A New York Times article directly refutes the claims of House Republicans, including Speaker John Boehner, that State Department officials knew immediately that the attacks on a U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya in 2012 were connected to “Islamic terrorists.” Fox News willingly repeated the attack on its evening programming May 9 -- but now that the Republican distortion has been exposed, will the network clarify its reports for viewers?
Boehner called for the release of a State Department e-mail sent in the wake of the Benghazi attacks that he claimed suggested the assault was perpetrated by “Islamic terrorists.” At the House hearing on Benghazi on May 8, Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC), purporting to be reading from the email in question, quoted a State Department official as saying, “the group that conducted the attacks...is affiliated with Islamic terrorists.” The phrase “Islamic terrorists” holds significance for Republicans who have suggested the administration knew from the outset that terrorists were behind the attacks but initially attempted to cover-up this knowledge for political reasons.
The May 9 editions of Fox News' Special Report with Bret Baier and Fox Business Channel's Lou Dobbs TONIGHT hyped the Republican line. According to a Nexis transcript search, Baier played clips of Boehner calling for the release of the e-mail, to which Fox guest and Fortune columnist Nina Easton responded, “I was happy to see Speaker Boehner call for the release of those internal e-mails. Anybody who thought that this was just a Republican hazing as the opposition party in power, I think those concerns were put to rest yesterday. I mean, there's so many unanswered questions.”
Lou Dobbs also played Boehner's call for release of the e-mail, noting afterward that “somewhat predictably, no response from the Obama administration at this hour.” Dobbs continued, claiming that Boehner's comments and the May 8 congressional hearings into the administration's response to the Benghazi attacks “open up new questions about the accuracy of the past testimony of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.”
The New York Times, however, obtained a copy of the e-mail in question and reported that the phrase conservatives are putting in the mouth of the State Department official -- “Islamic terrorists” - is in fact not used to describe the perpetrators of the attack. Rather, the official describes the perpetrators as having ties to “Islamic extremists” -- a distinction with a difference, according to the Times report:
[A] copy of the e-mail reviewed by The New York Times indicates that A. Elizabeth Jones, the senior State Department official who wrote it, referred to “Islamic extremists,” not terrorists.
The distinction is important, administration officials said, because while the White House did not initially characterize the attack as terrorism, senior officials, including Ambassador Susan E. Rice, acknowledged the possibility that extremists had been involved in the assault.
Fox News is no stranger to carrying water for the Republican Party, and the network has led the charge to push Benghazi cover-up conspiracies. But now that the latest GOP line on Benghazi has been exposed, will Fox inform its viewers?