Fox News will air a one-hour special titled Benghazi: The Truth Behind The Smokescreen which purports to provide “a comprehensive look at all of the new developments in the story.” But Fox is not a credible source on Benghazi, having littered its coverage of the incident with myths, misinformation, and outright falsehoods.
Fox To Air One-Hour Special Titled Benghazi: The Truth Behind The Smokescreen
Fox To Air “The Latest Investigation” Into The Benghazi Attacks. According to Fox News' official blog, Fox News host Bret Baier will air a one-hour special on June 28 titled Benghazi: The Truth Behind The Smokescreen. According to the post, the show “will provide a comprehensive look at all of the new developments in the story, including the fact that just last week, four more subpoenas were issued for officials at the State Department.” [Fox News Insider, 6/28/13]
Fox Has Repeatedly Pushed Myths About Benghazi In Attempt To Attack President Obama
MYTH: Obama's Whereabouts On The Evening Of The Benghazi Attack Are Unknown
Fox's Krauthammer: “Has Anybody Answered” Where President Obama Was “When The Fight Was Raging?” On Fox News' Special Report with Bret Baier, Fox News contributor Charles Krauthammer implied that President Obama was absent during the September 2012 attacks on the U.S. diplomatic facility in Benghazi:
KRAUTHAMMER: Where was the commander-in-chief when all this -- the one man who can authorize and order troops to move above everybody and instantly is commander-in-chief. Where was he for these hours when the fight was raging? Has anybody asked it? Has anybody answered that? [Fox News, Special Report, 5/8/13 via Media Matters]
Fox's Michael Goodwin: President Obama Was MIA On Benghazi. Fox News contributor Michael Goodwin wrote in a FoxNews.com op-ed that Obama engaged in a cover-up to hide not being involved during the attack. He claimed that former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta's testimony proved Obama's “deceit”:
Finally, we have the answer, thanks to Defense Secretary Leon Panetta. In his reluctant Senate testimony, he provided the missing piece of the puzzle: The commander in chief was MIA. The coverup was created to protect his absence.
According to Panetta, President Obama checked in with his military team early on during the attack, then checked out for the rest of the night. The next day, we already knew, he blamed the video maker and flew to Las Vegas for a campaign event. [FoxNews.com, 2/11/13]
FACT: Military Leaders Testified That Obama Was Fully Engaged Throughout The Attack
Gen. Dempsey: White House Staff Was “Engaged” With Him During Attacks. In congressional hearings, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Army General Martin Dempsey, testified that Obama's staff were “engaged with the national military command center pretty constantly” as the Benghazi attacks unfolded (emphasis added):
SEN. KELLY AYOTTE (R-NH): But just to be clear, that night he didn't ask you what assets we had available and how quickly they could respond and how quickly we could help those people there -
PANETTA: No. I think the biggest problem that night, Senator, is that nobody knew really what was going on there.
AYOTTE: And there was no follow up during the night, at least from the White House directly?
PANETTA: No. No, there wasn't.
DEMPSEY: I would, if I could just, to correct one thing. I wouldn't say there was no follow-up from the White House. There was no follow-up, to my knowledge, with the president. But his staff was engaged with the national military command center pretty constantly through the period, which is the way it would normally work.
AYOTTE: But no direct communication from him?
Leon Panetta: Obama Was “Well-Informed About What [Was] Going On” During Attack. Former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta also testified before Congress that Obama and his staff remained “well-informed” throughout the attack and its aftermath, the Associated Press reported:
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., questioned whether Panetta spoke again to Obama after that first meeting. The Pentagon chief said no but that the White House was in touch with military officials and aware of what was happening.
“During the eight-hour period, did he show any curiosity?” Graham asked.
