Fox News' embellishments of discredited journalist Sharyl Attkisson's latest Benghazi conspiracy theory have become increasingly detached from reality, most recently morphing into absurd allegations that Hillary Clinton supporters "scrubbed" documents to hide evidence of a supposed State Department effort to funnel weapons to the Islamic State militants in a "mini-Iran Contra" scenario, or, as Fox puts it, "the holy grail" of scandals.
After Attkisson highlighted disgruntled former State Department employee Raymond Maxwell's speculating (he "couldn't help but wonder") that State Department staff "scrubbed" damaging Benghazi documents before the initial investigation, it took just hours for Fox's coverage of the claims to morph from reiteration into full-blown allegations that Hillary Clinton's office had facilitated the destruction of key documents in violation of federal law.
Fox's own Bill O'Reilly raised doubts about whether Attkisson's story constituted a scandal, but Fox's morning show kept the conspiracy drumbeat alive on September 17 edition of Fox & Friends, escalating the speculative claims to even greater heights. Co-host Brian Kilmeade and Fox News contributor Lt. Col. Tony Shaffer speculated that the allegedly removed documents would prove that the State Department enabled an Iran-Contra-like scenario by facilitating the transfer of weapons to Islamic State militants. Insisting that "all roads lead to principal officers," Shaffer imagined that the supposed documents may hide a "direct link" to what he called a "holy grail" of Benghazi allegations, and Kilmeade concluded that "this is almost like a mini Iran-Contra thing":
Fox is constructing a Catch 22 for President Obama over the possibility of a military strike in response to the attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya. If Obama orders military action before the election, that action will be politically motivated. If he doesn't he will be motivated by other political considerations.
On October 15, Associated Press reported that the White House had put military forces in North Africa on standby, "ready to strike militant targets from Libya to Mali" if a connection is found between them and the consulate attack. In response to that report, Fox rushed to politicize any such strike, claiming that Obama might order an attack in order to improve his re-election odds.
On today's Fox & Friends, co-host Gretchen Carlson asked guest Lt. Col. Anthony Shaffer, a senior fellow at the Center for Advanced Defense Studies, saying that there's been "some whispering going on that potentially this administration would try to take out the people responsible for the terror attack in Libya, before the election, maybe before the foreign policy debate. Where do you fall on that?"
Shaffer responded with a different theory, suggesting that Obama would likely not order a strike before the election because of political considerations. Shaffer explained: "This administration has talked about how great things are in Libya, based on their leading from behind, and starting shooting predator -- using Predator drones to shoot Hellfire missiles at people, right before the election is the wrong optic. I just don't think they're going to do it."
Whether Obama orders a strike in Libya or not, it seems that Fox is ready with a response.
Fox News came to Mitt Romney's defense after his response to the attack on American diplomats in Libya was seen by many as an "attempt to score political points" and widely condemned, even by fellow Republicans.
From the January 11 edition of Fox News' Happening Now:
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