Gowdy's History Of Using A Committee Hearing To Deceive Media

Rep. Trey Gowdy on Fox News

Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC) has a history of deceiving media by misrepresenting evidence at a congressional hearing, a worrying past given his new role as the leader of the House select committee investigating the Benghazi attacks.

Gowdy was chosen on May 5 to run the new select committee into the Obama administration's handling of the September 2012 terrorist attacks in Libya, and was described by House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) as “dogged, focused, and serious-minded as they come.  His background as a federal prosecutor and his zeal for the truth make him the ideal person to lead this panel.”

But Gowdy's apparent “zeal for the truth” has not stopped him from misleading past congressional investigations into the attacks with media figures who are eager to amplify Republican scandal-mongering.

At a previous House hearing on Benghazi on May 8, 2013, Gowdy purported to read from a State Department email sent a day after the attacks, which Republicans claimed revealed State officials knew that terrorists were behind the attacks but initially attempted to cover-up this knowledge for political reasons. Gowdy quoted a State official as saying in this early email, “the group that conducted the attacks...is affiliated with Islamic terrorists.”

Fox News immediately ran with Gowdy's line, claiming that the email opened up new questions about the administration's response to the attacks, including questions “about the accuracy of the past testimony of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.”

But when The New York Times obtained an actual copy of the email in question, they found that it referred to “Islamic extremists,” not terrorists. The senior State Department official who sent the email, A. Elizabeth Jones, was noting exactly what senior White House officials and then-UN Ambassador Susan Rice had all acknowledged: the possibility that extremists could had been involved in the assault.

In response to the clear evidence that he had misrepresented an official email in a Congressional hearing, Gowdy deflected, claiming there was no relevant distinction between “extremists” and “terrorists” -- even though making that very distinction was exactly what Republicans were attempting to accuse the administration of doing in their supposed “cover up” of Benghazi. His Republican colleagues once again turned to Fox to push out the new line, now claiming the email said “definitively” that “it was Ansar-al-Sharia, Islamic extremists, that committed this terrorist act,” despite the fact that the email still made no reference to terrorism.

As Republicans gear to up use this new select committee to continue to push the Benghazi hoax, media should be wary of trusting Gowdy's interpretation of the record -- he can't always be trusted to accurately quote reality.