hayes still criticized the Obama administration for mentioning the YouTube video since the word "video" did not appear in the talking points:
More troubling was the YouTube video. [Ambassador Susan] Rice would spend much time on the Sunday talk shows pointing to this video as the trigger of the chaos in Benghazi. "What sparked the violence was a very hateful video on the Internet. It was a reaction to a video that had nothing to do with the United States." There is no mention of any "video" in any of the many drafts of the talking points.
However, as Media Matters noted, the CIA's reference to the Benghazi attack being "inspired by the protests at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo" proves that the intelligence community itself believed that a link existed between the attacks and the film. The "protests at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo" were part of a series of global riots and protests in Muslim countries that were partly in response to increased awareness of the anti-Islam video. As prior media reports have noted, Ambassador Rice used the CIA's information during numerous television interviews on September 16.
In recent days, Fox News has used the Standard piece to suggest the intelligence community didn't believe the attacks and the anti-Islam videos were linked.
Fox News devoted significantly more airtime to the Heritage Foundation's claims that providing legal status to undocumented immigrants will have negative fiscal impact, but mostly ignored pro-immigration rallies during the same period.
Fox News anchor Bret Baier misrepresented the testimony of a witness for the Republican-led hearing investigating the 2012 attacks on U.S. facilities in Benghazi, Libya. While the witness reportedly told congressional investigators that a small group of special forces were told not to board an aircraft heading to Benghazi to help with the attacks -- an aircraft that departed after an attack that killed two more Americans occurred -- Baier claimed the witness said the special forces team would have arrived in time for that attack.
The GOP-controlled House Oversight Committee is holding a hearing on the September 11, 2012 attacks on a U.S. diplomatic compound and a nearby CIA annex in Benghazi on May 8. The committee had released a list of several witnesses that will be called on to testify, among them Gregory Hicks, who was the former Deputy Chief of Mission in Libya.
During the May 6 edition of Special Report, anchor Bret Baier claimed that Hicks said in his testimony that a team of special forces troops would have arrived in time for an attack on the CIA annex had they not been told not to go [emphasis added]:
BAIER: Charles, in this testimony that -- we have already seen some of this interview with Greg Hicks, the number two guy, again, on the ground, he specifically says that special forces in Tripoli were told to stand down and not get on a C-130 that was going to go from Tripoli to Benghazi that would have been there in time for the second attack, the second wave. They were told to not get on that plane.
Baier's claim is contradicted by Hicks' testimony, a statement from one of the lead Republican congressmen investigating the attacks, and of the timeline of events from the attacks.
Transcripts of an interview Greg 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 [emphasis added]:
Q: And was there a second team that was organized? Could you tell us about the second team?
A: Right. The second team -- the Defense Attache worked assiduously all night long to try to get the Libyan military to respond in some way. Early in the morning -- sorry, after we were formally notified by the Prime Minister, who called me, that Chris had passed, the Libyan military agreed to fly their C-130 to Benghazi and carry additional personnel to Benghazi as reinforcements. Because we at that time -- at that time, the third attack, the mortar attack at 5:15, had not yet occurred, if I remember correctly.
Q: So what time did the second rescue team ??
A: Well, again, they flew -- I think that flight took off sometime between 6:00 and 6:30 a.m.
Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT), a member of the House Oversight Committee who has actively pursued investigations into the Benghazi attacks, told The Washington Post that the special forces team that Hicks and Baier are referring to "would have arrived after the attack":
Chaffetz said the troops who were not allowed to travel to Benghazi would have arrived after the attack on the CIA base but may have provided first aid to wounded personnel. He noted that the order to keep them from traveling was given before the second attack.
Fox News is heavily invested in turning Benghazi into the scandal that takes down Barack Obama. It's not just the dream of brutishly partisan actors like Sean Hannity, but the stated intention of Fox reporters like James Rosen, who told Bill O'Reilly that "there are certain elements...that are lacking here for this to become Watergate," among them the self-serving notion that the media -- save for Fox News -- refuse to dig into the "major scandal" that is Benghazi. The idea that media outlets have been reticent to investigate the September 2012 attack on the Benghazi diplomatic compound is laughably false. What Rosen really means is that the press aren't covering it in the way that Fox News is.
