Broadcast and cable Sunday political talk shows featured previously debunked myths about the September 11, 2012 attacks on diplomatic facilities in Benghazi, Libya.
MYTH: White House And State Department Edited References To Terrorism Out Of Talking Points For Political Purposes
Fox News' Dennis Kucinich: “Of Course” Talking Points Were “Politically Scrubbed.” Fox News contributor Dennis Kucinich claimed that “of course” the talking points were edited for political reasons, because the attacks took place “on the eve of an election.” From Fox Broadcasting Co.'s Fox News Sunday:
CHRIS WALLACE (HOST): Do you think those talking points were politically scrubbed?
KUCINICH: Of course they were, come on, are you kidding? You know, this is one of those things that you have to realize we're in the circumference of an election, and when you get on the eve of an election, everything becomes political. Unfortunately, Americans died and people who believe in America who put their lives on the line, they weren't provided with protection. They weren't provided with a response. They and their families had a right to make sure that they were defended. Look, we went into Benghazi with -- under the assumption that somehow there was going to be a massacre in Benghazi. So we went there to protect the Libyan people. We couldn't go in to Benghazi to protect our own Americans who were serving there? I'm offended by this, and there has to be real answers to the questions that are being raised. [Fox Broadcasting Co., Fox News Sunday, 5/12/13]
CNN's Candy Crowley Suggested Talking Points Were Edited “To Help The President Get Elected.” CNN host Candy Crowley asked Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) if the fact that the talking points were edited amounted to an impeachable offense, and if the changes were made “to help the president get elected.” From CNN's State of the Union:
CROWLEY: Do you see something in Benghazi either in the handling before, during or after with the talking points that were scrubbed that the i-word, the impeachment word should come up?
COLLINS: I don't, at this point, I will say but that doesn't mean that these allegations aren't serious. Joe Lieberman and I did a preliminary investigation into the events into the attacks on Benghazi last fall. And we had a career CIA agent -- who was the woman who first drafted the very first talking points -- tell us that there was no national security reason for the line about the links to al Qaeda to have been dropped from the talking points. So clearly politics was at play here.
CROWLEY: And if that is so, is it not a cover-up on a scale of -- I mean what do you think -- why do you think they would do this? Do you think it was to help the president get elected?
COLLINS: I believe that because we were in the midst of the final weeks of a very contentious presidential re-election campaign that one of the themes of this administration was that Libya was a success, that the military invention had produced a stable pro-United States country that was moving toward democracy and that al Qaeda was on the run. And what happened in Benghazi proved that neither of those narratives was accurate. [CNN, State of the Union, 5/12/13]
CBS' Sharyl Attkisson Suggested Edits Were Made “To Avoid The Terrorism Narrative.” CBS reporter Sharyl Attkisson asked if edits to the talking points revealed a pattern was emerging of the administration “wanting to avoid the terrorism narrative.” From CBS' Face The Nation:
ATTKISSON: I also wonder if a pattern is emerging, now that we've seen all mention of terrorism, Islamic extremists, al Qaeda, Ansar al-Sharia, removed from the talking points. Additionally there was no convening of the counter-terrorism security group by the White House that night which is described to me as required by presidential directive. Is there a pattern of somewhat wanting to avoid the terrorism narrative, in exchange for basically the YouTube, spontaneous demonstration narrative? [CBS News, Face the Nation, 5/12/13]
FACT: CIA Signed Off On Talking Points For Tactical Safety, And President Had Already Referred To Attacks As An Act Of Terror
CIA Signed Off On The Changes For Tactical, Not Political Reasons. Gen. David Petraeus, former head of the CIA, reportedly testified in November that the intelligence community signed off on the final draft of the talking points, and that references to terrorist groups in Libya were removed in order to avoid tipping off those groups. The New York Times reported that “Petraeus made it clear the change had not been done for political reasons to aid Mr. Obama,” according to Democrats who observed the testimony. [The New York Times, 11/16/12]
President Obama Had Already Referred To The Attacks As An Act Of Terror. On September 12, President Obama referred to the attacks as an act of terror when he spoke from the White House Rose Garden. One day later, Obama again referred to acts of terror at a campaign event. These comments undermine the myth that edits to a document that were made on September 14, after Obama had already labeled the attack an act of terror, demonstrate that the administration was trying to downplay the role that terrorism played. [Media Matters for America, 5/10/13]
Fox News' Bill Kristol: President Was “Absent The Whole Night Of The Crisis.” Fox News contributor and Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol claimed President Obama was “absent the whole night of the crisis” during an appearance on Fox News Sunday. [Fox Broadcasting Co., Fox News Sunday, 5/12/13]
FACT: Military Leaders Testified That Obama Was Fully Engaged Throughout The Attack
Former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta Testified That The President Was In Contact And “Well-Informed” During The Attack. Then-Defense Secretary Leon Panetta testified during a February 7 congressional hearing that he had personally spoken to President Obama following the initial attack and that the White House was in contact with military officials and keeping the president “well-informed” throughout the attacks. [Media Matters, 2/7/13]
Gen. Martin Dempsey: Obama's Staff “Was Engaged With The National Military Command Center Pretty Constantly” Throughout The Attack. Dempsey testified during a February 7 congressional hearing that the president's staff was engaged with the military command center constantly during the attack, “which is the way it would normally work” (emphasis added):
SEN. KELLY AYOTTE (R-NH): But just to be clear, that night he didn't ask you what assets we had available and how quickly they could respond and how quickly we could help those people there -
PANETTA: No. I think the biggest problem that night, Senator, is that nobody knew really what was going on there.
