Fox News is obsessively promoting as a “smoking gun” the debunked allegations that Hillary Clinton intentionally misled the public about the Benghazi attacks, knowingly telling the public that an inflammatory video spontaneously inspired the violence while privately acknowledging it was pre-planned. However, Clinton has explained that the State Department's understanding of and explanation for the attacks changed as “piecemeal” and “conflicting” early intelligence reports were replaced by more reliable information.
Rep. Jim Jordan Falsely Claims That Clinton Intentionally Misled The Public About The Cause Of The Benghazi Attacks
Rep. Jim Jordan Accuses Clinton Of Deliberately Starting A “False Narrative” That The Attacks Were Inspired By An Anti-Muslim Video. During Clinton's October 22 appearance before the House Select Committee on Benghazi, Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) accused Clinton of intentionally spreading a “false narrative” that the 2012 attacks in Benghazi Libya were triggered by an anti-Muslim video posted on the Internet:
REP. JIM JORDAN: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. You just gave a long answer, Madam Secretary, to Miss Sanchez about what you heard that night, what you're doing but nowhere in there did you mention a video. You didn't mention a video because there was never a video-inspired protest in Benghazi. There was in Cairo but not in Benghazi. Victoria Nuland your spokesperson at the State Department, hours after the attack said this, “Benghazi has been attacked by militants, in Cairo police have removed demonstrators.”
Everything points to a terrorist attack. We just heard from Mr. Pompeo about the long history of terrorist incidents, terrorist violence in the country. And yet five days later, Susan Rice goes on five TV shows, and she says this, “Benghazi was a spontaneous reaction as a consequence of a video.” A statement we all know is false. But don't take my word for it. Here's what others have said. “Rice was off the reservation. Off the reservation on five networks, White House worried about the politics.” Republicans didn't make those statements. They were made by the people who worked for you, in the Near Eastern Affairs Bureau, the actual experts on Libya in the State Department. So, if there's no evidence for a video-inspired protest, then where'd the false narrative start? Started with you, Madam Secretary. At 10:08 on the night of the attack, you released this statement, “some have sought to justify the vicious behavior as a response to inflammatory material posted on internet.” At10:08 with no evidence, at 10:08 before the attack is over, at 10:08 when Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty are still on the roof of the annex fighting for their lives, the official statement of the State Department blames a video. Why? [House Select Committee on Benghazi, 10/22/15]
Fox Promotes Rep. Jordan's Claims As “Smoking Gun” Evidence Of Clinton's Intentional Misinformation On The Cause Of The Attacks
Fox's Chris Wallace Highlights Jordan's Allegation As “Explosive” Evidence That Clinton's Remarks Were A “Direct Contradiction” To Intelligence. On the October 22 edition of Fox News' Happening Now, Chris Wallace told host Jon Scott that Clinton privately described the attack as terrorism and made no mention of the video, which he said “goes against the line that was coming out of the White House and from the State Department.” Wallace elaborated on Jordan's claim, adding, “Clinton spoke there at a ceremony attended, of course, by the relatives of the four people who had been killed. Mrs. Clinton talked specifically at that time about the video, no mention at all of Al Qaeda, no mention at all of a terror attack, so this seems in direct contradiction to that”:
CHRIS WALLACE: This is a note that supposedly, I guess,clearly Hillary Clinton sent the night of the attack. It was just sent to her family, not which member of her family, saying that it was a terror attack and no mention of the video. That certainly goes against the line that was coming out of the White House and from the State Department, and of course, we've got to remember Jim Jordan, that Ohio congressman who was asking about that didn't draw the link, but we all remember that when the caskets of the four U.S. diplomatic people brought back to Andrews Air Force Base and President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton spoke there at a ceremony attended, of course, by the relatives of the four people who had been killed, Mrs. Clinton talked specifically at that time about the video, no mention at all of Al Qaeda, no mention at all of a terror attack. So this seems in direct contradiction to that.
JON SCOTT (HOST): And it does seem important to remember the timing of all of this, less than two months before President Obama was running for reelection and that, sort of to me it seems,gets lost very often in the discussion of who said what when and exactly what was said.
WALLACE: Congressman Jordan with those quite explosive emails, in which we hear that not only was she telling her family, but she was also telling the Libyan president and the foreign minister of Egypt that it was a terror attack in the immediate aftermath of the attack. [Fox News, Happening Now, 10/22/15]
The Five Co-Host Dana Perino Calls Rep. Jordan's Allegations The “Unresolved Problem” That Will “Probably Hurt” Hillary Clinton. On the October 22 edition of The O'Reilly Factor, Perino called Clinton's “video lie” alleged by Jordan an “unresolved problem” that will “probably hurt her.” Host Bill O'Reilly responded that Hillary Clinton “made a decision ... to go along with the deception” to the public.
