Fox News suggested that Hillary Clinton was lying during congressional testimony about the Benghazi attack by cropping her comments and hyping baseless claims made by a discredited GOP activist. Fox News hosts also dredged up the misleading claim that Clinton dismissed the importance of Benghazi in her testimony.
On America's Newsroom, co-host Bill Hemmer hosted Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) to attack Clinton over Benghazi. During the segment, Hemmer reported on a baseless claim by lawyer and GOP activist Joseph diGenova that the administration is trying to cover up the theft of 400 surface-to-air missiles that were somehow linked to the Benghazi compound. DiGenova, who made these claims during an interview with the Washington, DC-area show Mornings on the Mall, could not name his sources, acknowledged that some of his information is not “verifiable,” and provided no evidence to back up the allegation. More generally, diGenova is just not a credible source. Along with his wife, Victoria Toensing, he has donated extensively to Republican candidates and causes, and has a long history of investigating Democrats and defending Republicans, having been accused of lacking “impartiality, non-partisanship, and professionalism.”
Hemmer contrasted diGenova's dubious allegation with a cropped clip of Clinton's January 23 congressional testimony in which she denied knowledge of weapons transfers from Libya to Turkey. Hemmer asked Paul whether Clinton was “not telling the truth”:
Fox's attack is based on selectively cropping Clinton's comments. During her congressional testimony, Clinton was asked by Paul, “Is the U.S. involved with any procuring of weapons, transfer of weapons, buying, selling, anyhow transferring weapons to Turkey out of Libya?” Fox played a portion of her response, in which Clinton denied having any knowledge of a weapons transfer.
Below is the full transcript of her response to Paul's question in the January 23 hearings, with the portion that Fox omitted highlighted:
PAUL: Now, my question is: Is the U.S. involved with any procuring of weapons, transfer of weapons, buying, selling, anyhow transferring weapons to Turkey out of Libya?
CLINTON: To Turkey? I -- I will have to take that question for the record. Nobody's ever raised that with me. I don't...
PAUL: It's been -- it's been in news reports that ships have been leaving from Libya and that they may have weapons. And what I'd like to know is the annex that was close by, were they involved with procuring, buying, selling, obtaining weapons? And were any of these weapons being transferred to other countries, any countries, Turkey included.
CLINTON: Well, Senator, you'll have to direct -- direct that question to the agency that ran the annex. I will -- I will see what information is available and...
PAUL: You're saying you don't know.
CLINTON: I do not know. I don't have any information on that.
The omission is crucial to Fox's accusation that Clinton was being dishonest. As the portion of Clinton's response that Fox did not air makes clear, the annex that Paul identified was not under State Department control, and therefore not part of Clinton's purview. Reporting following the attack identified the annex as a C.I.A. outpost, explaining Clinton's response that further questions about the annex should be directed to “the agency that ran the annex.”
Fox's attack wasn't limited to deceptive cropping of Clinton's comments. On Fox & Friends earlier in the day, guest host Eric Bolling also used diGenova's claims to attack Clinton, saying: “Go back to when Hillary Clinton said 'what difference does it make at this point?' I'll tell you what difference it makes now. Because now Al Qaeda may have 400 surface-to-air missiles, that we don't know where they are, or they could be targeting our passenger airplanes. It matters, and when she said that she kind of tried to put that story behind her. She said let's move on, four dead Americans, at this point what does it matter? It matters a lot because we don't want 4000 more dead Americans.”
Bolling's attack is a distortion of Clinton's comments responding to Sen. Ron Johnson's (R-WI) questions about who had been responsible for editing administration talking points that were drafted after the attack. Bolling implied that Clinton was downplaying the consequences of the attack, but the context of her comments makes it clear that she was dismissing the highly politicized witch hunt from members of the GOP and right-wing media:
CLINTON: With all due respect, 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 and decided they would go kill some Americans? What difference at this point does it make? It is our job to figure out what happened and do and do everything we can to prevent it from ever happening again, Senator. Now, honestly I will do my best to answer your questions about this, but the-the fact is that people were trying in real time to get to the best information. The I.C. has a process, I understand, going with the other committees to explain how these talking points came out.
But, you know to be clear, it is from my perspective, less important today looking backwards as to why these militants decided they did it, than to find them and bring them to justice, and then maybe we'll figure out what was going on in the meantime.