Rush Limbaugh peddled three conspiracy theories surrounding the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi during his radio program, claiming that the Obama administration is “engag[ing] in a cover-up” of the attack, is forbidding the FBI to investigate in Benghazi, and is jailing the maker of an anti-Muslim movie as punishment for creating the film.
Limbaugh Conspiracy No. 1: Obama Admin. “Engage[d] In A Cover-Up” About Libya Attack
Limbaugh: Obama Admin. “Engage[d] In A Cover-Up. They Concocted A Phony Scenario” About The Libya Attack. During his September 28 radio program, Limbaugh declared that the Obama administration was covering up the true story of the attacks on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi by blaming the violence on an anti-Islam video. From the segment:
Right. So, Carney lies. Two weeks ago. Susan Rice lies. Two weeks ago, Sunday. And they've been lying every day since. They engage in a cover-up. They concocted a phony scenario.
They got their political mileage out of this. They established the narrative that it was the video. They had a solid week of doing that, no matter who was protesting and saying it wasn't. They had the world believing it. The U.S. media spreading that it was the video. And now the guy who did the video is in jail. And there's nothing to see here anymore. We move on. [Premiere Radio Networks, The Rush Limbaugh Show, 9/28/12]
Reality: Obama Admin. Investigated Attack And Updated Public As Intelligence Information Changed
Sept. 13: AP Reports Obama Admin. Is “Investigating Whether The Assault On The U.S. Consulate In Libya Was A Planned Terrorist Strike.” The Associated Press reported on September 13 that the FBI has been investigating whether the attack was a terrorist attack or not:
The Obama administration, roiled by the first killing of a U.S. ambassador in more than 30 years, is investigating whether the assault on the U.S. Consulate in Libya was a planned terrorist strike to mark the anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and not a spontaneous mob enraged over an anti-Islam YouTube video. [Associated Press, 9/13/12]
Sept. 16: Ambassador Susan Rice: “The Best Assessment We Have Today Is That In Fact This Was Not A Preplanned, Premeditated Attack.” During the September 16 edition of Fox News' Fox News Sunday, host Chris Wallace asked if the attack on the U.S. consulate in Libya was a “pre-planned” attack by a terrorist organization." Ambassador Rice noted that early signs didn't point to a “premeditated attack”, but that the FBI is “obviously investigating this very closely” and that “we don't want to jump to conclusions before then”:
WALLACE: Let's talk about the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi this week that killed four Americans including Ambassador Chris Stevens. A top Libyan official now says that the attack on that consulate, on Tuesday, was quote, his words: “Pre-planned.” Al-Qaeda says the operation was revenge for our killing a top Al-Qaeda leader.
RICE: Well, first of all, Chris, we are obviously investigating this very closely. The FBI has a lead in this investigation. The information, the best information and the best assessment we have today is that in fact this was not a preplanned, premeditated attack. That what happened initially was that it was a spontaneous reaction to what had just transpired in Cairo as a consequence of the video. People gathered outside the embassy and then it grew very violent. Those with extremist ties joined the fray and came with heavy weapons, which unfortunately are quite common in post-revolutionary Libya and that then spun out of control.
But we don't see at this point signs this was a coordinated plan, premeditated attack. Obviously, we will wait for the results of the investigation and we don't want to jump to conclusions before then. But I do think it's important for the American people to know our best current assessment. [Fox News, Fox News Sunday, 9/16/12]
Sept. 19: Director Of National Counterterrorism Center Says This Was A “Terrorist Attack” And “The Facts We Have Now Indicate ... An Opportunistic Attack.” Director of the National Counterterrorism Center Matt Olsen testified in front of a congressional hearing on the newest information coming from the intelligence community on the Benghazi attack. From The Washington Post:
The U.S. ambassador and three other Americans killed last week in Libya died “in the course of a terrorist attack,” a senior U.S. intelligence official told lawmakers Wednesday.
Matthew Olsen, director of the National Counterterrorism Center, repeated earlier statements by the Obama administration that initial conclusions do not point to a planned assault. Instead, he said, “the facts that we have now indicate that this was an opportunistic attack,” in which heavily armed militants took advantage of an ongoing demonstration at the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi.
