Fox News' Fox & Friends seized on the latest testimonies of Hillary Clinton aides before the House Select Committee on Benghazi to push the long debunked myths that Obama administration officials altered talking points on the attack to cover up or alter the facts for political purposes, and falsely blamed an inflammatory anti-Islam video for inciting the attack. In reality, a bipartisan Senate review of the attack determined there was no effort by the Obama administration to alter their talking points for political purposes, and U.S. intelligence, suspected attackers, and witnesses have repeatedly linked the inflammatory video to the attack.
Top Hillary Clinton Aides Testify Before House Benghazi Committee
Top Clinton Aides Testify Before House Committee Investigating Benghazi. Cheryl Mills, Hillary Clinton's former chief of staff at the State Department and Jake Sullivan, Clinton's “top policy adviser” who “also staffed Clinton at the State Department” testified before the House Select Committee on Benghazi September 3 and 4. According to CNN's account:
Cheryl Mills, who oversaw the release of Clinton's emails to the State Department, told the House Select Committee on Benghazi that no federal records related to the September 2012 terror attack on the U.S. mission were withheld or destroyed, the sources said.
Clinton's top policy adviser, Jake Sullivan, who also staffed Clinton at the State Department, will also testify Friday before the House committee investigating the Benghazi attack. [CNN, 9/3/14]
Fox & Friends Seized On Latest Testimony To Push Debunked Benghazi Myths
MYTH: “Top Officials Scrubbed” Talking Points Following The Benghazi Attack
Fox's James Rosen: Benghazi Talking Points Were “Scrubbed [Of] All Reference[s] To The Terror Group That Carried Out The Attacks.” Fox reporter James Rosen claimed that “top officials scrubbed all reference to the terror group that carried out” the Benghazi attack in their talking points for the Sunday morning talk shows following the attack:
ROSEN: Today's witness before the House Benghazi Committee will be Jake Sullivan, a top adviser to Hillary Clinton at the State Department and now to her presidential campaign. The Yale-educated lawyer also served as national security adviser to Vice President Biden. At the time of the Benghazi attacks, Sullivan played a key role in the drafting of the infamous “talking points.” That was a document prepared for public consumption from which top officials scrubbed all reference to the terror group that carried out the attacks, at a time when the Obama administration was maintaining that the assault had not been a premeditated attack at all, but simply a spontaneous mob action. [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 9/4/15]
FACT: There Were No Efforts To Alter Talking Points For Political Purposes
Senate Select Committee On Intelligence: “There Were No Efforts By The White House Or Any Other Executive Branch Entities To 'Cover-Up' Facts Or Make Alterations For Political Purposes.” The Senate Committee on Intelligence's review of the Benghazi attack determined there was no effort by the administration to cover-up or alter the facts for political purposes:
The Majority concludes that the interagency coordination process on the talking points followed normal, but rushed coordination procedures and that there were no efforts by the White House or any other Executive Branch entities to “cover-up” facts or make alterations for political purposes. Indeed, former CIA Director David Petraeus testified to the Committee on November 16, 2012, “They went through the normal process that talking points-unclassified public talking points-go through.” In fact, the purpose of the National Security Council (NSC) is to coordinate the many national security agencies of the government, especially when information about a terrorist attack is flowing in and being analyzed quickly -- and the NSC used this role appropriately in the case of the talking points coordination. Furthermore, such coordination processes were also standardized, often at the urging of Congress, following the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks with the explicit goal of reducing information “stovepipes” between and among agencies. [U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, Review Of The Terrorist Attacks On U.S. Facilities In Benghazi, Libya, September 11-12, 2012, 1/15/14]
Wash. Post: Administration's Benghazi Talking Points “Were Based On Talking Points Drawn Up By The Intelligence Community.” A November 22 Washington Post editorial explained that the Obama administration's Benghazi talking points presented on the Sunday shows “were based on talking points drawn up by the intelligence community”:
[A]s congressional testimony has established, Ms. Rice's comments on several Sunday television talk shows on Sept. 16 were based on talking points drawn up by the intelligence community. She was acting as an administration spokeswoman; there was nothing either incompetent or deliberately misleading about the way she presented the information she was given.
Nor was her account of what happened as far off the mark as Republicans claim. Though investigations are not complete, what has emerged so far suggests that the attack was staged by local jihadists, not ordered by the al-Qaeda leadership in Pakistan. Officials believe that it was inspired in part by demonstrations that took place that day in Cairo. That is not so far from Ms. Rice's explanation that “this began as a spontaneous . . . response to what transpired in Cairo.” [The Washington Post, 11/22/12]
MYTH: Obama Administration Falsely Blamed An Incendiary Anti-Islam Video For Benghazi Attack That Was Actually “A Non-Issue”
Fox News' James Rosen: Obama Administration “Spent Two Weeks Falsely Blaming...An Incendiary” Anti-Islam Video For Benghazi Attack. Rosen claimed that the Obama administration “spent two weeks falsely blaming ... an incendiary video about the prophet Mohammad” for the attacks in Benghazi, adding that U.S. officials said the video “had been a non-issue in Libya.” [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 9/4/15]
FACT: Intelligence, Suspected Attackers, And Witnesses Link The Inflammatory Anti-Islam Video To The Attacks
Senate Select Committee On Intelligence: Intel Reports Linked Inflammatory Video To Benghazi Attack. A Senate Select Committee on Intelligence review of the Benghazi attack found that “some intelligence suggests” an inflammatory video linked to violent protests around the region led terror groups to conduct “similar attacks with advanced warning”:
It remains unclear if any group or person exercised overall command and control of the attacks or whether extremist group leaders directed their members to participate. Some intelligence suggests the attacks were likely put together in short order, following that day's violent protests in Cairo against an inflammatory video, suggesting that these and other terrorist groups could conduct similar attacks with little advance warning. [Review Of The Terrorist Attacks On U.S. Facilities In Benghazi, Libya, September 11-12, 2012, U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, 1/15/14]
NY Times: Suspected Benghazi Ringleader Told Witnesses The Benghazi Attack Was In Response To Inflammatory Anti-Islam Video. According to The New York Times, Ahmed Abu Khattala, who was captured in June 2014 by U.S. military on an indictment for murder in connection with his role as suspected ringleader of the Benghazi attack, “told fellow Islamist fighters” on the night of the attack “and others that the assault was retaliation for the same insulting video” mocking Islam that inspired demonstrations in Cairo:
During the assault on the American diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya, on the night of Sept. 11, 2012, Mr. Abu Khattala was a vivid presence. Witnesses saw him directing the swarming attackers who ultimately killed Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three other Americans.
On the day of the attack, Islamists in Cairo had staged a demonstration outside the United States Embassy there to protest an American-made online video mocking Islam, and the protest culminated in a breach of the embassy's walls -- images that flashed through news coverage around the Arab world.
As the attack in Benghazi was unfolding a few hours later, Mr. Abu Khattala told fellow Islamist fighters and others that the assault was retaliation for the same insulting video, according to people who heard him.
In an interview a few days later, he pointedly declined to say whether an offensive online video might indeed warrant the destruction of the diplomatic mission or the killing of the ambassador. [The New York Times, 6/18/14]
NY Times: “The Attackers” In Benghazi “Did Tell Bystanders That They Were Attacking The Compound Because They Were Angry About The Video.” The New York Times reported that on the night of the Benghazi attack, attackers “did tell bystanders that they were attacking the compound because they were angry about the video”:
What do eyewitnesses say about the events in Benghazi? Were they related to the insulting video, or is that a red herring? And was the assault planned for the anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, or was it spontaneous?
According to reporting by David D. Kirkpatrick and Suliman Ali Zway of The New York Times, eyewitnesses have said there was no peaceful demonstration against the video outside the compound before the attack, though a crowd of Benghazi residents soon gathered, and some later looted the compound. But the attackers, recognized as members of a local militant group called Ansar al-Shariah, did tell bystanders that they were attacking the compound because they were angry about the video. They did not mention the Sept. 11anniversary. Intelligence officials believe that planning for the attack probably began only a few hours before it took place. [The New York Times, 10/17/12]