Fox News, Stephanie Cutter, And The Politicization Of Benghazi

Less than two days after Mitt Romney was pressured to stop using the death of a Navy SEAL killed in Libya as political fodder in campaign rallies, the media are whipping themselves into a frenzy over comments an Obama campaign official made criticizing Romney for politicizing the deadly September attack on a U.S. consulate.

Stephanie Cutter, deputy campaign manager for President Obama's reelection effort, appeared on CNN Thursday to preview that night's vice presidential debate. During her appearance, Cutter criticized the Romney campaign for politicizing the attack in Benghazi, Libya, saying that “the entire reason that this has become the, you know, political topic it is, is because of Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan. It's a big part of their stump speech and it's reckless and irresponsible.”

When she was later challenged on those comments, Cutter said in an email to Buzzfeed:

From the time of the attack in Libya, Mitt Romney has stopped at nothing to politicize these events.

On Friday, Fox's Megyn Kelly turned to Cutter's comments and asked whether it was fair to blame Romney for politicizing the attack.

One name missing from Kelly's discussion was Glen Doherty. 

Doherty was a Navy SEAL killed in the attack on the consulate. And earlier this week he became a central figure in Mitt Romney's stump speech:

On Tuesday [Romney] spoke for the first time of having met Glen A. Doherty, 42, who was killed defending the American diplomatic outpost in Benghazi, Libya.

''You can image how I felt,'' Mr. Romney said, ''when I found out he was one of the two former Navy SEALs killed in Benghazi on Sept. 11.''

The story seemed to serve a more political purpose, too, a reminder of Republican criticism of the Obama administration's failure to quickly acknowledge that the Benghazi assault was the premeditated work of terrorists.

The day after Romney began using the death of Doherty in his campaign speech, Fox News started promoting it during its coverage of congressional hearings into the attack. On Wednesday, Fox's Alisyn Camerota called it a “surprising personal connection to the consulate attack in Libya” that stemmed from “a chance encounter a few years back.”

That same day, Doherty's mother criticized Romney for politicizing her son's death:

“I don't trust Romney. He shouldn't make my son's death part of his political agenda. It's wrong to use these brave young men, who wanted freedom for all, to degrade Obama,” said Barbara Doherty, Glen's mother.

Romney's campaign promptly said he would stop using Doherty's death as part of his campaign.

A search of the Nexis database and closed captioning transcripts show that Fox News has not reported on the criticism Romney has faced for politicizing Doherty's death. 

But it certainly seems relevant to the media debate over whether it's fair to say Romney has politicized the Benghazi attack.