Fox News Seizes On Rubio's Debate Comments To Push Falsehood About Clinton And Benghazi

Following the October 28 CNBC Republican presidential debate, Fox News repeatedly championed the performance of Sen. Marco Rubio and his claim that Hillary Clinton “got exposed as a liar” during her Benghazi testimony for supposedly misleading the public about the cause of the Benghazi attacks. That allegation has been repeatedly debunked by journalists at numerous media outlets for disregarding the fact that intelligence was rapidly evolving in the immediate aftermath of the attacks and ignoring the possibility that “the attacks could be both an example of terrorism and influenced by outrage over the video.”

Marco Rubio Resurrected The Myth That Clinton “Got Exposed As A Liar” For Supposedly Misleading The Public About The Cause Of The Benghazi Attacks

Marco Rubio: Clinton “Got Exposed As A Liar” During Benghazi Testimony For Citing YouTube Video As Cause Of Benghazi Attacks. In the October 28 CNBC Republican presidential debate, candidate Marco Rubio claimed that Hillary Clinton “got exposed as a liar” about the cause of the Benghazi attacks by admitting “she had sent emails to her family” attributing the attack to “Al Qaeda-like elements” while “telling the families of those victims and the American people that it was because of a video” :

MARCO RUBIO: Last week, Hillary Clinton went before a committee, she admitted she had sent emails to her family saying, “hey, this attack in Benghazi was caused by Al Qaeda-like elements.” She spent over a week telling the families of those victims and the American people that it was because of a video. And yet the mainstream media is going around saying it was the greatest week in Hillary Clinton's campaign. It was the week she got exposed as a liar. It was the week that she got exposed as a liar -- but she has her Super PAC helping her out, the American mainstream media. [CNBC, CNBC Republican Debate, 10/28/15]

In Post-Debate Coverage, Fox News Championed Marco Rubio And Highlighted His Claim That Clinton Lied To The Public About The Origins Of The Benghazi Attack

Fox & Friends Highlighted Rubio's Debunked Claim That Hillary Clinton “Got Exposed As A Liar” In Benghazi Hearing. On the October 29 edition of Fox & Friends, Fox correspondent John Roberts called Marco Rubio “the clear consensus winner,” highlighting Rubio's claim that Clinton “got exposed as a liar” during her Benghazi hearing when “she admitted she had sent e-mails to her family saying, hey, this attack in Benghazi was caused by Al Qaeda like elements” :

JOHN ROBERTS: Marco Rubio, who appears to be the clear consensus winner, scored big points with the audience last night when he voiced to millions of people a belief that Republicans have long held: that Democrats get more favorable treatment by the mainstream media.

[BEGIN CLIP]

[...]

RUBIO: Last week, Hillary Clinton went before a committee, she admitted she had sent e-mails to her family saying, “hey, this attack in Benghazi was caused by Al Qaeda like elements.” She spent over a week telling the families of those victims and the American people that it was because of a video. And yet the mainstream media is going around saying it was the greatest week in Hillary Clinton's campaign. It was the week she got exposed as a liar.

[END CLIP] [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 10/29/15]

Fox & Friends Allowed Marco Rubio To Parrot Debunked Claim: “Hillary Clinton Last Week Got Caught” Misleading About Benghazi Attacks. On the October 29 edition of Fox & Friends, the show's hosts aired footage of a Frank Luntz focus group where participants lauded Rubio calling Clinton out as a “liar” and allowed Rubio to again push the debunked theory that “Hillary Clinton last week got caught,” and continue, “She was sending emails to her family and friends saying that the attack on Benghazi, in Benghazi, was an attack by terrorist groups,” while going to the press and victims' families and telling them “this is because of a video” :

MARCO RUBIO: But the bigger issue is the one they're talking about, the one we raised, and it's the one that really angered me last week. Hillary Clinton last week got caught. She was sending emails to her family and friends saying that the attack on Benghazi, in Benghazi, was an attack by terrorist groups, Al Qaeda-like groups. And then she was going in front of the press, for over a week, she went to the families of these victims and told them this is because of a video. If that was a Republican that had done that, there would be editorials across this country asking them to drop out of the race. Instead, what we got is headlines saying, “Hillary's back. Greatest week ever. She crushed the Republicans.” It's outrageous. I mean it is so blatantly obvious that the bias is so deep in the media, and most of the media about these issues. And I wanted to point that out last night, because we're tired of it, it's just unacceptable. [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 10/29/15]

