Fox News' Chris Wallace baselessly suggested that Hillary Clinton dishonestly conflated the 2012 attacks on diplomatic facilities in Benghazi, Libya, with protests sparked by an anti-Islam video.
During the February 16 edition of Fox News Sunday, Wallace speculated about a potential 2016 presidential run by Clinton. Stating that her record as secretary of state would be "fair game," Wallace raised the specter of Benghazi and claimed that "Clinton seemed to conflate the attack on the consulate with that anti-Islam video" during her remarks at the September 14, 2012, transfer of remains ceremony for the Benghazi victims:
WALLACE: Well, let's talk about Clinton's record as secretary of state which I'm sure you both would agree will be fair game. It will be the last public role she held before she runs, if she runs. No signature diplomatic breakthroughs. And then, of course, there is also Benghazi where even on the day that the four Americans, dead Americans from Benghazi were returned to Andrews Air Force Base, Clinton seemed to conflate the attack on the consulate with that anti-Islam video. Take a look.
CLINTON (video clip): We've seen the heavy assault on our post in Benghazi that took the lives of those brave men. We've seen rage and violence directed at American embassies over an awful Internet video that we had nothing to do with.
WALLACE: Karl, how big a deal will Benghazi be for Hillary Clinton over the next two plus years?
But Clinton's comments were accurate: during the week of her speech, U.S. embassies or consulates in Egypt, Tunisia, Yemen, and Sudan were attacked by protestors angry about an anti-Islam video posted on YouTube by an American.
While Wallace suggested that conflating the video with the Benghazi attacks was necessarily dishonest, at the time of Clinton's remarks, there was a consensus within the intelligence community (IC), largely based on press accounts at the time, that a protest against the video had occurred at the consulate prior to the attack. It was not until September 24, 2012, ten days later, that the CIA changed its assessment of the events on the ground and concluded that there was in fact no protest on the night of the attack. From the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence's report on the Benghazi attacks (emphasis added):
In the immediate aftermath of the attacks, the IC received numerous reports, both classified and unclassified, which provided contradictory accounts that there were demonstrations at the Temporary Mission Facility. In some cases, these intelligence reports -- which were disseminated widely in the Intelligence Community -- contained references to press reports on protests that were simply copied into intelligence products.
Moreover, it appears this reporting from those present during the attacks did not make its way into assessments at CIA Headquarters, as the Deputy Director of the Middle East and North Africa Analysis Office at CIA wrote an internal email, dated September 16, 2012, that mentioned "protestors that preceded the violence." On September 18, 2012, the FBI and CIA reviewed the closed circuit television video from the Mission facility that showed there were no protests prior to the attacks. Although information gathered from interviews with U.S. personnel who were on the ground during the attacks was shared informally between the FBI and CIA, it was not until two days later, on September 20, 2012, that the FBI disseminated its intelligence reports detailing such interviews.
As a result of evidence from closed circuit videos and other reports, the IC changed its assessment about a protest in classified intelligence reports on September 24, 2012, to state there were no demonstrations or protests at the Temporary Mission Facility prior to the attacks. This slow change in the official assessment affected the public statements of government officials, who continued to state in press interviews that there were protests outside the Mission compound.
Whether or not a protest occurred, The New York Times has reported that a journalist working for the paper was present at the Benghazi diplomatic facility during the attack and was told by the attackers and by other witnesses that they had been motivated to attack in response to learning of the anti-Islam film.