Ex-CBS reporter Sharyl Attkisson's latest round of Benghazi misinformation rapidly became the basis of a misleading Fox News report.
In an April 29 blog, Attkisson claimed that a newly released September 14, 2012 email from Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes to other key national security aides had finally revealed “direct White House involvement in steering the public narrative about the September 11, 2012 terrorist attacks in Benghazi, Libya, toward that of a spontaneous protest that never happened.” She highlighted the right's “persistent allegations that the Obama administration developed a false political narrative to downplay or hide the fact that terrorists had struck,” and argued that:
[T]aken as a whole, the documents and testimony revealed since the attacks support the idea that the administration's avoidance of the word “terrorism” was a strategy rather than an accident or mistake.
The following morning, Fox & Friends parroted her attack, hyping the emails as proof the White House covered up the truth about Benghazi. Co-host Steve Doocy pushed several claims from Attkisson's blog, including that the email had been retroactively “classified” in order to keep their information away from Congress. He later reminded viewers of Fox's previous efforts to hype mainstream media stonewalling on the story: “remember, [Attkisson] resigned because, among other things, she couldn't do what she wanted to do, like Benghazi” :
These allegations have been debunked again and again. The Rhodes email reveals nothing new, but was consistent with other intelligence briefings circulating at the time. A bipartisan Senate Select Committee on Intelligence report has already found 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.” Instead, it showed that former UN Ambassador Susan Rice's statements after the attacks reflected the best intelligence available at the time and revealed that it took days for eyewitness statements by U.S. personnel indicating that there had been no protests to make their way into CIA assessments -- information that was not reviewed or disseminated until after Rice's statements.
In the email preparing Rice for her September 15 appearances, Rhodes only briefly referenced Benghazi. He stated that “the currently available information suggests that the demonstrations in Benghazi were spontaneously inspired by the protests at the US Embassy in Cairo and evolved into a direct assault against the US Consulate and subsequently its annex” -- language that is identical to the initial draft of the separate set of CIA talking points that were crafted by CIA analysts earlier that day. The email's topline talking points, which both Fox and Attkisson highlighted for their failure to mention terrorism in connection to Benghazi, did not actually refer to Benghazi attack, but offered an accurate description of the anti-American protests occurring in the region at the time.
Despite Attkisson's efforts to portray herself as a victim of media censorship, this is only the latest example of how her Benghazi reporting ignores journalistic standards and denies facts. According to Politico, CBS News executives saw Attkisson as “wading dangerously close to advocacy on the issue,” but her arguments are clearly at home on Fox. As fringe media increasingly embrace Attkisson's shoddy reporting, it's possible that Attkisson may find her place pushing right-wing misinformation at Fox -- as Fox personalities have previously hinted she should.