America's Newsroom Seizes On Marco Rubio's Claim That Clinton “Got Exposed As A Liar” In Benghazi Hearing. On the October 29 edition of America's Newsroom, host Bill Hemmer highlighted Rubio's claim that Clinton “got exposed as a liar” about Benghazi by “telling the families of those victims and the American people that it was because of a video” :

BILL HEMMER (HOST): Let me play a little clip from last night. There was a moment, and we mentioned this earlier today, about the number of shots directed at Hillary Clinton. And it really, you have to be a deaf candidate to take a question and pivot it 180 degrees to send it in the direction that you desire. And some of them were very good that last night. And Hillary Clinton was in the cross-hairs. This is one moment that Marco Rubio mentioned last night with her in mind.

[BEGIN CLIP]

MARCO RUBIO: She spent over a week telling the families of those victims and the American people that it was because of a video. And yet the mainstream media is going around saying it was the greatest week in Hillary Clinton's campaign. It was the week she got exposed as a liar. It was the week that she got exposed as a liar -- but she has her Super PAC helping her out, the American mainstream media.

[END CLIP]

HEMMER: Does that come up later tonight with Ted Cruz?

BRET BAIER: Yeah I mean I will talk to him about that. I think Rubio had a great night as well, and that was just one of the moments. The other one was obviously the counter-punch with Jeb Bush in that attack about his voting record. I think that mentioning that and the frustration about Hillary Clinton getting all this praise for her Benghazi testimony, is something that really sits well in the Republican primary voters' minds because, they don't think that she did as great as everybody else in the media says she did. Arguably politically, she's doing much better after that testimony, but Rubio tapped into that and probably is going to be a beneficiary last night.

HEMMER: Worth reminding that the FBI has yet to render its verdict in its own investigation.

BAIER: Exactly. [Fox News, America's Newsroom, 10/29/15]

Marc Thiessen: “The Big Winner Tonight Was Rubio” For Saying That It Was “Proven” Hillary Clinton "Lied To The Families About" Benghazi. On the October 29 edition of The Kelly File immediately following the debate, Fox contributor Marc Thiessen called Marco Rubio “the big winner” of the night, and cheered Rubio's debunked claim that Clinton “was caught in that hearing, proven she'd lied to the families about” the motivations of the attackers' in Benghazi:

MARC THIESSEN: I think the big winner tonight was Rubio, with that exchange. He also had a great exchange where he brought up -- he was the only person who brought up Benghazi. And, again, took it to both the media and Hillary Clinton. Both -- those are the two targets -- the media and Hillary Clinton saying that you know, she was caught in that hearing, proven she'd lied to the families about the fact that Benghazi was about a -- it was a terrorist attack and not an internet video. And the media said she had a great week. [Fox News, The Kelly File, 10/29/15]

Rubio's Claim That Clinton Intentionally Misled The Public About The Cause Of The Benghazi Attacks Has Been Repeatedly Dismantled

Los Angeles Times: False Claim About Clinton Ignores Initial Intelligence Findings Suggesting The Attacks Were “Spontaneously Inspired By Protests” In Cairo And Perpetrated In Part By “Islamic Extremists With Ties To Al Qaeda.” In an October 23 op-ed, LA Times senior editorial writer Michael McGough explained that, even three days after the attack, “the idea that at least some of the attackers in Benghazi were inspired by protests over the video was still current in intelligence circles.” For example, the first draft of the CIA's talking points from September 14, 2012, explained that “Islamic extremists with ties to Al Qaeda participated in the attack,” but also that they believed “based on currently available information that the attacks in Benghazi were spontaneously inspired by the protests at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo,” in response to the anti-Muslim film. McGough explained that Jordan's alleged “smoking gun” ignores the possibility that “the attacks could be both an example of terrorism and influenced by outrage over the video -- a seemingly simple concept Republicans still can't wrap their heads around” :

And yet, as Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) pointed out in questioning Clinton, on the night of Sept. 11 she had issued this statement: “Some have sought to justify the vicious behavior as a response to inflammatory material posted on the Internet.”

That proved, Jordan said, that Clinton was telling the American people one thing but her family “an entirely different story.”

A smoking gun? Not quite.

[...]

The idea that at least some of the attackers in Benghazi were inspired by protests over the video was still current in intelligence circles three days after the attacks. The first draft of “talking points” prepared by the CIA, dated Sept. 14, said: “We believe based on currently available information that the attacks in Benghazi were spontaneously inspired by the protests at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo and evolved into a direct assault against the U.S. Consulate and subsequently its annex.”

But those talking points also said this: “We do know that Islamic extremists with ties to Al Qaeda participated in the attack.” (That statement later morphed into a reference to generic “extremists.” )

In other words, the attacks could be both an example of terrorism and influenced by outrage over the video -- a seemingly simple concept Republicans still can't wrap their heads around.

To this day, some people believe that outrage over the video was a factor in at least some of the violence in Benghazi. In a major investigative report published in December 2013, the New York Times reported that “contrary to claims by some members of Congress, [the attack] was fueled in large part by anger at an American-made video denigrating Islam.” [Los Angeles Times, 10/23/15]

CBS' John Dickerson Explained How Evolving Intelligence Led Clinton To “Change Her Position” On The Attackers' Motives. On the October 25 edition of Face the Nation, host John Dickerson said that the CIA's initial reports on the attack stated “at first, Ansar al-Sharia claimed credit for it, and then they withdrew it.” Noting that Clinton explained this change during her testimony, Dickerson went on to explain that these developments “led to this confusion. So at first she believed those reports, then they were withdrawn and that's what made her change her position” :

JOHN DICKERSON (HOST): I want to ask you about the hearings last week, the Benghazi hearings in which Secretary of State Hillary Clinton testified. How do you think those played out now that they're done?

REP. DEVIN NUNES (R-CA): Well, I think it's important for all of us to remember that Hillary Clinton is one of dozens and dozens of witnesses who needed to be interviewed. Hillary Clinton also is the one who decided she wanted to have the public display. The other people who have come in have done it privately. They did not want an open hearing. So, clearly, she had it in her mind to make this a political grandstanding occasion, which she did very well. She's a very good politician. But at the end of the day, it was the first time that I had learned that there were emails that existed or transcripts or recordings about -- that she knew immediately that this was an Al Qaeda attack. Now remember, us on the Intelligence Committee, we knew the next morning, not necessarily that it was Al Qaeda, but we knew it was a terrorist -- a preplanned attack. And so it ends up that she knew that. So the question now that I would be asking, if I'm on the Benghazi committee, is, we have an emergency response team at the State Department that was not deployed. And yet she knew it was terrorist attack hours after the attack, and I think that is a real problem as to why the people sat at the State Department and never left.

DICKERSON: Her testimony and then also the CIA best information to the rest of the administration was, at first, Ansar al-Sharia claimed credit for it, and then they withdrew it. And that that's what led to this confusion. So at first she believed those reports, then they were withdrawn, and that's what made her change her position. [CBS, Face the Nation, 10/25/15]

Slate Called Out The Recycled “Old Myths” That Even “Other Republicans Had Acknowledged” Were False. Slate contributor William Saletan described how the claim is based on “old myths” that Clinton intentionally misled the public about the anti-Muslim video despite the fact that “in previous hearings, other Republicans had acknowledged Clinton was innocent of that charge” :

Since the emails showed nothing new, Republicans went back to old myths. Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio accused Clinton of blaming the Benghazi attack on an anti-Muslim video. Apparently, he was unaware--or didn't care--that in previous hearings, other Republicans had acknowledged Clinton was innocent of that charge. Jordan insisted that Clinton's statement on the night of the attack-- “Some have sought to justify this vicious behavior as a response to inflammatory material posted on the Internet” --amounted to an attribution of motive. He ignored Clinton's explanation that her statement--which continued, “There is never any justification for violent acts of this kind” --was a warning to rationalizers and would-be copycats. He accused Clinton of lying about the attack in public while privately telling the truth to her own family.

