Fox & Friends aired a flawed poll question which falsely asserted that President Obama abandoned Americans under attack in Benghazi, Libya, in reaction to General Martin Dempsey reaffirming that no “stand down” order was issued to forces during the attacks. The false allegation that troops were told to stand down has been repeatedly pushed by Fox News.
On June 13, Fox & Friends aired a graphic showing results to a Fox News poll question that asked why “President Obama did not order US troops to help Americans in Benghazi.” The show aired the results to the poll question after playing part of Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Dempsey's congressional testimony in which he said no “stand down” order was given:
Contrary to what Fox polled, then-Defense Secretary Leon Panetta explained in a February 7 Senate hearing that President Obama ordered him to “do whatever you need to do in be able to protect our people there” on the night of the Benghazi attacks. Following that conversation, and before the attacks were over, Panetta ordered two anti-terrorism security teams stationed in Spain to deploy to Libya and another special operations team to deploy to the region. Unfortunately, the forces arrived after the attacks were over.
In May, several Fox News hosts pushed the similar claim that there had been a “stand down” order given to a small team of special forces troops stationed at the Tripoli embassy the night of the attacks. Special Report anchor Bret Baier cited Gregory Hicks, then-Deputy Chief of Mission, when he said that “special forces in Tripoli were told to stand down and not get on a C-130 that was going to go from Tripoli to Benghazi.” Sean Hannity suggested that it was President Obama who “made a decision and told” troops in Tripoli “to stand down while Americans were under fire and getting killed in Benghazi.” On May 9, Fox & Friends co-host Steve Doocy made a similar accusation.
But Gen. Dempsey, responding to a question from Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) during his June 12 congressional testimony, explained that the forces present in Tripoli were not told to “stand down,” which he said would mean being told not to do anything -- they were told to help with casualties coming from the Benghazi attacks:
GEN. DEMPSEY: [T]here were two different groups- - there were six people not all working for the same command. Two of them were working with Joint Special Operations Command, they were co-located with another agency of government in Tripoli. And four were working under the direct line of authority of Special Operations Command Europe, or Africa, AFRICOM -- AFSOC. And it was the four you're speaking about, the other two went, the other four -- by the time they'd contacted their command center in Stuttgart, they were told that the individuals in Benghazi were on their way back and that they would be better used at the Tripoli Airport -- because one of them was a medic -- that they would be better used to receive the casualties coming back from Benghazi and that if they had gone, they would have simply passed each other in the air, and that's the answer I received.
SEN. AYOTTE: Ok, so --
GEN. DEMPSEY: They weren't told to stand down. A stand down means don't do anything. They were told to -- that the mission they were asked to perform was not in Benghazi but was at Tripoli Airport.