Fox News Falsely Suggests CIA Never Linked Benghazi To Anti-Islam Video

Fox News is falsely suggesting a new Weekly Standard article proves the CIA didn't link the Benghazi attacks to an anti-Islam YouTube video. In fact, CIA talking points obtained by the conservative magazine actually demonstrate the intelligence community believed there was a link between the attacks and reactions to the video.

Conservative writer Stephen Hayes' piece for The Weekly Standard reported that an initial September 14 draft of talking points by the CIA's Office of Terrorism Analysis stated that members of an al Qaeda-linked terrorist group were involved in the Benghazi attacks, but that point was later removed by administration officials. Hayes provided images of various versions of the CIA's talking points, including a bullet in “Version 1” stating: “We believe based on currently available information that the attacks in Benghazi were spontaneously inspired by the protests at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo and evolved into a direct assault against the U.S. Consulate and subsequently its annex.”

In the final version of the document, that bullet read:

The currently available information suggests that the demonstrations in Benghazi were spontaneously inspired by the protests at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo and evolved into a direct assault against the U.S. diplomatic post and subsequently its annex. There are indications that extremists participated in the violent demonstrations.

In his piece, Hayes still criticized the Obama administration for mentioning the YouTube video since the word “video” did not appear in the talking points:

More troubling was the YouTube video. [Ambassador Susan] Rice would spend much time on the Sunday talk shows pointing to this video as the trigger of the chaos in Benghazi. “What sparked the violence was a very hateful video on the Internet. It was a reaction to a video that had nothing to do with the United States.” There is no mention of any “video” in any of the many drafts of the talking points.

However, as Media Matters noted, the CIA's reference to the Benghazi attack being “inspired by the protests at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo” proves that the intelligence community itself believed that a link existed between the attacks and the film. The “protests at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo” were part of a series of global riots and protests in Muslim countries that were partly in response to increased awareness of the anti-Islam video. As prior media reports have noted, Ambassador Rice used the CIA's information during numerous television interviews on September 16.

In recent days, Fox News has used the Standard piece to suggest the intelligence community didn't believe the attacks and the anti-Islam videos were linked. 

During Fox News Sunday, host Chris Wallace cited the article and claimed: “U.N. Ambassador Rice came on this show and four other Sunday shows, never mentioned the al Qaeda extremists, which had been scrubbed from the -- from the talking points, but did mention a reaction to the anti-Islam video which had never been in any of the talking points.”

Similarly, during a discussion of the Standard article on the May 3 edition of Special Report with Bret Baier, Fox News contributor and National Review editor Jonah Goldberg claimed “there is no mention in any of the drafts in this about the YouTube video which this administration pushed relentlessly.” Goldberg added: “None of that was ever in there. The CIA never said this was part of it.”

Conservative columnist Pete Wehner later echoed Goldberg, stating, “the State Department and the White House went in and they took what was accurate out. And, as Jonah said, they then created this fabricated a story about the YouTube video, which was nowhere in the original reports.” 

Fox News host Sean Hannity used the Standard article to falsely suggest language linking the anti-Islam video to the attacks was only added in the final version and was “developed and edited by top administration officials.”

Hannity stated: “Susan Rice did not independently decide to appear on those shows nor did she independently come up with the notion that a YouTube video was to blame for Benghazi. Far from it. Because thanks to an investigation conducted by the Weekly Standard, we now have proof that her talking points were developed and edited by top administration officials for days.” 

Hannity then dishonestly suggested that language about “the protest at the U.S. embassy in Cairo” were only added to the final version of the drafts: 

Now, the original draft accurately included references to jihadists, Islamic extremists, experienced fighters, and Al Qaeda and details of five recent terror attacks in Benghazi.

But take a look at your screen. On the left, that's draft number two of the talking points. And as you can see, several of the bullet points referencing Al Qaeda were redacted, in other words taken out. And that's how the final version on the right of your screen came to be. It reads in part, quote, “The currently available information suggests that the demonstrations in Benghazi were spontaneously inspired by the protest at the U.S. embassy in Cairo.”

And that as we know, was a complete and utter lie. [Fox News, Hannity, 5/6/13]