Panetta said there was no question the president was concerned about American lives. Exasperated with Graham's interruptions, Panetta said forcefully, “The president is well-informed about what is going on; make no mistake about it.” [Associated Press, 2/7/13, via Huffington Post]
MYTH: White House And State Department Edited Talking Points For Political Purposes
Fox's Steve Doocy: White House Forced CIA To Remove Information From The Talking Points. On Fox & Friends, co-host Gretchen Carlson claimed the CIA did not approve the finalized talking points. Co-host Steve Doocy went on to claim that the State Department and the White House reacted to the first draft of the points by saying “wait a minute, we can't talk about this” and asked the CIA to remove information identifying a group responsible for the attack. [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 5/17/13 via Media Matters]
Sean Hannity: Talking Points “Were Developed And Edited By Top Administration Officials For Days.” On his Fox News show, Sean Hannity claimed that a Weekly Standard post proved that then-U.N. ambassador Susan Rice's “talking points were developed and edited by top administration officials for days.” [Fox News, Hannity, 5/7/13 via Media Matters]
FACT: CIA Signed Off On Talking Points For Tactical Safety, And President Had Already Referred To Attacks As An Act Of Terror
CIA Signed Off On The Changes For Tactical, Not Political Reasons. Gen. David Petraeus, former head of the CIA, reportedly testified in November that the intelligence community signed off on the final draft of the talking points, and that references to terrorist groups in Libya were removed in order to avoid tipping off those groups. The New York Times reported that “Petraeus made it clear the change had not been done for political reasons to aid Mr. Obama,” according to Democrats who observed the testimony. [The New York Times, 11/16/12]
President Obama Had Already Referred To The Attacks As An Act Of Terror. On September 12, President Obama referred to the attacks as an act of terror when he spoke from the White House Rose Garden. One day later, Obama again referred to acts of terror at a campaign event. These comments undermine the myth that edits to a document that were made on September 14, after Obama had already labeled the attack an act of terror, demonstrate that the administration was trying to downplay the role that terrorism played. [Media Matters, 5/10/13]
MYTH: The Obama Administration Refused To Send Aid To Embassy Workers For Political Reasons
Fox Hyped Anonymous Source's Claim That Forces Training In Croatia Could Have Rescued Workers. Fox News' Special Report aired an interview between Fox correspondent Adam Housley and an anonymous source who claimed that special operations forces training in Croatia at the time could have prevented further loss of life in Benghazi:
HOUSLEY: The C-110 is a commanders and extremists force. In layman's terms, a 40 man special operations force capable of rapid response and deployment, specifically, trained for incidents like the attack in Benghazi. That night, they were training in Croatia just three and a half hours away.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We had the ability to load out, get on birds, and fly there at a minimum stage. C-110 had the ability to be there, in my opinion, in four to six hours from their European theater to react.
HOUSLEY: They would have been there before the second attack.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They would have been there before the second attack. They would have been there at a minimum to provide a quick reaction force that could facilitate their exfill out of the problem situation. Nobody knew how it was going to develop. And you hear a whole bunch of people and a whole bunch of advisors say hey, we wouldn't have sent them there because, you know, the security was unknown situation. [Fox News, Special Report with Bret Baier, 4/29/13 via Media Matters]
Hannity: “Somebody Along The Way” Made The Decision To Tell Tripoli Force “To Stand Down.” On his Fox News show, Sean Hannity speculated that President Obama was involved in a decision to order special forces units stationed in Tripoli not to aid the diplomatic facility in Benghazi, claiming “Wait a minute, we don't have a Commander in Chief or chain of command, and that somebody along the way, we don't know who eight months later, made a decision and told them to stand down while Americans were under fire and getting killed in Benghazi?” [Fox News, Hannity, 5/9/13]
FACT: Croatian Force Could Not Have Arrived Until After The Attack Was Over And Tripoli Force Was Never Ordered To Stand Down
Accountability Review Board: “There Simply Was Not Enough Time” For “Military Assets To Have Made A Difference.” The Accountability Review Board, an independent group tasked with investigating the attacks, found that the “interagency response was timely and appropriate” but that there was not enough time for “armed U.S. military assets to have made a difference”:
