How To Ignore Reality And Keep A Scandal Going: Benghazi Edition

Catherine HerridgeA bipartisan Senate report released this week concludes that the intelligence community was behind the Obama administration's suggestion that the 2012 Benghazi attacks grew out of a protest against an anti-Islam video. The revelation is yet another devastating blow to Fox News' efforts to scandalize the administration's focus on the video. But instead of reporting on that conclusion, Fox News instead spent last night reporting that they “were told” that President Obama and his closest advisers held a meeting the night of the attack and issued “marching orders” for the “video explanation.”

For more than a year, Fox News has been fixated on a set of administration talking points that linked the September 2012 attacks on U.S. diplomatic facilities in Benghazi, Libya, to the video. Those talking points were used by then-U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice in a series of highly-criticized September 15, 2012, interviews on the broadcast Sunday shows. Fox has suggested that the talking points were part of an elaborate plot to conceal the reality of the attacks as part of a scheme to protect President Obama's re-election effort. The network has continued to push this conspiracy long after the revelation that the initial draft of the talking points -- which was generated by the CIA -- promoted the video connection, and emails indicated that then-CIA director Gen. David Petraeus was disappointed that the final draft didn't do enough to link the two.

On January 15, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence released the results of its investigation into the attacks. Notably, the committee's report indicated that the intelligence community (IC) received and disseminated an account in the immediate aftermath of the assault that there had been protests against the anti-Islam video at the diplomatic facility prior to the attack, based largely on press accounts that made that claim. 

According to the report, it took days for eyewitness statements by U.S. personnel indicating that there had been no protests to make their way into CIA assessments. Closed circuit television feed from the facility showing that there had been no protest was not reviewed until September 18, 2012 -- three days after Rice's interviews -- and the FBI did not disseminate its interviews with eyewitnesses until two days later (recent reporting has indicated that while there was no protest, the attackers were fueled by anger at the video). According to the report:

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.

While Fox News heavily covered the Senate report -- which the network claimed was a “bombshell” damaging to the Obama administration -- it did not mention the CIA revelations during its January 15 programs, according to a review of the Nexis database.

Instead, during On the Record with Greta van Susteren, chief intelligence correspondent Catherine Herridge reported that the network has “had information” and “were told” that during a meeting at the White House between President Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, the “marching orders were laid out for the video explanation.”

It's unclear who “told” Fox News of the contents of the meeting. In nearly-identical reports on Fox's Special Report and The Kelly File, Herridge claimed only that that the administration is “block[ing] access to witnesses and documents that should explain whether” the meeting “on the day of the assault” was about those purported “marching orders,” and quoted Sen. Saxby Chambliss' (R-GA) assertion that he had sought information about that meeting but was rebuffed.

At no point in the three segments did Fox point to any actual evidence from Chambliss or elsewhere that this meeting dealt with the so-called “marching orders.” Instead of discussing the Senate report revelations that demolish their conspiracy, they are running with baseless speculation to keep the “scandal” going.