BILL O'REILLY (HOST): Thanks for staying with us, I'm Bill O'Reilly in the unresolved problem segment tonight, as mentioned in the talking points memo, Hillary Clinton's Benghazi testimony went on and on and on and on and on and on. Very simple question though: Did it mean anything at all? Here now, the co-host of The Five, Dana Perino. Did it mean anything at all?
DANA PERINO: Well, I think it's interesting that this is called the unresolved problem segment --
PERINO: Because I think there is an unresolved problem and that is the crux of the issue for me which is, who pushed the video lie? And she did not actually solve that problem. In fact, I do think the one thing that probably hurt her is the email that she sends that night to her daughter, and in a subsequent conversation with the Egyptian prime minister that says we know it wasn't a protest, it was an al-Qaeda attack.
O'REILLY: So it was clear to me from this testimony today and the evidence that we now know is in stone that Mrs. Clinton made a decision. She was going to go along with the deception and rationalize it by, 'well, maybe I'm wrong, maybe the CIA came up with something else.' That's really what happened. [Fox News, The O'Reilly Factor, 10/22/15]
On Hannity, Rudy Giuliani Declares That Jordan's Claim “Seals The Case” Against Hillary Clinton. On the October 22 edition of Hannity, Fox guest Rudy Giuliani declared that Jordan's allegation “seals the case” against Hillary Clinton and proves that she intentionally lied for political purposes “to cover up what actually happened” at Benghazi:
SEAN HANNITY (HOST): The evidence today, Clinton emailed her family that night and said it was an Al-Qaeda-like group that did this. The next day, she told the prime minister of Egypt 'we know that the attack in Libya had nothing to do with the film, it was a planned attack.'
RUDY GIULIANI: This actually then seals the case in the sense that before you don't know whether she's incompetent or she's lying. Now we know they're lying. Because they knew from the very, very beginning that this was a spontaneous attack, one they hadn't prepared for, one they should have been prepared for. It happened on September 11, Sean. My goodness. So the reality is this proves that what is going on here, what's going on here is there is an election, they don't want the narrative out that they failed in Libya. Now a couple years later they failed even worse. Hillary owns Libya. In this presidential campaign if the Republicans don't take Libya and just put it right on Hillary where it belongs, then we haven't carried out a campaign. She's running on her record as secretary of state. Her record as secretary of state is incompetent, and then lying for political purposes in order to cover up what actually happened. [Fox News, Hannity, 10/22/15]
Fox Contributor Marc Thiessen Calls Jordan's Allegations The “Smoking Gun That We Were Never Supposed To See.” On the October 22 edition of The Kelly File, Fox contributor Marc Thiessen claimed that Jordan's allegations “gave us the smoking gun” that proves Hillary Clinton was “covering up” the motivations behind the Benghazi attacks. Host Megyn Kelly responded that Clinton has said the administration's message changed as the intelligence changed, yet knowingly told the prime minister of Egypt that the attacks were not a result of a video, after she publicly said they were:
MEGYN KELLY (HOST): I understand Hillary Clinton's later defense today at the hearing, which was, “I still believe”-- she says, “I still believe that the video played some role.”But I heard no explanation from her as to if that was her belief, if that's her belief today, why she told the Egyptian prime minister, “we know that this attack had nothing to do with the film. We know it was a planned attack and not a protest.” Why did she say that if, to this day, she believes it was about a video?
MARC THIESSEN: Because she doesn't believe it was about a video. Because she's covering up what we weren't supposed to hear. What Congressman Jordan did today was give us the smoking gun that we were never supposed to see. Which is the internal thoughts that she had in her communications with her family, with foreign leaders telling them this was an Al Qaeda attack, this was a pre-planned attack. I mean, she, at the same time that she was going out and saying this was about an inflammatory video, she said there -- she said it was an attack. She never used the word terrorism. She never used the word Al Qaeda. At the same time she was doing that almost simultaneously. She sent an email to her daughter, Chelsea saying two of our officers were just killed by an attack with the group affiliated with Al Qaeda. She told foreign leaders this. And this is the problem with this Megyn, is that I think that the American people would not have blamed them for Benghazi if they had stepped forward, if she and President Obama have stepped forward and said, America has come under attack by Al Qaeda on the anniversary of September 11, 2001. We're going to get the people who did this. And I think Americans would have rallied to them. But they didn't do that. They lied about it and that's what I think is unforgivable.
