Fox News and other conservative media outlets have amplified Rep. Darrell Issa's (R-CA) misleading claim that Democrats “excuse[d] themselves” from testimony given by the families of the victims of the Benghazi attack. In fact, over the course of the hearing, members of both parties were in and out of the proceedings.
Rep. Issa posted a tweet claiming that Democratic members of the House Oversight Committee left the hearing room as Patricia Smith and Charles Woods testified about their sons, Sean Smith and Charles Woods, who were killed in Benghazi.
The image and tweet are misleading. Members often come and go during congressional hearings to attend to other business (taking votes, other hearings etc). The hearing yesterday was over five and a half hours long and was split in two by a recess at 2:25 p.m. EDT. In the first half of the hearing, military and administration officials testified, followed by the family members in the second half.
One member, Rep. John Tierney (D-MA), released the following information:
Congressman Tierney was unable to stay for the entire five to six hour hearing due to scheduling conflicts; but, to be clear, there was no Democratic “walk out.” Mr. Tierney was in attendance for the first panel, but similar to a number of Republican Members of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, the Congressman had a full schedule, including another Committee hearing, a meeting with small business owners who traveled from Massachusetts to DC, a discussion on Syria, as well as votes and other matters, and was unable to make it back for the second panel. He has reviewed all the testimony and reports and participated in the previous hearings on Benghazi.
In the following pictures, taken during the first segment of the testimony from C-SPAN's coverage, vacant seats on the Republican side of the dais (the left side, if you're facing the witnesses) can clearly be seen:
The following photo shows that Republican members were also absent from the chamber as the victims' family members testified.
As Slate's Dave Weigel points out, only six of the 24 Republicans on the panel were present while the family members were being questioned. In addition, two Democrats were present (including Rep. Elijah Cummings, the committee's ranking member).
On Fox & Friends, co-host Brian Kilmeade claimed that “some say it's the ultimate disgrace. Democrats walk out of yesterday's Benghazi hearing just before the parents of the victims testify.”
In a later panel discussion, Fox's on-air chyrons described the incident as “Benghazi Disgrace.”
Co-host Elisabeth Hasselbeck claimed that “we actually had Democrats walk out before the victims' mom and dad spoke,” while conservative radio host and Fox contributor Laura Ingraham said it was “one of the more disgraceful things that I have seen.”
Writing at Town Hall, Fox contributor Katie Pavlich accused Democrats of “spitting” on the graves of the Benghazi victims.
The Drudge Report linked to Pavlich's erroneous story:
Breitbart.com also ran with the false story. At HotAir, writer “Allah Pundit” said that the so-called walk-out was an attempt by Democrats to send “a bold signal” as part of “the 'phony scandal' messaging.”