But Olsen went beyond those conclusions to say that the people involved in the violent assault appeared to have come from several militant groups, including localized extremists in eastern Libya as well as affiliates of al-Qaeda.
“The picture that is emerging is one where a number of different individuals were involved, so it's not necessarily an either/or proposition,” Olsen told a hearing of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. [The Washington Post, 9/19/12]
Sept. 20: Wash. Post Reports State Dept. Is Launching Independent Inquiry Into Consulate Attacks. From The Washington Post:
The State Department is opening a new inquiry into the attack on a diplomatic post in Libya that killed four Americans, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said Thursday.
The inquiry announced by Clinton will be carried out by an independent four-member panel chaired by retired diplomat Thomas Pickering. The panel, required by law, will look at whether security procedures were adequate at the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi and make recommendations to the secretary of state. Pickering was once the boss of U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens, who was killed in the Benghazi attack last week, along with another diplomat and two security personnel. [The Washington Post, 9/20/12]
Sept. 28: DNI Office: Intel Community Initially Told Executive Branch And Congress That “Attack Began Spontaneously Following Protests” In Cairo. On September 28, the office of the Director of National Intelligence released a statement on the Benghazi attack. It said, “Throughout our investigation we continued to emphasize that information gathered was preliminary and evolving.” It also noted that its initial assessment was that the attack “began spontaneously”:
As the Intelligence Community collects and analyzes more information related to the attack, our understanding of the event continues to evolve. In the immediate aftermath, there was information that led us to assess that the attack began spontaneously following protests earlier that day at our embassy in Cairo. We provided that initial assessment to Executive Branch officials and members of Congress, who used that information to discuss the attack publicly and provide updates as they became available. Throughout our investigation we continued to emphasize that information gathered was preliminary and evolving. [DNI.gov, 9/28/12]
Sept. 28: DNI Office Says Intel Community Has Revised “Initial Assessment To Reflect New Information Indicating That It Was A Deliberate And Organized Terrorist Attack.” The statement from the DNI's office also made clear that new information led the intelligence community to revise its assessment:
As we learned more about the attack, we revised our initial assessment to reflect new information indicating that it was a deliberate and organized terrorist attack carried out by extremists. It remains unclear if any group or person exercised overall command and control of the attack, and if extremist group leaders directed their members to participate. However, we do assess that some of those involved were linked to groups affiliated with, or sympathetic to al-Qa'ida. We continue to make progress, but there remain many unanswered questions. As more information becomes available our analysis will continue to evolve and we will obtain a more complete understanding of the circumstances surrounding the terrorist attack. [DNI.gov, 9/28/12]
Limbaugh Conspiracy No. 2: Obama Admin. Is “Keeping The FBI Out [Of Benghazi] On Purpose”
Limbaugh: “The FBI Will Not Lie About What They Find [In Benghazi], So The Regime Has Got To Keep Them Out Of There.” Limbaugh also claimed that the FBI is not currently investigating in Benghazi because the Obama administration is worried about what FBI agents would uncover. Limbaugh stated:
Here's why the FBI isn't there. The FBI will find out what happened, and the regime does not want that reported. The FBI will not lie about what they find, so the regime's got to keep them out of there. You let the FBI in there, and they're going to find out what happened. If you have the FBI conducting an investigation and telling everybody officially what we know -- that's not good for the regime. So you just keep them out. You don't let them go. You don't send them. And therefore, you never get to the bottom of it.
It's not incompetence. You were thinking it was incompetence, right? The gang that can't shoot straight. OK, our ambassador's dead, and why isn't the FBI over there? They called it a crime scene. They're keeping the FBI out on purpose.
They're being kept out of there so that whatever they would learn will stay unknown. [Premiere Radio Networks, The Rush Limbaugh Show, 9/28/12]
Reality: FBI Is Already Investigating In Libya, But Security Risks Are Keeping Them Out Of Benghazi
AP: FBI Agents Arrived In Libya Last Week To Investigate. The Associated Press reported:
FBI agents were sent to Libya last week to look into the Sept. 11 attack that killed Ambassador Chris Stevens, a State Department computer expert and two former U.S. Navy Seals.
