Fox News hyped the results of their own misleading poll question that dishonestly portrayed the Obama administration as giving “false information” about the September 11, 2012, attack on a diplomatic facility in Benghazi, Libya. However, a bipartisan review found that the administration's description of the attacks matched the information provided by the intelligence community.
On the January 24 edition of Fox News' America's Newsroom, co-host Martha MacCallum hyped the results of a new Fox poll to claim that “a majority of American voters blame Hillary Clinton and President Obama equally” for the Benghazi terror attack. MacCallum added that half of respondents “believe that the administration came out with false information” because “it was good for them politically.”
But the Fox poll question that MacCallum used to justify her claim was framed dishonestly. After asserting that “the Obama administration falsely claimed it was a spontaneous attack in response to an offensive online video,” the question asks “why Obama administration officials gave false information in their early public statements about the September attacks in Libya?” Respondents were then asked to choose if the false information was to protect America, to protect Obama politically, or because “They just made a mistake.”
The actual reason the Obama administration pointed to protests after the attack did not appear as an option for respondents to choose: that what the Obama administration said in the aftermath of the attacks was based on the assessment of the intelligence community (IC). The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence's review of the attacks found that the IC had “received numerous reports” pointing to demonstrations in protest of an inflammatory video and did not change its assessment until September 24 (emphasis added):
In the immediate aftermath of the attacks, the IC received numerous reports, both classified and unclassified, which provided contradictory accounts that there were demonstrations at the Temporary Mission Facility. In some cases, these intelligence reports -- which were disseminated widely in the Intelligence Community -- contained references to press reports on protests that were simply copied into intelligence products.
Moreover, it appears this reporting from those present during the attacks did not make its way into assessments at CIA Headquarters, as the Deputy Director of the Middle East and North Africa Analysis Office at CIA wrote an internal email, dated September 16, 2012, that mentioned “protestors that preceded the violence.” On September 18, 2012, the FBI and CIA reviewed the closed circuit television video from the Mission facility that showed there were no protests prior to the attacks. Although information gathered from interviews with U.S. personnel who were on the ground during the attacks was shared informally between the FBI and CIA, it was not until two days later, on September 20, 2012, that the FBI disseminated its intelligence reports detailing such interviews.
As a result of evidence from closed circuit videos and other reports, the IC changed its assessment about a protest in classified intelligence reports on September 24, 2012, to state there were no demonstrations or protests at the Temporary Mission Facility prior to the attacks. This slow change in the official assessment affected the public statements of government officials, who continued to state in press interviews that there were protests outside the Mission compound.
In a post on MSNBC.com, Steve Benen pointed out that the poll's question was worded in a way that “tells respondents what to think and then asks them to reflect on the 'facts' Fox News has presented to them in the least-objective way imaginable” :
Remember, this is part of a question in a poll conducted by an ostensible news organization. It went on to ask respondents, “Which of the following do you think best describes why Obama administration officials gave false information?”
Got that? In a poll that's supposed to be a legitimate measurement of public attitudes, Fox News tells respondents what to think and then asks them to reflect on the “facts” Fox News has presented to them in the least-objective way imaginable.
Respondents were then asked how much they blame former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for the attack in Benghazi, followed by a question about how much they blame President Obama. There were no questions about how much the public might blame the perpetrators of the attack, presumably because that falls well outside the agreed upon narrative.
The more one considers the details of Fox News polling, the more amazing the operation appears.
This is not the first time Fox has used a poll to mislead its viewers on the facts. One day before this report aired, Fox News used the same misleading survey to falsely claim people don't care about income inequality.