The right-wing media's smear campaign against the Obama administration over the 2012 attacks in Benghazi, Libya, appears to be paying dividends in the form of donations.
A Media Matters review of fundraising emails and websites found that conservatives have routinely invoked Benghazi to ask followers for money. The fundraising solicitations accuse the Obama administration of “lies,” “cover-ups,” a “dereliction of duty,” and crimes worse than Watergate.
The fundraising is only likely to intensify with the recent creation of a House select committee, led by Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC), to investigate the attacks. The Republican leadership convened the committee despite numerous previous inquiries into Benghazi. The Department of Defense wrote in March that it had already participated in “approximately 50 congressional hearings, briefings, and interviews” about the 2012 attacks.
Gowdy said on MSNBC today that fellow Republicans should not fundraise off of the Benghazi attacks, stating: “Yes, and I will cite myself as an example. I have never sought to raise a single penny on the backs of four murdered Americans.”
Like their counterparts in the media, the main Republican Party campaign apparatuses are actively fundraising off of Benghazi. The Republican National Committee has a donation page asking Republicans to demand “the truth about Benghazi” by contributing money. The National Republican Senatorial Committee asks Republicans to “donate today” because of Benghazi. And the National Republican Congressional Committee has a fundraising page stating: “You're now a Benghazi Watchdog. Let's go after Obama & Hillary Clinton. Help us fight them now.” The page features an image of President Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton with the text, “Benghazi Was A Coverup. Demand Answers.”
Here are five recent examples of conservative pundits raising money off their Benghazi witch hunt.
Fox News Host Mike Huckabee
Huckabee sent a May 6 email to his Fox News-promoted MikeHuckabee.com list titled, “Benghazi, Benghazi, Benghazi.” Huckabee claimed that Clinton “has some explaining to do” and the Obama administration was responsible for “subsequent lies and cover-ups.”
He later suggested that Benghazi is worse than Watergate, writing: “We once had real newspapers and broadcast news outlets that cared about a government lying to the people. Now, they dismiss Benghazi as 'no Watergate.' And they're right: in Watergate, the press didn't look the other way and neither did Congress. And in Watergate, no one died.” At the conclusion of his email, Huckabee wrote: “Help support conservative candidates through Huck PAC. Chip in $5 or more to Huck PAC!”
Fox News Contributor John Bolton
Bolton sent an April 16 fundraising email for his John Bolton PAC with the title, “Benghazi is a disgrace.” Bolton wrote that “Obama, Hillary, [Leon] Panetta - not one of them will take the fall because they know their actions, leaving Americans to die at the hands of terrorists, were a gross dereliction of duty ... Our enemies know that under Obama, you can kill his personal representative and get away it scot-free.” Bolton later wrote: “I encourage you to make a generous donation to support John Bolton PAC's efforts.”
Bolton also sent an April 30 fundraising email in which he wrote that Obama “did absolutely nothing to avenge the murder of our Ambassador Chris Stevens in Benghazi, Libya, at the hands of Al-Qaeda terrorists.”
Bolton has also invoked Benghazi while raising funds for the Republican Party. During an April 12 fundraising dinner for Missouri's Camden County GOP, Bolton said Benghazi shows that the administration has “no intention of protecting the United States effectively.” Bolton added that the “lesson of Benghazi” is you can kill Americans “with impunity.” Tickets to the dinner were $35, and sold out.
Fox News Contributor Allen West
West sent a January 21 email for his Allen West Guardian Fund PAC claiming there “is an ongoing cover-up to hide the truth” about Benghazi. West offered a solution by writing “we need to clean up Washington.” He explained readers could help do so by making “an immediate contribution of $25, $50, $100 or more right now to the Allen West Guardian Fund.”
West sent a March 14 email claiming “Obama and his party are defeatists. When Obama retreated from his warnings to Syria regarding their chemical weapons program and told lies to avoid taking military action for the terrorist attack in Benghazi, he sent a clear message to the world: 'America is weak. We'll just talk tough and back down. Do as you wish.'” West then asked for donations to his political action committee.
On May 7, hours after Gowdy's request for Republicans to not fundraise off of Benghazi, West sent an email fundraising off of Benghazi. West wrote, “The fact that Obama and Hillary did nothing to save our people in Benghazi, and in-fact may have taken direct actions that caused it to happen, is just heartbreaking. It may even be criminal.” The email asked for donations “of $25, $50, $100 or more right away” to help “prevent another disaster like Benghazi.”
Accuracy In Media
A May 2 email from AIM chairman Don Irvine claimed, “After a year and a half of Benghazi damage control enforced by the administration and their lapdogs in the press, the genie is suddenly out of the bottle.” It concluded: “To move ahead with this vital work to shine the light of truth on Benghazi, Accuracy in Media needs your support. We urge you to express your confidence in our efforts by sending a generous donation today.”
AIM also convened a “Citizens' Commission on Benghazi” which included members such as Fox News contributors Allen West, and Thomas McInerney. A donation plea on the website states: “Accuracy in Media and the CCB are taking the lead in reporting the truth about Benghazi that even Republicans on the Hill won't touch. We are doing the real work of interviewing witnesses, collecting documents, and finding out the facts--why it happened, how it happened and why it was covered up. In order to proceed with our investigation, we must have your help. Please donate to Accuracy in Media today to shine the light of truth on this issue and end the Benghazi cover-up.”
American Center For Law And Justice / Jay Sekulow
The ACLJ, a conservative group headed by radio host and regular Fox News guest Jay Sekulow, asks for donations to “Demand Answers on Benghazi.” The group states: “The Obama Administration has not given the American people the truth about Benghazi. Congress is forming a select committee to get to the bottom of this foreign policy disaster and get answers. We're working with Members of Congress to get the truth. Stand with us with your tax-deductible donation today.”
*This post was updated with information about Allen West's May 7 email, and Bolton's Camden County speech.