The interagency response was timely and appropriate, but there simply was not enough time given the speed of the attacks for armed U.S. military assets to have made a difference. Senior-level interagency discussions were underway soon after Washington received initial word of the attacks and continued through the night. The Board found no evidence of any undue delays in decision making or denial of support from Washington or from the military combatant commanders. Quite the contrary: the safe evacuation of all U.S. government personnel from Benghazi twelve hours after the initial attack and subsequently to Ramstein Air Force Base was the result of exceptional U.S. government coordination and military response and helped save the lives of two severely wounded Americans. [Accountability Review Board, accessed 5/7/13]
Fox Military Analyst Keane: CIA Base Was Evacuated Before Special Operations Force Could Reach Them. On Fox & Friends, Fox News military analyst retired Gen. Jack Keane responded to guest host Eric Bolling's claim that the Obama administration “did not call on the only response team that may have been able to intervene during the attack” by pointing out that “the CIA base was evacuated prior to their arrival at Sigonella, so they were never employed”:
KEANE: Here's what did happen. The national security apparatus, at the request of General Hamm, who's the commander of AFRICOM -- and he's had responsibility from a security aspect to respond to this crisis -- our national mission response force, our most classified force on the highest state of readiness, was alerted and moved from the United States to Sigonella [Naval Air Station in Italy], and they bring with them their own aircraft, their own helicopters and C-17s. Another classified special operations force was moved out of Central Europe to Sigonella as well. The fact of the matter was the CIA base was evacuated prior to their arrival at Sigonella, so they were never employed. [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 11/2/12 via Media Matters]
Additional Reinforcements Would Not Have Been Able To Get To Benghazi Before The Second Attack Was Concluded. Transcripts of an interview Gregory Hicks gave to congressional investigators show that he while he said that a team of Special Forces had been told not to travel from Tripoli to aid U.S. personnel in Benghazi, the flight these Special Forces were scheduled to take, but did not, was scheduled to take off after 6:00 a.m., local time -- approximately 45 minutes after the attack at the CIA annex that killed two people. Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT), a member of the House Oversight Committee who has actively pursued investigations into the Benghazi attacks, also told The Washington Post that the Special Forces team that Hicks was referring to “would have arrived after the attack.” [Media Matters, 5/7/13; The Washington Post, 5/6/13]
Tripoli Commander: No Order To “Stand Down” Was Ever Given. According to the Associated Press, Lt. Col. Gibson, who commanded the Tripoli force, reportedly told a Congressional committee that he was never ordered to “stand down”:
The former commander of a four-member Army Special Forces unit in Tripoli, Libya, denied Wednesday that he was told to stand down during last year's deadly assault on the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi.
In a closed-door session with the House Armed Services Committee, Lt. Col. S.E. Gibson said his commanders told him to remain in the capital of Tripoli to defend Americans in the event of additional attacks and to help survivors being evacuated from Benghazi.
“Contrary to news reports, Gibson was not ordered to 'stand down' by higher command authorities in response to his understandable desire to lead a group of three other special forces soldiers to Benghazi,” the Republican-led committee said in a summary of its classified briefing with military officials, including Gibson. [Associated Press, 6/27/13 via Arizona Daily Star]
MYTH: Benghazi Hearings Are Not Politically Motivated
Fox News' Brian Kilmeade Attacks The Claim That Benghazi Hearings Are “Politically Driven.” On Fox & Friends, co-host Brian Kilmeade claimed that because self-identified whistleblowers are testifying at congressional hearings on Benghazi at a time that elections are not being held, the hearings can't be politically driven, saying “politics is out, and whistleblowers are in”:
KILMEADE: [A]nyone who says this is politically driven, or it's against the president, that's out the window. Because if there's a non-political season in this world in American politics, it's now. The mid-terms aren't close --
STEVE DOOCY [co-host]: Sure.
