A recent Fox News poll of registered voters, which purports to illustrate that a majority of voters agree with the network's dark narrative on the Obama administration's response to the 2012& Benghazi attacks, relies on questions from a foundation of tired distortions and lies.
Fox News conducted a poll of 1,013 registered voters between May 18-20, attempting to discern respondents' opinions on a variety of questions related to the government's handling of the Benghazi attacks. FoxNews.com published the poll on May 21 with the title, “Fox News Poll: Obama could have done more to help those in Benghazi.”
Fox's poll questions, however, are predicated on the same distortions and outright lies Fox has pushed for the last nine months, which casts a pall of doubt on the veracity of its results.
For example, see Question 14, to which 62 percent of respondents answered in the affirmative:
Do you think President Obama could have done more to help the Americans at the U.S. consulate in Benghazi on the night of the attack?
The very premise of this question is bogus. Fox implies that perhaps Obama didn't do enough to help the Americans at the consulate, which flies in the face of explicit testimony from military and defense leaders regarding the White House's response. Testifying before Congress in February, outgoing Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Army General Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, both testified that President Obama was fully engaged “pretty constantly” as the crisis unfolded, and that the response was appropriate and normal. What's more, as CNN reported on February 7:
Dempsey said he stood by the conclusion of an independent review board, which concluded 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.”
Another frequent Fox lie forms the basis for Question 16, which incorrectly asserted that the Obama administration removed references to al Qaeda in the talking points Ambassador Susan Rice used during an appearance on the Sunday shows, and that it did so against the wishes of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). The falsehood is in keeping with Fox's on-air reporting, which has consistently misrepresented the facts surrounding the CIA talking points. The poll asked respondents (emphasis added):
The Obama administration's initial public explanation -- or so-called talking points --about the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi was originally written by the CIA, then changed by request of the State Department and okayed by White House staffers. The final version deleted the CIA's references to the terrorist group al Qaeda. Why do you think the Obama administration changed the CIA description of the attack?
The question references a timeline and facts which are flatly untrue. The CIA -- not the White House -- was responsible for removing al Qaeda mentions throughout the development of the Benghazi talking points. The Washington Post elaborated on the CIA's role on May 15, noting how “CIA deputy director Michael Morell later removed the reference to Ansar al-Sharia because the assessment was still classified” and might compromise an investigation. From the Post:
According to the e-mails and initial CIA-drafted talking points, the agency believed the attack included a mix of Islamist extremists from Ansar al-Sharia, a group affiliated with al-Qaeda, and angry demonstrators.
White House officials did not challenge that analysis, the e-mails show, nor did they object to its inclusion in the public talking points.
But CIA deputy director Michael Morell later removed the reference to Ansar al-Sharia because the assessment was still classified and because FBI officials believed that making the information public could compromise their investigation, said senior administration officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe the internal debate.
A senior administration official said Wednesday that the only indication the CIA had at that point that Ansar al-Sharia was involved was a single piece of intelligence, whose existence it did not want to reveal lest its sources and methods be compromised.
Question 17 employs another common Fox News tactic -- distorting the context of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's comments during a Congressional hearing on the Benghazi attack. The poll directed:
During Congressional hearings on the Benghazi attack, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was asked why she hadn't asked the consulate staff what caused the violence that lead to the deaths of four Americans. In response, Clinton asked her own question, quote, “Was it because of a protest, or was it because of guys out for a walk one night who decided they'd go kill some Americans? What difference, at this point, does it make?” Do you think Clinton was right, or not?
Fifty-six percent of respondents indicated they disagreed with the distorted version of Clinton's comments. But the poll question simply ignored half of Clinton's statement. People might have responded differently to Clinton's full comment, which added, “It is our job to figure out what happened and do everything we can to prevent it from ever happening again, Senator. Now, honestly, I will do my best to answer your questions about this, but the -- the fact is that people were trying in real time to get the best information.”