Has Morning Joe Fallen Prey To The Benghazi Hoax?

MSNBC's Morning Joe helped to legitimize House Republicans' witch-hunt into the Benghazi attacks by pushing some of Fox News' favorite myths about the tragedy.

House Republicans voted on Friday to establish a select committee on the 2012 Benghazi attacks, a move which follows months -- and years -- of Fox News pushing misinformation and consistently calling for Congress to further investigate Benghazi.

In the wake of the establishment of the select committee, right-wing media led by Fox have revived a litany of  already-asked-and-answered questions on Benghazi, jumping off the White House's release of a September 14, 2012 email from Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes used to prepare Susan Rice for the Sunday talk shows after the attacks (despite the fact that the Rhodes' email was consistent with intelligence reports at the time and relied on CIA talking points). 

Unfortunately, Fox was not alone -- MSNBC's Morning Joe has also legitimized the investigation by pushing debunked Benghazi myths.

On the May 8 edition of Morning Joe, Nicole Wallace, former White House communications director under President George W. Bush, hyped the claim that the administration deceptively linked the attacks to the inflammatory video: 

WALLACE: We now know the CIA -- their analysis did not include any connection between the video. The CIA testified that certainly there were protests in the region, but not that they were tied to the video.

So that's why the White House talking points are so -- I think are being viewed with such a degree of suspicion by Republicans. 

In reality, the best intelligence at the time reflected a link between the video and the attacks. The White House's analysis is identical to the initial draft of the separate set of CIA talking points that were crafted by CIA analysts earlier that day, and former CIA acting director Mike Morrell has testified that the CIA chief of station in Libya believed at the time that the video might have motivated the attackers.

Additionally, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence's review found that an inflammatory video linked to violent protests around the region led terror groups to conduct “similar attacks with advanced warning.” 

Morning Joe co-host Joe Scarborough has also spent a considerable amount of time pushing the myth that the talking points were inappropriately changed, and that those changes, in addition to the newly released Rhodes email indicate a White House cover-up.

The previous day, Morning Joe hosted Select Committee Chairman Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC) to push the conspiracy theory of a cover-up. While discussing the Rhodes email, Gowdy insisted, “You have the exact same document being produced to Judicial Watch that was produced to Congress but with different redactions. That's one example of having discovery that you can't rely on.” When pressed on which evidence suggests a cover-up, Gowdy argued, “The talking points changed multiple times. The first iteration did not contain what was in the last iteration.”

Scarborough gave credence to Gowdy's conspiracy theory, claiming that the email's alleged instructions “directing Susan Rice to steer” talking points “away from what really happened and talk about a video, there are a lot of Americans that think that constitutes a cover-up.”

Scarborough has repeatedly suggested the administration's handling of the attacks was a politically motivated cover-up. While discussing the Rhodes email on May 1, Scarborough accused the administration of “lying about something we all know they're lying about ... Everybody watching knows it's about Benghazi.” Co-host Mika Brzezinski added, “It's either they were covering up something or they forgot to release the email.” On May 2, Scarborough again claimed the “White House has been caught in a lie with Benghazi,” as the Rhodes email makes it “obvious they're not telling the truth.”

Yet contrary to these conspiracy theories, there were no efforts to alter talking points or to create a cover up for political purposes. The Senate Select Committee review reported that the “talking points went through the normal interagency coordination process,” and as noted above, the talking points reflected the intelligence community's best assessment of the situation at the time.

The Rhodes email also provides no proof of a lie or a cover-up. According to Slate chief political correspondent  John Dickerson, while the newly released documents “clearly show that the White House pushed the video story,” they also show “proof that the White House believed the story they were pushing,” given that the CIA “made spontaneity its first and most durable claim that weekend” by initially blaming the video.