How Fox News Turned Benghazi Into A “Phony Scandal”

Fox News attacked President Obama's July 25 suggestion that “phony scandals” are a distraction in Washington, claiming that he was referencing attacks on U.S. diplomatic facilities in Benghazi, Libya and calling the deaths of four Americans in Benghazi “phony.” Yet Obama made no mention of Benghazi, and it's Fox who has pushed dozens of phony Benghazi conspiracy theories since the attacks took place in September 2012.

Obama Says Washington Is Distracted By “Phony Scandals”

Obama: “Endless Parade Of Distractions And Political Posturing And Phony Scandals” Are Taking Washington's Focus Off The Economy. In a July 24 speech on the economy, President Obama remarked that politically motivated scandal hunting has resulted in Washington taking “its eye off the ball” and not focusing on economic growth. Nowhere in his speech did Obama mention the September 2012 attacks in Benghazi, Libya:

THE PRESIDENT:  And if you ask some of these folks, some of these folks mostly in the House, about their economic agenda how it is that they'll strengthen the middle class, they'll shift the topic to “out-of-control government spending” -- despite the fact that we've cut the deficit by nearly half as a share of the economy since I took office.  (Applause.)

Or they'll talk about government assistance for the poor, despite the fact that they've already cut early education for vulnerable kids.  They've already cut insurance for people who've lost their jobs through no fault of their own.  Or they'll bring up Obamacare -- this is tried and true -- despite the fact that our businesses have created nearly twice as many jobs in this recovery as businesses had at the same point in the last recovery when there was no Obamacare.  (Applause.)


But with this endless parade of distractions and political posturing and phony scandals, Washington has taken its eye off the ball.  And I am here to say this needs to stop.  (Applause.) This needs to stop. [The White House, Office of the Press Secretary, 7/24/13]

Fox Hosts Wonder How Benghazi Could Be A “Phony Scandal,” Pretend Obama Called American Deaths “Phony”

Fox Host Camerota: “Does [Obama] Think That Benghazi Is Phony?” On July 26, Fox & Friends guest co-host Alisyn Camerota, responding to a clip of Obama discussing Washington's fixation on “phony scandals,” asked, “Does he think that Benghazi is phony, where four Americans were killed?” She went on:

CAMEROTA: [Y]ou can't lump Benghazi into a phony scandal category. That feels cold-blooded. But again the president didn't connect those, he just said phony scandals without clarifying. I couldn't believe that he was actually talking about Benghazi in there -- 

STEVE DOOCY (co-host): Oh yeah. 

CAMEROTA: But at the transcript he's working off of Obamacare. So last night he was talking about the Affordable Care Act. How -- how could anybody against it? They keep ginning up these phony scandals. So that's what he was talking about yesterday. But on Wednesday, he made this more umbrella-arching statement --

DOOCY: Yeah, absolutely.

CAMEROTA: -- about phony scandals and it seems like all of those are lumped in together. [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 7/26/13]

Fox Host Johnson: Obama Called Deaths Of Americans In Benghazi “Phony.” In the same segment, Fox News analyst and guest co-host Peter Johnson, Jr. echoed Camerota's assertion, saying: “To say that the death in Benghazi” is phony is “actually incredible.” Later, after the program aired video of Glen Doherty, one of the Americans killed in Benghazi, Johnson said, “He doesn't seem phony. He seems like he was alive at one time.” [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 7/26/13]

Fox Graphic: “Can 4 Dead Americans Be 'Phony Scandal?' ” A graphic aired on Fox & Friends on July 29 showed pictures of Ambassador Stevens and the other Americans killed in the Benghazi attacks and asked, “Can 4 dead Americans be 'phony scandal?' ”:

[Fox News, Fox & Friends, 7/29/13]

Obama Took “Tragic” American Deaths In Benghazi Seriously, Condemning The “Acts Of Terror”

President Obama Acknowledged “Tragic” Deaths Of Ambassador Stevens And Others Killed In Benghazi. The day following the September 11, 2012, attacks in Benghazi, President Obama spoke about the four Americans who were killed in the attacks:

THE PRESIDENT: Good morning.  Every day, all across the world, American diplomats and civilians work tirelessly to advance the interests and values of our nation.  Often, they are away from their families.  Sometimes, they brave great danger.

Yesterday, four of these extraordinary Americans were killed in an attack on our diplomatic post in Benghazi.  Among those killed was our Ambassador, Chris Stevens, as well as Foreign Service Officer Sean Smith.  We are still notifying the families of the others who were killed.  And today, the American people stand united in holding the families of the four Americans in our thoughts and in our prayers.

The United States condemns in the strongest terms this outrageous and shocking attack.  We're working with the government of Libya to secure our diplomats.  I've also directed my administration to increase our security at diplomatic posts around the world.  And make no mistake, we will work with the Libyan government to bring to justice the killers who attacked our people. 


It's especially tragic that Chris Stevens died in Benghazi because it is a city that he helped to save.  At the height of the Libyan revolution, Chris led our diplomatic post in Benghazi.  With characteristic skill, courage, and resolve, he built partnerships with Libyan revolutionaries, and helped them as they planned to build a new Libya.  When the Qaddafi regime came to an end, Chris was there to serve as our ambassador to the new Libya, and he worked tirelessly to support this young democracy, and I think both Secretary Clinton and I relied deeply on his knowledge of the situation on the ground there.  He was a role model to all who worked with him and to the young diplomats who aspire to walk in his footsteps. 

