The Los Angeles Times is giving credence to claims that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has feigned injury as an attempt to avoid testifying on Benghazi, posing the question to its readers in an online poll: "Did she fake it?"
Following reports that Clinton suffered a concussion after fainting, right-wing media figures, led by Fox News contributor John Bolton, speculated that she was faking in order to escape giving testimony on the September 11 attack on a diplomatic facility in Benghazi, Libya. Fox News hosts and contributors mocked Clinton as "suffering from acute Benghazi allergy" and downplayed her condition, with Bill O'Reilly stating, "I think she can make a phone call."
In a December 19 article, reporter Paul Richter gave credence to Bolton's claims. The article did cite a State Department spokeswoman, who slammed the speculation and called these rumors "completely untrue" and coming from "people who don't know what they're talking about." But the Times leaves the matter as a matter of legitimate debate between the conspiracy-minded critics and the State Department.
Emphasizing the point that the Times considers the concussion attack legitimate, posted above the article's text the paper posted a "Your take" online poll, asking readers "Did she fake it?"
According to the article:
In an appearance on Fox News, Bolton said that Clinton's claim that she had fainted because of the flu, hitting her head and suffering a concussion, was what foreign service officers call a "diplomatic illness," intended to free a diplomat from an unpleasant duty. Clinton was supposed to appear before congressional foreign affairs committees on Thursday to respond to questions about whether security failures opened the way for the Sept. 11 attack.
"This is a diplomatic illness to beat the band," said Bolton, who served during the George W. Bush administration. "I mean, I hope it's nothing serious. But this was revealed in a way that I think was not transparent and I think there is an obligation here."
Victoria Nuland, a State Department spokeswoman, insisted to reporters Tuesday that suggestions Clinton faked her illness are "completely untrue."
She said that Bolton and others who have questioned the concussion "are people who don't know what they're talking about."
"It's unfortunate that in times like this people make wild speculation based on no information," she said.
Clinton's withdrawal from the hearing has prompted speculation that she is trying to finish her term as chief diplomat without suffering any criticism for the attack. Clinton has said she does not intend to serve in President Obama's second term.
Notably, Fox News host Greta Van Susteren distanced herself from the accusations made by her Fox colleagues, saying on her blog, "I believe that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is suffering from a concussion. She has never shied away from a fight (assuming the testimony would even amount to that), she has never declined to testify before in her decades of public service ... and very significantly she has agreed to testify in January so they will hear from her. ... I don't agree with any of my FNC colleagues or anyone else who is a tad bit sarcastic on our air about Secretary Clinton's health."
Since the publication of this post, the LA Times has changed the poll question. It now asks readers, "Do you believe she was ill?" This still lends credence to the conspiracy that Clinton has feigned injury and illness to avoid testifying on Benghazi.