Conservative media are lashing out at individuals who have worked with and support Hillary Clinton to attack her by proxy and rehash tired Benghazi smears.
Fox News has repeatedly -- and falsely -- suggested that the Obama administration's response to the September 2012 terrorist attacks in Benghazi, Libya was somehow politically calibrated. According to a Media Matters analysis, in the 20 months following the attacks Fox's evening programming aired 230 total segments suggesting the response to the attacks was motivated by President Obama's re-election campaign, while 105 segments linked Benghazi to Clinton's potential presidential campaign.
As part of their politicized Benghazi campaign, conservative media have repeatedly attacked Clinton's colleagues and friends in the hopes of weakening a potential Clinton presidential run.
Cheryl Mills, Clinton's chief of staff at the State Department, has long been subject to attacks. Back in June 2013, a Daily Caller op-ed by conservative activist Tom Fitton dubbed her the “Clinton cover-up expert,” and accused her of attempting to “silence” a Benghazi whistleblower. (Multiple investigations have found no evidence of a Benghazi “cover-up,” and the so-called whistleblower himself admitted that all Mills had done was speak to him in an “unhappy” tone.)
But now Mills, and her colleague former deputy chief of staff Jake Sullivan, have come under a fresh round of attacks. Earlier this month, Fox and discredited journalist Sharyl Attkisson hyped claims from a disgruntled former State Department employee who speculated that Mills and Sullivan were involved in the removal of damaging documents from a Benghazi investigation. The employee had no evidence -- he just “couldn't help but wonder” if wrongdoing had occurred. Fox blew up his unsupported allegations to claim that “Clinton allies removed politically damaging docs,” while The New York Post labeled Mills and Sullivan “Clinton's minions” and claimed the documents were “scrubbed to protect Hillary.”
Attkisson's claims were repeated across conservative media, including at Breitbart, HotAir, and Townhall. At the same time, the Media Research Center complained that more of the mainstream media didn't cover the story (despite the lack of evidence).
Earlier this summer, conspiracy theorist Aaron Klein's anti-Clinton book The REAL Benghazi Story attempted to smear another Clinton ally: former CIA deputy director Michael Morell. Klein suggested that Morell was “given” his new job at the consulting firm Beacon Global Strategies (co-founded by Philippe Reines, a Clinton adviser), “in exchange for his silence in the talking points scandal.” Of course, there was no talking points “scandal”: multiple investigations have found the talking points that then-U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice was given ahead of media appearances following the Benghazi attacks were edited to preserve an ongoing criminal investigation, not for any nefarious political reasons. Morell, as a CIA official, helped sign off on the final draft, as did the intelligence community.
Other figures at Beacon Global, including Reines, Andrew Shapiro, Admiral James Stavridis, and J. Michael Allen have also come under attack from the right-wing press. The Blaze recently labeled the group “Benghazi Alumni,” and accused them of previously participating in “harassment, demotions and politicized cover-ups.” The Blaze piece, and a recent opinion piece in The Buffalo News by columnist Douglas Turner, both accused Beacon figures of hiding evidence about the so-called “stand down” order.
This claim is an old Benghazi falsehood; every single investigation, including the GOP-led House Intelligence Committee, have confirmed that there was no “stand down” order given to military or CIA personnel the night of the attacks. Military personnel along the chain of command have also said that any no such order was given.
Right-wing media's obsession with trying to tie Benghazi to a potential Clinton 2016 presidential run is habitually focused on throwing mud against the wall in the hopes that something sticks, but the facts won't allow it.