KILMEADE: And the president is not running. [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 5/6/13, via Media Matters]
FACT: Right-Wing Media And Congressional Republicans Have Politicized The Hearings
Fox News' John Bolton: “I Hope [Benghazi] Is A Cover Up ... If It Was Merely A Political Cover-Up Then There Can Be A Political Cost To Pay.” On Your World, Fox News contributor John Bolton said he hoped the hearings found that, despite all evidence to the contrary, the Obama administration had engaged in a “political cover up” by altering CIA talking points to suggest that the attacks came in response to an anti-Islam video:
BOLTON: I'd have to say for the good of the country, I hope it is a cover up rather than the alternative, which is the Obama administration was so blind to the reality of the threat of Islamic terrorism, the continued threat from Al Qaeda... If that's the problem there's no cure for it. If it was merely a political cover-up then there can be a political cost to pay. [Fox News, Your World with Neil Cavuto, 5/6/13, via Media Matters]
Lawyers Representing The “Whistleblowers” In Hearings Are Long-Time GOP Activists With History Of Pushing Discredited Claims. The lawyers claiming to represent some of the witnesses at the Benghazi hearing, Victoria Toensing and Joseph diGenova, are long-time Republicans known for pushing false claims in the media and for having conflicts of interest in their professional work. They have both served as advisors to Republican candidates and donated thousands of dollars to GOP candidates and causes, and have been criticized for a conflict of interest for serving in a dual role in separate Justice Department investigations and for dropping “the air of impartiality, non-partisanship, and professionalism required” of their roles as leaders of a congressional investigation. [Media Matters, 4/30/13; 5/6/13]
Congressional Democrats Criticized House GOP Report For “Unnecessarily Politicizing Our National Security.” A congressional report on Benghazi that was authored by five Republican committee chairmen was criticized by the ranking Democrats on those committees in a letter to House Speaker John Boehner, in which they said the report is “unnecessarily politicizing our national security”:
We are writing to strongly object to your decision to issue a partisan Republican staff report on Benghazi and dispense with House procedures for vetting official committee reports to correct inaccuracies and mischaracterizations. By abandoning regular order and excluding Democratic Members entirely from this process, you are unnecessarily politicizing our national security and casting aside the system used by the House for generations to avoid making obvious mistakes, errors, and omissions. [House Oversight Committee, 5/6/13, via Media Matters]
Oversight Committee Ranking Member Accused Republicans Of Withholding Information From Democrats. On May 6, Rep. Elijah E. Cummings (D-MD), ranking member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, issued a statement in which he accused Republican committee members of issuing “a partisan report with reckless and false accusations” and claimed interview information was withheld from committee Democrats:
CUMMINGS: I also believe Members of Congress have an obligation to actually investigate claims before coming to conclusions and making public accusations. Unfortunately, House Republicans have taken the opposite approach. They issued a partisan report with reckless and false accusations against the former Secretary of State, they have completely concealed Mr. Thompson from Democratic Committee Members, and they have failed to make even basic inquiries to the Intelligence Community, the Defense Department, or the State Department to vet specific allegations. Instead, they have leaked snippets of interview transcripts to national media outlets in a selective and distorted manner to drum up publicity for their hearing. This is investigation by press release and does a disservice to our common goal of ensuring that our diplomatic corps serving overseas has the best protection possible to do its critical work. [House Oversight Committee,5/6/13]
State Dept. Spokesman: Congressional Republicans Have Not Shared Witness Transcripts With Us, Told Us How This Hearing Was Formed. In a May 2013 State Department press briefing, Acting Deputy Spokesperson Patrick Ventrell pointed out that the hearings had been convened without any interaction with the State Department:
VENTRELL: I mean, it's a little bit hard for us to - given that we don't have a lot of information about how the hearing was scheduled and the various sort of formation of the majority's decision to have this hearing, it's a little bit hard to comment on the witnesses. Let me do - let me say one thing here, though, at the very top. We have always encouraged any State Department employee who wants to share their personal story, whether it be to the ARB or the Congress to tell the truth, period, full stop, end of story. That's long been our position. We've made that clear from the start. In terms of these particular individuals, the committee didn't come to us asking witnesses. We found out through the media and through the announcement the same way you all did. In terms of these potential transcripts out there, we haven't seen the transcripts. [State.gov, 5/6/13]