Reports Undermine Fox's New Clinton Smear Over Benghazi

Fox News' latest attempt to use the September attack on a U.S. diplomatic facility in Benghazi, Libya to blame Hillary Clinton for the deaths of U.S. personnel has been undermined by several news outlets.

Fox has claimed that a new Republican report on the Benghazi attack proves that Clinton falsely claimed she was unaware of requests for additional security at the Benghazi compound because she personally read and signed off on a cable responding to one such missive. Reporting from The Washington Post, the Associated Press, and Foreign Policy, however, demonstrates that all such messages from the State Department to diplomatic facilities abroad are sent out over the secretary's signature.

On April 23, Republican congressional committee chairmen released a report on the September 11, 2012, attacks on a U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi that resulted in the deaths of U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three others. The report claimed that an “April 2012 cable from Secretary Clinton” was a “critical cable” that responded to the U.S. ambassador's request for additional security resources by calling for reductions in security. The GOP's evidence that this cable came personally from Clinton is that it bore her signature [emphasis in original]:

State Department officials in Washington acknowledged that the Benghazi Mission lacked sufficient resources to protect its personnel in a deteriorating security environment. However, in a cable signed by Secretary Clinton in April 2012, the State Department settled on a plan to scale back security assets for the U.S. Mission in Libya, including Benghazi. Specifically, despite acknowledging Ambassador Cretz's March 2012 cable requesting additional security assets, the April plan called for the removal of the two remaining MSD teams, the third initially deployed MSD team having been previously removed.

Fox News, which has spent months pushing falsehoods and conspiracies in an attempt to politically damage the Obama administration, subsequently seized on the report to claim that it undermines then-Secretary Clinton's January 23 testimony that the cables requesting additional security did not reach her desk and were handled by subordinates.

But several news outlets have reported that it is routine for outgoing messages from the State Department to be sent under the secretary's name without the secretary's direct involvement. An Associated Press article on the House Republican report stated that “every cable from Washington to the department's field offices is sent over the secretary of state's name.” Foreign Policy concurred, reporting:

It's not clear who in the State Department sent the April 19 response. But as a general rule, “every single cable sent from Washington to the field is sent over the secretary of state's name,” a former State Department official noted, adding, “Though they are trying to make this new, it's not. After 30+ hearings and briefings, thousands of pages, this has all been addressed.”

And The Washington Post similarly reported: “Many State Department cables routinely go out with the secretary of state's name, and it was not immediately clear whether this one was personally written by Clinton.”

But Fox News has repeatedly treated the House report's claims credulously. In an April 23 segment on Fox News' Special Report, national security correspondent Jennifer Griffin quoted the section of the report that claims then-Secretary Clinton personally approved of security reductions, and that the action contradicts her prior testimony. On April 24, Fox & Friends co-host Brian Kilmeade claimed during an interview of Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) that the GOP report “sharply contradicts [Clinton's] sworn testimony.”

A Fox Nation post also hyped the GOP report, linking to a blog post from The Hill that includes the GOP claim against Clinton. The Fox Nation headline calls the report a “Bengazhi Bombshell” that dropped on Clinton: