Fox's Chris Wallace Muddles Libyan Geography

Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace repeatedly pressed senior Obama campaign adviser David Axelrod to explain why requests for additional security for Libyan diplomats were not heeded. But Wallace failed to clarify that the requests for additional security were focused on the U.S. Embassy in Tripoli, not the consulate in Benghazi that was the target of a terrorist attack.

On the October 14 edition of Fox News Sunday, Wallace started his interview with Axelrod by discussing the deaths of the U.S. ambassador to Libya and three other Americans in an attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi and airing a statement made by Vice President Joe Biden in the October 11 vice-presidential debate that “we did not know they wanted more security there.” Wallace then said to Axelrod: “Just the day before, several State Department officials testified under oath that there were repeated requests for more security that were rejected. What is the vice president talking about?” Wallace later asked Axelrod, “Let me ask you directly: Does the president take personal responsibility for the fact that repeated requests for more security were made and were rejected, and that that may have contributed to the death of those four Americans? Does he take personal responsibility for that?”

But Wallace failed to explain that the requests for extra security were focused on the embassy in Tripoli, not the consulate in Benghazi, and that State Department officials believe that even if the requests had been granted, they would likely not have changed what happened in Benghazi, because they would have been ill-equipped to respond to the large scale of the assault. As The New York Times reported:

In the weeks leading up to the attack last month on the American diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya, that killed Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three other Americans, diplomats on the ground sounded increasingly urgent alarms. In a stream of diplomatic cables, embassy security officers warned their superiors at the State Department of a worsening threat from Islamic extremists, and requested that the teams of military personnel and State Department security guards who were already on duty be kept in service.

The requests were denied, but they were largely focused on extending the tours of security guards at the American Embassy in Tripoli -- not at the diplomatic compound in Benghazi, 400 miles away. And State Department officials testified this week during a hearing by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee that extending the tour of additional guards -- a 16-member military security team -- through mid-September would not have changed the bloody outcome because they were based in Tripoli, not Benghazi.


While it is unclear what impact a handful of highly trained additional guards might have had in Benghazi were they able to deploy there, some State Department officials said it would probably not have made any difference in blunting the Sept. 11 assault from several dozen heavily armed militants.

“An attack of that kind of lethality, we're never going to have enough guns,” Patrick F. Kennedy, under secretary of state for management, said at Wednesday's hearing. “We are not an armed camp ready to fight it out.”

Wallace is muddling facts and geography by overlooking that the security was targeted for the Tripoli embassy, not a consulate hundreds of miles away.