How Fox News Plans To Use Michael Bay's Benghazi Film To Sink Hillary Clinton's Presidential Run
Spoiler Alert: It Involves Lying
Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ
"Breaking tonight. A Kelly File exclusive on the gripping new film that may pose a threat to Hillary Clinton's hopes for the White House."
That's how Megyn Kelly fired the first shot in Fox News' campaign to use a Michael Bay movie on the Benghazi attacks to prevent Hillary Clinton from winning the presidency. After their much-hyped Benghazi select committee fizzled, they've now pinned their hopes on the director of The Rock.
13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi opens in theaters January 15. Based on a 2014 book written by journalist Mitchell Zuckoff and five former CIA contractors who defended the diplomatic post and nearby CIA annex during the 2012 assault, the film aims to provide a dramatic eyewitness portrayal of the attacks and the heroism displayed that night.
Based on the 20 minutes Kelly spent on the film during her broadcast last night, Fox thinks it can be something more: a way to redeploy all the shoddy reporting and conspiracy-mongering they've pushed for the last three years as a weapon against Clinton's campaign. Interviewing three of the former CIA contractors about the movie based on their book, Kelly sought to revive long-debunked myths about the Obama administration's efforts to respond to the attack.
In the weeks to come, we can expect the network to devote significant time and attention to the "questions" supposedly raised by the film.
Tactic 1: Make The Movie About Hillary Clinton
Treating a Michael Bay film that focuses on the events on the ground during the September 11, 2012, attacks as if it's a documentary with bearing on Hillary Clinton's service as secretary of state doesn't make a lot of sense. But that's exactly what Kelly did last night.
"The film is introduced as a true story and reintroduces Benghazi as a potential campaign issue that cannot be helpful to Mrs. Clinton," she explained.
Kelly links the film to Clinton by reintroducing the tired claims that the then-Secretary had falsely tied the attacks to an anti-Islam YouTube video that triggered massive anti-American protests across the Middle East in September 2012. As congressional investigations have found, initial intelligence suggested that the Benghazi attacks had grown out of protests against the video. The CIA later changed its assessment, finding based on video footage and FBI interviews that no protest had occurred outside of the Benghazi facility. As for the motives of the attackers, they reportedly "did tell bystanders that they were attacking the compound because they were angry about the video," and the assault's alleged ringleader reportedly said that they were acting in "retaliation" for the video.
Of course, Kelly aired Clinton's exclamation during her 2013 testimony, "The fact is, we had four dead Americans. Was it because of a protest or was it because of guys out for a walk one night who decided they'd go kill some Americans? What difference at this point does it make?"
Kelly clipped Clinton's comment right before the former Secretary explained why she didn't think that issue was essential: "It is our job to figure out what happened and do everything we can to prevent it from ever happening again." That's no surprise: Fox has highlighted the comment in scores of segments over the years, frequently taking her out of context to suggest she didn't care about the deaths of the four Americans killed that night.
Tactic 2: Lie About The "Stand-Down Order"
Much attention has been paid to a scene in the film's trailer in which the CIA contractors seek to rush to the rescue of the diplomatic post when it came under fire, only to be halted by their CIA superior at the annex who tells them to "stand down."
KELLY: You can hear the radio calls of the State Department personnel saying, we're going to die, we're going to die, we're going to die. The CIA station chief where you were at the time told you repeatedly, according to the movie, stand down. We saw that in the trailer. Used the words "stand down." Is that how you remember it?
JOHN TIEGEN: Yeah, I mean, it was the chief of base, the deputy chief, and our team leader sitting on the front porch when he told me to stand down.
KELLY: The Congressional investigators concluded there was no stand down order.
KRIS PARONTO: I don't know where they got that ... That's just silly. I mean, there was, for us --
KELLY: I mean, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama and others rely on those conclusions saying, you know, they've really been cleared because investigators concluded there was no stand down order.
There's no other way to put it: Kelly is lying about the "stand down order."
On the night of the attack, the CIA contractors sought to immediately respond to the attack on the diplomatic post. Their base chief asked them to wait for approximately 20 minutes as their CIA base chief attempted to contact a local Libyan militia for assistance and to develop a plan. The contractors disagreed -- and obviously still disagree -- with that order. This is not new information -- the Associated Press reported on the disagreement in 2013.
That is not the "stand down order" that Fox News and right-wing politicians trumpeted for years, leading to numerous congressional investigations into the claim. Instead, the myth they latched onto was the idea that Clinton or President Obama had issued the "stand down order" as a deliberate decision to "sacrifice Americans" for political purposes.
Fox devoted scores of segments to this inflammatory claim. According to CIA personnel, the Pentagon, the House Armed Services Committee, the Senate Intelligence Committee, Tripoli commander Lt. Col. S.E. Gibson, then-Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsey, nine other military officers, the Senate Intelligence Committee, and the House Intelligence Committee, it did not happen.
Kelly has to know this. But she wants to go after Clinton and the only way she can use the film to do that is by moving the goalposts on what the "stand down order" actually was.
Tactic 3: Lie About Help Sent To Benghazi
"If there's one theme that emerges," Kelly said of the film during her interview with the former contractors, "that is it, that they were left alone. There was no one to back you up. Throughout the film, you see heroes assuming, understanding based on their experience that the American military will be there to back them up and support them. And help never came."
Kelly knows that the military deployed forces to Benghazi, but those troops did not arrive until long after the fighting was over. Kelly knows this because then-Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta detailed the special operations teams that were ordered to deploy that night from Spain, Croatia, and the United States during congressional testimony nearly four years ago. She knows this because the Pentagon timeline of the Benghazi attack, released in November 2012, says the same thing. She knows this because contemporaneous Defense emails detail the deployments. She knows this because the GOP-led House Armed Services Committee confirmed those orders and concluded that there were no "response alternatives that could have likely changed the outcome of the Benghazi attack."
But Fox has devoted dozens of segments to the farcical claim that no help was sent, so in the name of the anti-Clinton campaign, Kelly is lying about it.