Conservative Media Smear Merrick Garland: Benghazi Edition
Conservatives are now trying to smear Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland with a myth about the 2012 terror attacks on the United States' diplomatic facilities in Benghazi, Libya.
In a March 31 article, the Daily Caller claimed that Garland “falsely blamed the YouRube [sic] video 'Innocence of Muslims' for the death of Ambassador Chris Stevens during the Benghazi attacks, court transcripts show.” Right-wing media outlets have consistently claimed that the Obama administration deliberately lied by linking that anti-Islam video to the attacks.
In fact, the leader of the 2012 attack has confirmed that the video -- which had been spurring sometimes-violent protests throughout the Middle East at the time of the attack -- did inspire the perpetrators to assault the United States' Benghazi diplomatic compound, ultimately leading to the death of four Americans.
The Caller article, citing a press release from discredited conservative group Judicial Watch, claimed Garland repeated a Benghazi falsehood during a January 10, 2013, hearing over Judicial Watch's attempt to force the Obama administration to release images of Osama bin Laden's body. (The court ultimately rejected Judicial Watch's challenge.)
While discussing national security concerns over the release of sensitive images during oral arguments, Garland said, “And we do know of examples where in this country we would think that the release of certain things would not have lead to this, and yet there were, not very long ago a video was released that did lead to death of an American ambassador, of other people, of riots in other cities.”
Garland was right. Although conservative media have endlessly claimed that the Obama administration sought to deceive about the nature of the Benghazi attacks by citing the influence of the “Innocence of Muslims” video, the claim is baseless. Numerous news reports at the time of the attack -- reporting on the best intelligence available -- said the video played a role. The New York Times reported in December 2013, “There is no doubt that anger over the video motivated many attackers,” citing witness accounts of those attackers mentioning the video during the assault.
And as the Times reported in 2014, the alleged ringleader of the attack “told fellow Islamist fighters and others that the assault was retaliation for the same insulting video, according to people who heard him.”