Fox News baselessly claimed that newly-released photographs of the aftermath of the Benghazi attacks reveal a “level of devastation” which contradicts the Obama administration's “original story of what happened” -- without explaining how the photos provided new insight or how they contradicted the administration's position on the destruction of the attacks.
On the November 20 edition of Fox & Friends First, co-host Ainsley Earhardt highlighted photos of the U.S. compound in Benghazi, Libya, following the September 11, 2012 attacks which were recently obtained by the conservative group Judicial Watch. The photos depict a car on fire, burnt furniture, and graffiti on the walls of the compound, and Earhardt claimed they revealed “a new level of devastation, contradicting the Obama administration's original story of what happened”:
EARHARDT: New images of the aftermath of last year's September 11th terrorist attacks on U.S. compounds in Benghazi, Libya. The new pictures show a new level of devastation, contradicting the Obama administration's original story of what happened. The State Department gave 30 pages of records and 14 pictures to the conservative group Judicial Watch. That group is suing after requesting public materials through the Freedom of Information Act and not receiving them.
Earhardt did not explain how the photos contradicted anything the Obama administration had previously said about the attack, nor did she provide any evidence that administration officials previously downplayed or diminished the damage in Benghazi.
Her attack on the administration did, however, mirror comments made by Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton, who claimed the “photos reveal a level of total devastation thoroughly belying Obama's original cover story that the carnage was perpetrated by a bunch of random malcontents upset over an unpleasant video.”
But as Media Matters has repeatedly documented, there was no cover story -- Then-U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice made clear during her initial comments on the attack that they were based on the administration's “current best assessment” of the situation, which was that the attacks were not premeditated. She acknowledged that the perpetrators were “extremists” and said that future investigations and analyses by intelligence services “will tell us with certainty what transpired.” It would later be revealed that her suggestion that the attack was linked to an anti-Islam video that had embroiled the Middle East came from talking points generated by the CIA.
Furthermore, the photos released by Judicial Watch and billed as groundbreaking are actually similar to pictures which have been available online since the day after the attacks. On September 12, 2012, Buzzfeed posted photos showing the destruction at the compound, including a burnt car, graffiti, and broken windows. The next day, Daily Mail Online posted more photos of the burnt interiors of the compound.
For more on conservative media myths about the September 2012 attacks, read The Benghazi Hoax, the new e-book by Media Matters' David Brock and Ari Rabin-Havt.