In recent weeks, Fox News has been aggressively promoting Michael Bay's myth-filled Benghazi movie in an effort to criticize the Obama administration and damage Hillary Clinton's presidential run. Megyn Kelly, the host that Fox News tries to position as more news-minded than the network's most opinionated personalities, has been leading the charge.
According to a Media Matters study, from January 4 through January 19, Fox News devoted more than 2 hours and 53 minutes to discussing Bay's 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi. The Kelly File made up nearly half of that time, with more than 1 hour and 22 minutes of coverage. (By comparison, The Five, the show that devoted the second most time to promoting 13 Hours, spent less than 24 minutes on the movie.)
Kelly showed Fox's hand early, kicking off a segment about the movie on her January 4 program by touting an “exclusive” report on “the gripping new film that may pose a threat to Hillary Clinton's hopes for the White House.” The idea that the film might have an impact on Clinton's presidential run was a regular feature of The Kelly File's coverage, coming up in seven segments.
The effort to use Bay's movie to hurt Clinton politically comes a few short months after the Republicans' House Select Committee on Benghazi hearing featuring hours of Clinton testimony fell “flat on its face.” Though Hillary Clinton is not mentioned in Bay's movie, Kelly was nonetheless intent on making her 13 Hours coverage about Clinton.
The Kelly File revived the myth that Clinton dismissed the deaths of the four Americans killed in the Benghazi attack during a congressional hearing. In seven separate segments, Kelly or her guests raised the myth that Clinton and senior White House officials deliberately lied about the attackers' motives. Kelly's show also featured five segments promoting the myth that the Obama administration issued a “stand down” order during the attacks.
At times, Kelly sounded more like a paid spokeswomen for the film, rather than a news anchor. She introduced her January 18 hour-long special on the film by calling 13 Hours “a blockbuster movie ... that could change everything you thought you knew about Benghazi. And directly impact the 2016 race for the White House.” She also called the movie “extraordinary” and “a dramatic, compelling, white knuckled experience,” while advising her viewers “don't plan on getting popcorn, don't plan on needing to use the restroom, because you will not leave your seat for two hours.”
As The Hollywood Reporter noted, Kelly's praise of the film was so strong that Paramount Pictures, the studio which released the film, “even inserted quotes from Kelly ('riveting') and Fox News contributor Stephen Hayes ('extraordinary') into a TV commercial for 13 Hours ... presumably because these two news personalities are more trusted by conservatives than are the movie critics who typically show up in such advertising.” The studio also reportedly “supplied Fox News behind-the-scenes footage” that Kelly used on-air, and “arranged for Kelly to interview three of the real-life heroes portrayed in the film.”
According to a Media Matters analysis, Kelly also promoted the movie more on her show from January 4 through January 19 than the syndicated entertainment news shows Extra!, Entertainment Tonight, and Access Hollywood combined. Those shows covered the movie for a total of 7 and a half minutes over the same period.
Kelly's dedication to promoting right-wing misinformation surrounding the Benghazi attack is unsurprising given her track record at the network. As an otherwise-glowing profile of Kelly in Vanity Fair highlighted earlier this month, despite Kelly's attempt to cast her show “as a 'news' show as opposed to an opinion show, like Hannity or The O'Reilly Factor, [it] is made up largely of the kind of stories you'd find on many other Fox News shows at any other time.” As Media Matters noted in 2013 when Kelly's new time slot was announced, Kelly regularly uses her perceived journalistic bona fides to cast conservative misinformation as “news.”
The Washington Post's Erik Wemple noted of the network's 13 Hours coverage: “Fox News, even after hyping the bona fide revelations in the book version of '13 Hours,' is promoting the Bay movie for its potential to revive Benghazi as a problem for Clinton. In so doing, Fox News isn't acting as a news organization, which reports events as they arise; it's acting as an advocacy organization, verily rooting for the movie to tilt the contemporary political debate.”
Media Matters searched for the terms “Benghazi” and “13 Hours” in IQ Media from January 4, 2015 to January 19, 2015 in the shows, Extra!, Access Hollywood, and Entertainment Tonight. For the methodology for the original study, click here.