Fox's Sunday morning political talk show cherry-picked information from recently-released House hearing transcripts and a Senate report on the September 11, 2012, attacks on U.S. diplomatic facilities in Benghazi, Libya, to falsely suggest that the Obama administration's explanation of events was deliberately intended to mislead the American people.
Fox Falsely Suggests Obama Refused To Call Attacks Terrorism “For Weeks”
Fox's Hume: Obama Was Told It Was A Terrorist Attack But “Waffled” “For Weeks.” Citing General Carter Ham, who was head of US Military Africa Command at the time of the Benghazi attacks and whose June testimony before the House Armed Services Committee was released this week, Fox News senior political analyst Brit Hume claimed on Fox News Sunday that President Obama became aware on the night of the attack that Benghazi was assaulted by terrorists, but “waffled” on saying so for “weeks on end”:
HUME: And you add to that what came out of the House side this week, the testimony of General Ham, who happened to be in town at the time when this attack happened on September 11, and he and the other senior people at the Pentagon including the Secretary were of the view this was a terrorist attack from the get-go, and they went -- and Panetta went to the White House and told the president that. So the president, who waffled about what this was for weeks on end, had been told by his senior military leaders right on the day it happened that it was a terrorist attack. [Fox Broadcasting Co., Fox News Sunday, 1/19/14]
Reality: Obama Repeatedly Called Benghazi An “Act Of Terror” In The Days Following The Attacks. Obama referred to the events as an “act of terror” in his September 12, 2012, Rose Garden speech discussing the attacks and in campaign speeches the following days. [Media Matters, 5/14/13]
Fox Leaves Out Report's Explanation For Why Administration Linked Attack To Protest
Fox's Wallace Claims New Revelation “Certainly Contradicts” Administration's Explanation. Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace claimed that the recently-released Senate Select Intelligence Committee report on the Benghazi attacks revealed that a week after the attack, the CIA and FBI reviewed video of the attacks and determined that it had not begun as a protest, as the administration claimed:
WALLACE: The report, Bob -- that report from Senate Intelligence -- makes it clear, one, Al Qaeda affiliates were involved and, two, it says that on September 18th, just one week after the attack, the CIA and FBI reviewed the videos of the attack, and it was clear that it was terror. It was clear this was not some protest -- as somebody said, a “really hostile movie review” of that anti-Islam video. That certainly contradicts what the president and his team were saying in the weeks after the attack.
Wallace later claimed that Ham's testimony that he immediately knew it was an attack contradicted then-U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice's suggestion during September 15, 2012, interviews that the attack grew out of a protest:
WALLACE: Let's get right to General Carter Ham. And to explain again who he is, he was the head of AFRICOM, or the U.S. Command in Africa at this time, which had military control over U.S. forces in that region. And he testified back this summer before Congress, and that testimony was released this week. He testified that within minutes of the attack, quote, “to me, it started to become clear pretty quickly that this was certainly a terrorist attack and not just something sporadic. ” Again, Kim, that is directly contradicting the narrative that came out of the White House in the days right after the attack, the narrative that I heard -- and she was sitting right where you are here -- from Susan Rice, then U.N. Ambassador, that Sunday after, September 16th. I mean, you've got the general in charge of AFRICOM saying it was terror. [Fox Broadcasting Co., Fox News Sunday, 1/19/14]
But Wallace Left Out Report's Explanation That The Intelligence Community Originally Brought Up Protest And Did Not Correct For Weeks. According to the report, the intelligence community (IC) received and disseminated an account in the immediate aftermath of the assault that there had been protests against an anti-Islam video at the diplomatic facility prior to the attack, based largely on press accounts that made that claim. Rice and other administration officials would use that information to formulate their statements about the attack. It took days for eyewitness statements by U.S. personnel indicating that there had been no protests to make their way into CIA assessments. As Wallace noted, closed circuit television feed from the facility showing that there had been no protest was not reviewed until September 18, 2012 -- two days after Rice's interviews -- and the FBI did not disseminate its interviews with eyewitnesses, who said there had been no protest, until two days later. Only on September 24, 2012, did the CIA finally update its assessment to indicate there had been no protest the night of the attack. From the report:
In the immediate aftermath of the attacks, the IC received numerous reports, both classified and unclassified, which provided contradictory accounts that there were demonstrations at the Temporary Mission Facility. In some cases, these intelligence reports -- which were disseminated widely in the Intelligence Community -- contained references to press reports on protests that were simply copied into intelligence products.
Moreover, it appears this reporting from those present during the attacks did not make its way into assessments at CIA Headquarters, as the Deputy Director of the Middle East and North Africa Analysis Office at CIA wrote an internal email, dated September 16, 2012, that mentioned “protestors that preceded the violence.” On September 18, 2012, the FBI and CIA reviewed the closed circuit television video from the Mission facility that showed there were no protests prior to the attacks. Although information gathered from interviews with U.S. personnel who were on the ground during the attacks was shared informally between the FBI and CIA, it was not until two days later, on September 20, 2012, that the FBI disseminated its intelligence reports detailing such interviews.
As a result of evidence from closed circuit videos and other reports, the IC changed its assessment about a protest in classified intelligence reports on September 24, 2012, to state there were no demonstrations or protests at the Temporary Mission Facility prior to the attacks. This slow change in the official assessment affected the public statements of government officials, who continued to state in press interviews that there were protests outside the Mission compound. [U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, “Review of the Terrorist Attacks on U.S. Facilities in Benghazi Libya, September 11-12, 2012,” 1/15/14]
Fox Baselessly Suggests White House Deliberately Put Out False Claims
WSJ's Kim Strassel Claimed Senate Report Suggests White House Put Out A False Story To Win The 2012 Election. Discussing the Senate report and the released House transcripts on Fox News Sunday, Wall Street Journal columnist Kim Strassel said:
STRASSEL: They talked about the fact that the CIA was paying attention to these things. They bolstered their own security at the annex down the road. The State Department completely dropped the ball here. But I think as a result, that news, that information, that settlement, also combined with the fact that General Ham's comments about them knowing immediately, it does put this all again in a different light and says, OK, did the White House understand just how bad this was? And did that in fact inspire them to come out with a story in an election year that simply was not the case of what had actually happened? [Fox Broadcasting Co., Fox News Sunday, 1/19/14]
Senate Select Committee On Intelligence: “There Were No Efforts By The White House Or Any Other Executive Branch Entities To 'Cover-Up' Facts Or Make Alterations For Political Purposes.” The Senate Committee on Intelligence review determined there was no effort by the administration to cover-up or alter the facts for political purposes:
The Majority concludes that the interagency coordination process on the talking points followed normal, but rushed coordination procedures and 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. Indeed, former CIA Director David Petraeus testified to the Committee on November 16, 2012, “They went through the normal process that talking points-unclassified public talking points-go through.” In fact, the purpose of the National Security Council (NSC) is to coordinate the many national security agencies of the government, especially when information about a terrorist attack is flowing in and being analyzed quickly -- and the NSC used this role appropriately in the case of the talking points coordination. Furthermore, such coordination processes were also standardized, often at the urging of Congress, following the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks with the explicit goal of reducing information “stovepipes” between and among agencies. [U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, “Review Of The Terrorist Attacks On U.S. Facilities In Benghazi, Libya, September 11-12, 2012,” 1/15/14]