Ranking Member of the House Select Committee on Benghazi Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD) is pushing back against false claims that a recently unredacted Defense Department email is a “smoking gun” that supposedly “seems to contradict testimony from former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta who in 2013 told lawmakers there was no time for an immediate response” to the September 11, 2012 attacks in Benghazi, Libya.
Fox News recently seized on the unredacted Department of Defense email, claiming that the “email shows [the] Pentagon was ready to roll as Benghazi attack occurred.” Fox News claimed that the email, first obtained by right-wing Judicial Watch, directly contradicts testimony from former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta in 2013.
But the “smoking gun” email hyped by conservative media outlets doesn't contradict statements made by Panetta. During his 2013 testimony to the Senate Armed Services Committee, Panetta explained that military assets were deployed that night.
Rep. Elijah Cummings denounced the allegations in a December 9 press release that criticized right-wing media's attempt to rehash a “conservative conspiracy theory” by using “bits of information out of context to rehash baseless allegations that have been debunked time and again.” The press release includes transcript of Secretary Panetta's 2013 testimony and also includes an unredacted version of the email released by Judicial Watch:
Today, the Select Committee on Benghazi Ranking Member released an email in unredacted form that debunks recent rehashed allegations from conservative news outlets about the Department of Defense's response on the night of the Benghazi attacks.
Conservative commentators have called the redacted email a “smoking gun” and claimed that it “seems to contradict testimony from former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta who in 2013 told lawmakers there was no time for an immediate response,” and that "[military assets] were awaiting sign off from the State Department and they never acted."
However, the unredacted email confirms the previous testimony of Defense Department officials to Congress, supports the findings of previous Congressional Committees, and debunks these recent rehashed allegations.
The email in question is released in full here.
A Democratic Spokesman stated:
“This email is yet another example of how conservative conspiracy theorists use bits of information out of context to rehash baseless allegations that have been debunked time and again.”