Fox News figures have tried to use an investigative panel's recent report on the Benghazi attack to congratulate their network on its coverage of the attack. But the report actually debunks several incorrect and misleading narratives Fox pushed about Benghazi.
On December 18, the independent Accountability Review Board, which was set up by the State Department to investigate the Benghazi attack, released their findings in a report that “sharply criticized the State Department” for oversights that led to insufficient security at the U.S. compound in Benghazi, as The New York Times reported.
During the December 19 broadcast of On The Record, host Greta Van Susteren asked Fox News contributor Sarah Palin for her thoughts on the report, and Palin answered, in part, “Kudos to Fox News for being the news outlet that stayed on top of this story. Americans deserve these answers.” Van Susteren responded that she felt “some level of pride” for Fox's Benghazi coverage, because of “all the sort of heat we took from people, saying that it wasn't a story.” She added, "[T]here's been a lot of resistance to my national security colleagues getting this information. So, I do take some pride with them."
Similarly, Fox contributor Kirsten Powers suggested on Special Report that the Benghazi report wasn't even necessary because of the program's coverage of the attack, saying, “Well, it's interesting that that report -- you could have known all that if you'd just watched this show. So, it's sort of funny that they had to do an investigation to figure all of that out.”
In fact, the review board's report actually discredits Fox's coverage of the attack.
Fox figures spent ample time, for example, alleging that the Obama administration refused to send reinforcements to Benghazi during the attack, even going so far as to claim the administration made “a political decision not to rescue” Americans at the compound.
But the report determined there was “no evidence of any undue delays in decision making or denial of support from Washington or from the military combatant commanders,” and continued, “Quite the contrary: the safe evacuation of all U.S. government personnel from Benghazi twelve hours after the initial attack ... was the result of exceptional U.S. government coordination and military response and helped save the lives of two severely wounded Americans.”
Fox also hyped its "exclusive" report that requests for military back-up during the attack were twice denied “by the CIA chain of command” -- even though the CIA called Fox's claims “inaccurate” at the time. But as The Huffington Post pointed out, the Benghazi report debunks that claim. Quoting from the report, Huffington Post wrote, "[A] 'team leader' at the annex had 'decided on his own' to delay leaving the facility briefly to see if local security elements would arrive with reinforcements. After 'a brief delay,' and determining that they would not, the team leader made the decision to move some units toward the compound, the report said."
As the Washington Post's Erik Wemple noted, Fox's subsequent attempt to rebut the CIA's denial of their “exclusive” is also debunked by the report. While a FoxNews.com article claimed that "[t]rouble had been gathering for quite some time" near the compound in an attempt to cast doubt on the CIA's denial, the Benghazi report clearly showed that "[f]olks were winding down and things were quiet on the night of Sept. 11 just before the attackers descended," as Wemple wrote.
Even before the review board's report was released, Fox had been under fire for their false and misleading reporting of the events in Benghazi. Given the report's findings, Fox has no cause to take a victory lap.