In the end, having failed to elicit anything damning, the Republicans switched from asking questions to reading indictments. Jordan accused Clinton of blaming the attack on the video, not terrorism, because it was “56 days before an election.” [Slate, 10/23/15]

Rolling Stone: Such Allegations Assume Intelligence Was “Not Only Instantly Available But Unambiguous” In The Immediate Aftermath Of The Attack. Rolling Stone contributor Jeb Lund explained in an October 23 piece that the allegation - which originated with Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) in Clinton's October 22 appearance in front of the House Special Committee on Benghazi -- “relied on the notion that full intelligence of the Benghazi attack was not only instantly available but unambiguous, and that any inconsistencies in statements from intelligence offices, the State Department, the president and Susan Rice depended on Hillary's intervening to misrepresent the record.” From Lund's Rolling Stone piece:

First, [Jordan's allegation] relied on the notion that full intelligence of the Benghazi attack was not only instantly available but unambiguous, and that any inconsistencies in statements from intelligence offices, the State Department, the president and Susan Rice depended on Hillary's intervening to misrepresent the record. This line of thinking relies not only on Hillary's omnipotence within the American government but also requires her omniscience about Benghazi itself, by ignoring that one group falsely claimed credit for the Benghazi attack, and that there were simultaneous embassy protests around the world in response to the Innocence of Muslims video. Second, it relies on a false dichotomy between the planned actions of an Al-Qaeda-like group and spontaneous protest violence. By insisting that only one can be true, and that the State Department could only believe one interpretation, irrespective of changing events -- instead of both interpretations driving disparate elements outside Benghazi compound -- they automatically disingenuously classified half of any statements Clinton made on the issue as deliberate misrepresentation. That's not how knowledge works: You're supposed to adapt your theories when you get new data, and that change is value neutral. But under the Republican committee members' theory of knowledge, everyone who believed the sun revolved around the Earth before Copernicus wasn't unaware of astronomy -- they were just lying. [Rolling Stone, 10/23/15]

Clinton Has Repeatedly Said That Early, Incomplete Intelligence Led Her To Go “Back And Forth On What Likely Happened, [And] Who Did It”

Clinton: “This Was The Fog Of War” And The Administration Relayed The Conclusion Of The Intelligence Community At The Time. During a June 17, 2014, interview on Fox News' Special Report with Bret Baier, Clinton told host Bret Baier that “this was the fog of war” and explained that the Obama administration told the public what it knew based on what the intelligence community thought at the time:

HILLARY CLINTON: This was the fog of war. You know, my own assessment careened from, the video had nothing to do with it -- it may have affected some people, it didn't affect other people. And I think the conclusion to draw, because we were not just monitoring what was happening in Benghazi once it began to unfold, but remember we had a very dangerous assault on our embassy in Cairo that same day, which was clearly linked to that video. So I was trying to make sense of it. And I think that the investigations that have been carried out basically conclude, we can't say that everybody was influenced and we can't say that everybody wasn't. But what the intelligence community said was spontaneous protest, and that is what, at the time, they thought. [Fox News, Special Report with Bret Baier, 6/18/14]

In Her Recent Book, Clinton Explained That Her Views On The Attackers' Motivations Changed Several Times Throughout The Week. Clinton explained in her memoir, Hard Choices, that she “went back on forth on what likely happened, who did it, and what mix of factors -- like the video -- played a part.” Describing the administration's initial search for answers amid incomplete information, Clinton wrote that “in the days that followed administration officials continued to tell the American people that we had incomplete information and were still looking for answers” :

In her book, Secretary Clinton explained that she personally changed views several times that week about the possible motivations of the attackers, whether there was a protest, and whether the attacks were preplanned:

What about the attack in Benghazi? In the heat of the crisis we had no way of knowing for sure what combination of factors motivated the assault or whether and how long it had been planned. I was clear about this in my remarks the next morning, and in the days that followed administration officials continued to tell the American people that we had incomplete information and were still looking for answers. There were many theories-- but still little evidence. I myself went back and forth on what likely happened, who did it, and what mix of factors--like the video--played a part. But it was unquestionably inciting the region and triggering protests all over, so it would have been strange not to consider, as days of protests unfolded, that it might have had the same effect here, too. That's just common sense. Later investigation and reporting confirmed that the video was indeed a factor. All we knew at that time with complete certainty was that Americans had been killed and others were still in danger. [Democratic Staff Report, October 2015]