At FBI headquarters Friday, spokesman Paul Bresson said “we are moving forward with our investigation,” but Bresson declined to comment on the specific location of the agents. [Associated Press, 9/28/12]
NY Times: FBI Is Waiting For Security Risks To Subside Before Investigating In Benghazi. Investigators are gathering information from outside Benghazi by working with local officials and civilians until the city of Benghazi is safe for them to enter, The New York Times reported:
Sixteen days after the death of four Americans in an attack on a United States diplomatic mission here, fears about the near-total lack of security have kept F.B.I. agents from visiting the scene of the killings and forced them to try to piece together the complicated crime from Tripoli, more than 400 miles away.
The Libyan government has advised the F.B.I. that it cannot ensure the safety of the American investigators in Benghazi. So agents have been conducting interviews from afar, relying on local Libyan authorities to help identify and arrange meetings with witnesses to the attack and working closely with the Libyans to gauge the veracity of any of those accounts. [New York Times, 9/28/12]
Limbaugh Conspiracy No. 3: Filmmaker Was Jailed Because He Said “Something That The Regime Doesn't Like”
Limbaugh Claims Maker Of Anti-Muslim Film Has Been Jailed Because He Said “Something That The [Obama] Regime Doesn't Like.” Limbaugh repeatedly mentioned that Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, the man allegedly behind the anti-Muslim film that sparked protests throughout the Middle East, had been arrested. Limbaugh said the “legal” reason he was jailed was “for parole violation,” but he insisted that the Obama administration must have played a hand in his jailing:
LIMBAUGH: And now the filmmaker is in jail. Have you heard this? They finally got the guy in jail. We are going out of our way to apologize to the Islamist supremacist world. This guy is in jail on a parole violation. Something with a fraudulent check. But they've got the guy in jail. And don't believe he's in jail for parole violation. I mean, that's the legalese, that's the legal. They've got this guy in jail for the world to see that the United States can and will throw the First Amendment in the trash and will jail somebody who says something that the regime doesn't like. [Premiere Radio Networks, The Rush Limbaugh Show, 9/28/12]
Filmmaker Was Arrested For Violating Probation From A Previous Bank Fraud Conviction
LA Times: Filmmaker Nakoula Was Arrested For Violating His Probation Stemming From A 2010 Bank Fraud Conviction. The Los Angeles Times reported that in 2010, Nakoula was sentenced to 21 months in prison for bank fraud. He was arrested for violating his probation stemming from this conviction. From the L.A. Times:
Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, the filmmaker behind the controversial movie “Innocence of Muslims” that has sparked days of rioting across the Muslim world, was ordered detained Thursday by a federal judge for allegedly violating terms of his probation.
Nakoula was convicted on bank fraud charges in 2010 and was warned against misbehaving on the Internet.
He was ordered not to own or use devices with access to the Web without approval from his probation officer -- and any approved computers were to be used for work only. “Defendant shall not access a computer for any other purpose,” according to the terms of his probation. [Los Angeles Times, 9/27/12]
AP: Nakoula Detained Because Of “Pattern Of Deception” Including Eight Probation Violations. The Associated Press reported that Nakoula was denied bail after his arrest because the judge found “a lack of trust in this defendant.” From AP:
A federal judge on Thursday determined that a California man behind a crudely produced anti-Islamic video that inflamed parts of the Middle East is a flight risk and ordered him detained.
Citing a lengthy pattern of deception, U.S. Central District Chief Magistrate Judge Suzanne Segal said Nakoula Basseley Nakoula should be held after officials said he violated his probation from a 2010 check fraud conviction.
“The court has a lack of trust in this defendant at this time,” Segal said.
Nakoula, 55, was arrested Thursday. He had eight probation violations, including lying to his probation officers and using aliases, and he might face new charges that carry a maximum two-year prison term, authorities said. [Associated Press, 9/28/12]
Reuters: Authorities Said They Were “Not Probing The Movie Itself.” Reuters reported that “Nakoula has been under investigation by probation officials looking into whether he violated the terms of his 2011 release from prison on a bank fraud conviction while making the film, though authorities have said they were not probing the movie itself.” [Reuters, 9/27/12]
Media Matters intern Brendan Karet contributed to this report.