AYOTTE: And there was no follow up during the night, at least from the White House directly?
PANETTA: No. No, there wasn't.
DEMPSEY: I would, if I could just, to correct one thing. I wouldn't say there was no follow-up from the White House. There was no follow-up, to my knowledge, with the president. But his staff was engaged with the national military command center pretty constantly through the period, which is the way it would normally work.
AYOTTE: But no direct communication from him?
Huffington Post: “The President Told Them To Deploy Forces As Quickly As Possible.” The Huffington Post reported that Panetta and Dempsey were meeting with President Obama when they learned of the attack and the president responded immediately:
Several committee Republicans pressed Panetta and Dempsey about their discussions with President Barack Obama on that fateful day and his level of involvement, suggesting that after the initial conversation the commander in chief was disengaged as Americans died.
Panetta said he and Dempsey were meeting with Obama when they first learned of the Libya assault. He said the president told them to deploy forces as quickly as possible. [The Huffington Post, 2/7/13]
ABC's Martha Raddatz Suggested Military Could Have Sent More Troops To Benghazi. Martha Raddatz cited the testimony of Gregory Hicks, deputy chief of mission in Libya at the time of the attacks, to suggest that, contrary to the claims of the military, more military assets might have been available to repel the attack. She did not dispute guest Sen. John McCain's claims that the military could have moved assets in the region in time. From ABC's This Week:
RADDATZ: Just quickly I want to go back to the testimony of Gregory Hicks. And he talked about bringing military assets in, bringing planes in. The military says that wasn't possible. Do you agree with the fact that it wasn't possible?
JOHN MCCAIN: I cannot find, I find it impossible to comprehend why on September 11th, the day we all know is so important, when there have been numerous warnings about the security at that consulate, that we didn't have forces that were capable of doing so. And over a seven and a half hour period, with all the assets we have in the region, we couldn't have an F-16 at low altitude fly over those people who were attacking our consulate? And another question is, why weren't there forces capable of going to defend that consulate? [ABC News, This Week, 5/12/13]
FACT: Additional Forces Would Not Have Been Able To Get To Benghazi Before The Second Attack Was Concluded
Additional Reinforcements Would Not Have Been Able To Get To Benghazi Before The Second Attack Was Concluded. Transcripts of an interview Gregory Hicks gave to congressional investigators show that he while he said that a team of Special Forces had been told not to travel from Tripoli to aid U.S. personnel in Benghazi, 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. Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT), a member of the House Oversight Committee who has actively pursued investigations into the Benghazi attacks, also told The Washington Post that the Special Forces team that Hicks was referring to “would have arrived after the attack.” [Media Matters, 5/7/13; The Washington Post, 5/6/13]
Decision To Not Send Second Force Was Made By The Head Of The Military's Africa Command, Who Was Concerned About Embassy Security In Tripoli. Diplomats on the ground the night of the attacks were concerned about threats to the Tripoli embassy complex, and a Pentagon spokesperson confirmed that the assessment of Special Operations Command Africa leadership at the time was that “it was more important for those guys to be in Tripoli” for embassy security. [Media Matters, 5/09/13]
Pentagon: Fighters Would Not Have Been Able To Get To Benghazi Due To Lack Of Fuel Tanker Support. Top military officials have said that fighter planes in the area could not have reached Benghazi because they lacked necessary refueling tankers. From Wired.com:
Dempsey and other top Pentagon officials have previously testified that they could not get commandos or fighter planes into Benghazi in time to save the lives of Amb. Christopher Stevens and three other Americans. There was an unarmed surveillance drone over Benghazi, but Air Force fighters in Italy's Aviano air base lacked refueling tankers to allow them to get to the scene. Special-operations teams in the U.S. and Croatia were initially told to prepare for Benghazi, for a possible hostage-rescue mission, but they ultimately didn't get closer than a staging base in Europe before the attacks ended. [Wired.com, 5/8/13, via Media Matters]