Benghazi: “Thank God For Fox”

Yesterday on Fox News, Senator John McCain (R-AZ) offered thanks to Fox News President Roger Ailes and his colleague Lindsay Graham (R-SC), giving them credit if heightened scrutiny of the terrorist attack in Benghazi results in "a full investigation."

Host Neil Cavuto agreed with the praise for his boss' handiwork, offering confirmation for McCain's suggestion by replying “yeah... head of this network for not letting go of this.”

Graham -- appearing on Greta Van Susteren's program a few hours later -- agreed with McCain's assessment, telling the On the Record host “thank God for Fox” while also praising CBS -- presumably for the reporting of Sharyl Attkisson.

The examples of McCain and Graham serve as a reminder that the network has been an active player in the politicization of the Benghazi story from the beginning. This is part of a distinctive pattern we've previously reported at Media Matters in past attempts to flame supposed Obama administration scandals, known as the Fox Cycle.

From day one, when the network distorted a timeline of the attack to attempt to justify a press statement by Mitt Romney's campaign that in conservative writer David Frum's words attempted “to score political points on the killing of American diplomats,” Fox viewed Benghazi as a way to score political points against the president.

It was Fox's Megyn Kelly who linked an Obama campaign poster to a blood-smeared wall left after the attack on the diplomatic facility.

Only two weeks after the attack, Sean Hannity claimed Obama was “covering up for Al Qaeda,” a charge repeated by Eric Bolling who went on to blame the president for the attack because he had "spik[ed] the football on killing Bin Laden."

In October, Fox had already turned its attention to Hillary Clinton when network analyst Ralph Peters told Bill O'Reilly: “The blood of the ambassador and the other three Americans is on Hillary Clinton's hands.”

Later in the month, the hosts of The Five criticized the president for preparing a response to the attacks because it “was too little far too late” and demonstrated “an inept foreign policy.”

A few days later, the hosts of Fox & Friends opined that the president might order military action against Libya to gain the upper hand in the presidential debates.

As Election Day approached, Roger Ailes' personal lawyer and Fox News contributor Peter Johnson, Jr. told the hosts of Fox & Friends that the administration may have “sacrificed Americans” for political purposes.

Fox did not let up after the election. Fox & Friends host Steve Doocy asked if General Petraeus was “being blackmailed by the White House to toe the company line.”

In December, after her testimony before Congress was postponed, it was Fox that accused Hillary Clinton of faking a concussion on multiple occasions.

The list goes on and on. (I haven't even touched on the network's campaign to compare Benghazi to Watergate.)

McCain and Graham should be thankful that Fox from the start has viewed the tragedy in Benghazi as a political weapon to use against the White House. No claim too paranoid, no attack too unseemly. They are right; without Roger Ailes' ability to generate a scandal, the media might be discussing how to ensure our diplomatic outposts are properly protected so a tragedy like what occurred on September 11, 2012, never happens again. Instead we are now in step four of the Fox Cycle -- mainstream media outlets eventually cover the story, echoing the right-wing distortions.

Step six -- the story is later proven to be false or wildly misleading, long after damage is done -- cannot come soon enough.