Along with his colleagues, Chris died in a country that is still striving to emerge from the recent experience of war. Today, the loss of these four Americans is fresh, but our memories of them linger on.  I have no doubt that their legacy will live on through the work that they did far from our shores and in the hearts of those who love them back home. [The White House, Office of the Press Secretary, 9/12/12]

President Obama Ordered Flags At Half-Staff In Memory Of Those Killed In Benghazi. From a September 12, 2012, presidential proclamation:

THE PRESIDENT: As a mark of respect for the memory of John Christopher Stevens, United States Ambassador to Libya, and American personnel killed in the senseless attack on our diplomatic facility in Benghazi, by the authority vested in me as President of the United States by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, I hereby order that the flag of the United States shall be flown at half-staff at the White House and upon all public buildings and grounds, at all military posts and naval stations, and on all naval vessels of the Federal Government in the District of Columbia and throughout the United States and its Territories and possessions until sunset, September 16, 2012. I also direct that the flag shall be flown at half-staff for the same length of time at all United States embassies, legations, consular offices, and other facilities abroad, including all military facilities and naval vessels and stations. [The White House, Office of the Press Secretary, 9/12/12]

Fox News Has Pushed Phony Claims About Benghazi Hundreds Of Times

Fox Pushed Myth That Forces In Libya Were Given A “Stand Down” Order At Least 85 Times. Fox News claimed at least 85 times that troops in Tripoli, Libya were ordered to “stand down” and not assist during the Benghazi attacks. In fact, testimony from the commander of the special forces supposedly ordered to “stand down” revealed that no such order was ever given. [Media Matters, 6/27/13]

Fox Accused Obama Of Abandoning Americans To Die In Benghazi. Several Fox hosts and contributors claimed that President Obama did not order aid to Libya during the attack and that no assistance from outside Benghazi was sent. In fact, former Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta testified in a congressional hearing that during his meeting with the president, Obama ordered him to do whatever was necessary to aid those under attack, but none of the forces stationed outside Libya were close enough to arrive until the attacks were over. A response force was sent from the U.S. Embassy in Tripoli to Benghazi. [Media Matters, 10/26/13; 11/4/12; 7/26/13

Fox Engaged In Transcript Trutherism Over 'Acts Of Terror' Remark For More Than Four Hours In 55 Segments Over Just Two Days. After Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney falsely claimed that President Obama waited two weeks to call the Benghazi attacks terrorism during a presidential debate, Fox News devoted more than four hours of airtime and 55 programming segments over the next two days trying to prove Romney's claim. But the fact is, President Obama condemned the attacks as “acts of terror” the day following the attacks and used similar phrases twice a day later. [Media Matters, 10/22/12 

Fox Baselessly Claimed That Obama Was Absent During Attack. Fox pushed the myth that Obama's whereabouts on the evening of the Benghazi attack were unknown and speculated that he covered up his lack of involvement during the attack. Former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Martin Dempsey, both testified before Congress that the president was fully engaged throughout the attack. [Media Matters, 6/28/13]

Fox Pushed Myth That White House Edited Benghazi Talking Points For Political Purposes. Fox spent months claiming that the White House forced the CIA to remove information from unclassified talking points used by former UN Ambassador Susan Rice in television appearances on the Sunday after the Benghazi attacks. Former CIA Director Gen. David Petraeus testified that the intelligence community signed off on the final draft of the talking points and that references to terrorist groups in Libya were removed in order to protect an ongoing investigation and avoid tipping them off. [Media Matters, 5/8/13; 5/15/13]

Fox Alleged Obama Administration Dishonestly Blamed Violence On Anti-Muslim Film. Fox framed initial reports that an anti-Muslim video may have inspired the Benghazi attack as a cover-up, though members of Ansar al-Shariah told bystanders they attacked the Benghazi compound “because they were angry about the video,” according to The New York Times. The original draft of the unclassified CIA talking points said that “based on currently available information,” the attacks were “spontaneously inspired by the protests at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo” which were sparked by the video. [Media Matters, 7/1/13; 5/8/13]

Fox News Accused Hillary Clinton Of Faking Illness To Avoid Testifying About Benghazi. Fox baselessly accused then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton of faking an illness after she suffered a concussion in order to avoid testifying before Congress about the Benghazi attacks. But ABC News reported that she was hospitalized due to a potentially life-threatening blood clot. [Media Matters, 12/18/13; 1/2/13]

Fox Pushed Republican Allegation That Clinton Personally Signed Cable Reducing Diplomatic Security In Libya. Fox promoted House Republicans' claims that Clinton personally signed a cable that scaled back security at the Benghazi compound prior to the attacks. But other news outlets explained that every single one of the millions of cables sent from the State Department automatically bear the Secretary of State's name. [Media Matters, 4/24/13]

Fox Reported Myth That Administration Officials Watched Real-Time Footage Of Benghazi Assault. Fox's Sean Hannity led the charge in claiming that State Department officials watched “real-time” video of the Benghazi attacks from an office in Washington, DC, and thus knew more about the attack than they initially acknowledged, promoting it on a near-daily basis in beginning in October 2012. But as Washington Post media blogger Erik Wemple noted, the compound had a closed-circuit television system and officials did not have remote access to the footage and instead received telephone updates. In January, Hillary Clinton reaffirmed administration officials' statements that no remote real-time footage was available when she testified before the House Committee on Foreign Affairs: “There was no monitor; there was no real time.” [The Washington Post, Erik Wemple, 11/9/12; Media Matters, 1/24/13

Fox Distorted Obama Comments To Claim He Called American Deaths In Libya “Bumps In The Road.” Fox distorted President Obama's comments in a 60 Minutes interview to claim he called the deaths of Americans in Benghazi just “bumps in the road.” In fact, Obama was talking about transitions for newly elected governments, not deaths from the attacks. [Media Matters, 9/26/12]