This plays into the Fox Cycle, a process Media Matters has documented by which false and misleading conservative attacks make the transition from right-wing hobbyhorse to national media narrative, with Fox News playing a key role in pressuring mainstream press outlets into covering the story. Fox has been working hard at doing just that this week with a series of segments on Special Report with Bret Baier featuring an anonymous Benghazi "insider" who purports to contradict the official account of the Benghazi attack.
Here, however, are five instances in which the "insider" describes events that actually took place, were already known, or have been debunked.
1. The presence of special forces in Croatia. Media Matters documented one such instance of Fox's confidential informant breaking news that everyone already knew -- the presence of a special operations force in Croatia. "I know for a fact that C-110 [a special ops team], the EUCOM CIF, was doing a training exercise, not in the region of Northern Africa, but in Europe. And they had the ability to react and respond," said Fox's unnamed source. Everyone knows that "for a fact" because it's been a matter of public record for months now and was included in the Pentagon's official Benghazi timeline. Then-Defense Secretary Leon Panetta ordered those forces to deploy, but they could not arrive in time.
2. Deployment of those special forces. That brings up another point of contention. Fox's source claimed: "We had the ability to load out, get on birds, and fly there at a minimum stage. C-110 had the ability to be there, in my opinion, in four to six hours from their European theater to react." [emphasis added] The phrase "in my opinion" is highlighted there because that's all this is. An opinion. The State Department independent Benghazi review and outside experts have a different opinion: that there were no military assets that could have made it to Benghazi in time to make a difference. This is less a contradiction of the official account than a disagreement from a party whose identity and expertise are as yet unknown. (Former Marine officer and special operations team leader Billy Birdzell dismantled Fox's source's claims about the deployment of C-110 here.)
Fox News has been hyping the statements of an anonymous source who has contradicted the account of both the Obama administration and independent findings about the attack on a U.S. Consulate in Benghazi. Now two separate statements by experts in Foreign Policy are casting more doubt about the claims of Fox's source.
Fox's flagship show Special Report ran a series of reports that highlighted an anonymous source who claims to have knowledge about the Benghazi attacks. In one segment, the source claimed that the Obama administration had forces available to aid the victims of the attack, but chose not to utilize them, a claim contradicted not only by the State Department, but by the Accountability Review Board, an independent panel convened to investigate whether there was a breach of duty during and after the attack.
But in a post on Foreign Policy magazine's website, national security journalist Tom Ricks, who previously accused Fox News of "operating as a wing of the Republican Party" on the Benghazi issue, published two accounts from experts who strongly questioned Fox's Benghazi source. Ricks reported that he's hearing Fox doesn't have a scoop with its Benghazi source, and quoted Retired Special Forces Col. David Maxwell stating:
Whistle blower my a**. If this guy is a real special operator (and I have my doubts) I wonder if he realizes what an embarrassment he is to the community. What he offers is pure speculation and not based on any real facts as I have heard and appears to be coming from his fourth point of contact. He comes across as just another conspiracy theorist who is taking Fox News for a ride.
In a separate article, U.S. Marine Corps officer and special operations team leader Billy Birdzell called Fox's source "a clown" and criticized news outlets for "not using Google" before promoting him. Birdzell explained how forces in the area, including the force training in Croatia that Fox's source discussed, would have needed far more time to reach Benghazi than they had.
Fox's Bret Baier hosted a confidential informant to express his opinion that the Obama administration could have aided staff who were killed during the September 11, 2012, attack on a U.S. diplomatic facility in Benghazi, Libya, an opinion refuted by military experts and nonpartisan analysis.
On the April 29 edition of Special Report, Baier claimed that new details from a confidential source refutes the Obama administration's claim that "there was no help available for the Americans under assault in Libya" that would have changed the outcome of the attack. During an interview with Fox correspondent Adam Housley, a confidential Special Forces operator who monitored the events in Benghazi claimed that "there were at least two military units that could have made it in time" to respond in Benghazi. Fox's source claimed that one of those units was a group that was "training in Croatia":
But the informant's claim is nothing new. Accusing President Obama of failing to mobilize forces in order to respond to Benghazi, including the specific forces referenced by the source, has been a central point in the right-wing media's campaign to use Benghazi to damage Obama politically. However, numerous reports, including nonpartisan analyses, agree with the Obama administration's finding that no other assets than those sent to respond to the attacks were available in time to affect the outcome of the attack.