Libya Misinformation: Fox Anchor Dismisses Anti-Muslim Video That Sparked Global Riots

Fox News anchor Martha MacCallum attacked the Obama administration for referencing an anti-Muslim video produced in the U.S. in statements about the attack on the U.S. compound in Benghazi, calling mentions of the video a “red herring.” In fact, the video was linked to protests in at least 20 Muslim countries, and recent reporting says that the attackers at the Benghazi compound were motivated by the video.

MacCallum Claims State Dept. Mentions Of Anti-Muslim Video Were “A Red Herring”

MacCallum: State Dept. References To Anti-Muslim Videos Seemed To Be “A Red Herring.” On the October 18 edition of Fox News' America's Newsroom, MacCallum discussed the September 11 attack on the Benghazi compound and an anti-Muslim video purported to be a motivator of the attack with guests former John Kerry adviser Mary Anne Marsh and former South Carolina governor Mark Sanford. MacCallum said that it seemed to her that “the only reason to allow the State Department and others” to appear on Sunday shows -- as U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice did -- and mention the anti-Muslim video was “to throw a red herring out there and get people to look away from the Al Qaeda issue and decide that it's just, you know, some crazy people in the streets who were stirring up problems.” [Fox News, America's Newsroom, 10/18/12]

MacCallum Misleadingly Suggests State Dept. Should Have Said “We Just Don't Know” The Cause Of The Attacks Yet Because “We're Investigating.” MacCallum also claimed during the segment that Rice and State Department officials should have publicly said of the attack, “We just don't know yet. We're investigating, and we just don't know yet. And we can't talk about it, because it's highly classified.” [Fox News, America's Newsroom, 10/18/12]

In Reality, The Video Sparked Violent Protests In Muslim Countries Around The World ...

Sept. 13: NY Times: “Turmoil Over Contentious Video Spreads.” The New York Times reported on September 13 that "[d]eadly outrage in the Arab world over an American-made video insulting Islam's founder" had “spread to at least half a dozen places across the Middle East,” including Iran, Yemen, Tunisia, Sudan and Pakistan. The article noted that “at least five Yemenis were killed” when hundreds of protesters stormed the American Embassy in Sana, Yemen. [The New York Times, 9/13/12]

Sept. 14: NY Times: “Anti-American Protests” Over “Video Insult To Islam Spread To Nearly 20 Countries.” A New York Times article on September 15 stated: “Anti-American rage that began this week over a video insult to Islam spread to nearly 20 countries across the Middle East and beyond on Friday, with violent and sometimes deadly protests.” The article reported that protesters “had penetrated the perimeters of the American Embassies in the Tunisian and Sudanese capitals, and said that 65 embassies or consulates around the world had issued emergency messages about threats of violence.” [The New York Times, 9/14/12]

Google Blocked Access To Inflammatory Video In Egypt And Libya; Government Authorities Blocked The Video In Singapore And Iran. The New York Times reported on September 13 that Google, the owner of YouTube, had blocked access to the anti-Muslim video in Egypt and Libya, and Agence France-Presse reported on September 20 that Google had blocked access to the video in Singapore. CNN later reported that government officials in Iran had blocked access to the video, while the Associated Press reported officials in Turkey planned to do so. [The New York Times, 9/13/12; Agence France-Presse, 9/20/12, via The Strait Times; CNN, 9/24/12; Associated Press, 9/26/12, via The Huffington Post]

... Obama Admin. Took Video Seriously And Responded By Airing Ads In Pakistan Denouncing The Video ...

Sept. 20: AP: U.S. Government Runs Ads, Featuring Obama And Clinton, Condemning The Anti-Islam Video “In An Attempt To Undercut Anger Against The United States.” On September 20, the AP wrote, “U.S. Embassy advertisements condemning an anti-Islam video appeared on Pakistani television ... in an attempt to undercut anger against the United States.” The AP said the ads featured clips of Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton condemning the video, with their words subtitled in Urdu. The article also stated: “The ads reflected efforts by the U.S. government to distance itself from the video.” The AP quoted State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland saying, “As you know, after the (anti-Islam) video came out, there was concern in lots of bodies politic, including Pakistan, as to whether this represented the views of the U.S. government. So in order to ensure we reached the largest number of Pakistanis -- some 90 million -- it was the judgment that this was the best way to do it.” [Associated Press, 9/20/12]

... And Reports Now Say Video Motivated Benghazi Attack Itself

NY Times: “The Attackers” In Benghazi “Did Tell Bystanders That They Were Attacking The Compound Because They Were Angry About The Video.” The New York Times refuted the notion that the anti-Muslim video was a “red herring”:

What do eyewitnesses say about the events in Benghazi? Were they related to the insulting video, or is that a red herring? And was the assault planned for the anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, or was it spontaneous?

According to reporting by David D. Kirkpatrick and Suliman Ali Zway of The New York Times, eyewitnesses have said there was no peaceful demonstration against the video outside the compound before the attack, though a crowd of Benghazi residents soon gathered, and some later looted the compound. But the attackers, recognized as members of a local militant group called Ansar al-Shariah, did tell bystanders that they were attacking the compound because they were angry about the video. They did not mention the Sept. 11 anniversary. Intelligence officials believe that planning for the attack probably began only a few hours before it took place. [The New York Times, 10/17/12]

For more on the report confirming the anti-Islam video was a catalyst for the Libya attack, click here.

Despite MacCallum's Claim, State Dept. Officials Did Emphasize That Attack Was Still Being Investigated

Ambassador Rice: “Obviously, We Will Wait For The Results Of The Investigation And We Don't Want To Jump To Conclusions Before Then.” On the September 16 edition of Fox Broadcasting Co.'s Fox News Sunday, Rice told host Chris Wallace that the FBI was investigating the attacks “closely” and stated that “we don't want to jump to conclusions before then.”  [Fox News, Fox News Sunday9/16/12]

  • Rice Repeatedly Said That Definitive Conclusions Could Only Be Drawn After The Investigation. In appearances on September 16 on ABC, CBS, and NBC, Rice repeatedly mentioned the ongoing FBI investigation of the Benghazi attack and said that no definitive conclusions could be drawn until after the investigation was completed. [Media Matters, 10/11/12]

Rice's Statements Were In Line With State Department's Consistent Message. Undersecretary Patrick Kennedy and Victoria Nuland both defended Rice's remarks and stressed that an investigation of the attack was ongoing. [Media Matters, 10/11/12]

Media Matters intern Alessandra DiMonda contributed to this report.