KELLY: Here's what she says about that: Basically, that email to her family. She says the night of the attack Al Qaeda made this, Al Qaeda affiliated group made a claim of responsibility, that they then pulled back the next day. And she says, as the intel coming to her and everyone else in the administration changed, so too, did their message. And yet, what she says to the Egyptian leader is, “we know, we know” -- she's coming out, already the messages were conflicting because she's saying one thing to him and she's saying something else publicly. But she didn't say “we believe and we still have to investigate.” [Fox News, The Kelly File, 10/22/15]
Steve Doocy Claims That Clinton's Emails Are “A Smoking Gun” That Shows She Intentionally Misled About The Cause Of The Benghazi Attacks. On the October 23 edition of Fox and Friends, co-host Steve Doocy said, “Jim Jordan brought the smoking gun” that exposes how Clinton's emails to her family and Middle Eastern officials prove the State Department and the Obama administration intentionally misled about the cause of the Benghazi attacks:
STEVE DOOCY: I think that part is the smoking gun. Where we had heard her say, and everybody in the administration shortly thereafter, “oh, you know the Benghazi attack, it's all because of that video.” Well as we learned yesterday, Jim Jordan had an e-mail that Hillary sent to Chelsea, on September the 11th, and what it said was, it was like an Al Qaeda group, an Al Qaeda-like group that attacked, it had nothing to do with the film. That was very clear. We had two congressmen who were on the day, yesterday, on this program today. Mike Pompeo is the one who hammered her on being requested security 600 times. Jim Jordan brought the smoking gun regarding the fact that it was not the video. [Fox News, Fox and Friends, 10/23/15]
Fox Contributor Stephen Hayes: Clinton Had “It Both Ways” In Misleading The Public On The Benghazi Attack. On the October 22 edition of Special Report with Bret Baier, Hayes proclaimed that Hillary Clinton attempted to have “it both ways” by publicly attributing the attack to the video, while privately acknowledging it was pre-planned. Hayes said that Jordan's claim proved that Clinton offered “false or misleading testimony” under oath:
STEPHEN HAYES: I would say the lead from the day so far is Hillary Clinton repeatedly offers false or misleading testimony and journalists yawn. Journalists just don't seem to be that interested in what she's been saying. And I'll give you one example in particular. Secretary Clinton was presented with emails from Representative Jim Jordan. An email that she sent to Hillary Clinton on the night of the attack, September 11, 2012 saying that it was an Al Qaeda attack.
BRET BAIER (HOST): Sent to Chelsea.
HAYES: Sent to Chelsea Clinton -- I'm sorry. Hillary Clinton to Chelsea Clinton saying it was an Al Qaeda attack. And then this memo that was taken by a State Department note-taker recording a conversation between Hillary Clinton and the Egyptian prime minister September 12. In both of those instances, Hillary Clinton was saying this was an attack. This was not a protest. She said in the phone conversation with the Egyptian foreign minister and said that it had nothing to do with the video. And yet, two days later on September 14th, when she greets the caskets at Joint Base Andrews in suburban Washington, D.C., she tells some of the family members of those killed in Benghazi that she and the government were determined to get the film maker who was responsible for the death of their children. You can't have it both ways. [Fox News, Special Report with Bret Baier,10/22/15]
Fox's Catherine Herridge: “Smoking Gun Evidence” Proves Clinton Knew The Attack Was Premeditated, But Still Blamed An Anti-Muslim Video. On the October 22 edition of Special Report, chief intelligence correspondent Herridge claimed that the mortar strike on the Benghazi compound is “smoking gun evidence” that Hillary Clinton knowingly lied about the cause of the Benghazi attacks:
BRET BAIER (HOST): Last thing. Secretary Clinton said today there was a lot of confusion about the attack.
CATHERINE HERRIDGE: Well, the mortar strike on the CIA annex is really the smoking gun evidence that it was premeditated terrorism. Three mortars struck the CIA in under 90 seconds, fired from more than a half-mile away. It was a professional hit that required training and planning. It killed former Navy SEALs Ty Wood and Glen Doherty and it nearly blew off the leg of a diplomatic security agent. And today Mrs. Clinton's emails show that she didn't believe herself that a video was responsible for this terrorist attack, Bret. [Fox News, Special Report with Bret Baier, 10/22/15]
But Initial Intelligence On Attackers And Their Motivations Was “Piecemeal” And “Conflicting” And “Continued To Change Throughout The Week”
House Intelligence Committee: Initial Intelligence Surrounding The Attackers' Identities And Motives Was “Piecemeal” And “Conflicting.” The House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence's Benghazi's investigation found that, in the wake of the attacks, “intelligence analysts and policymakers received a stream of piecemeal intelligence regarding the identities/affiliations and motivations of the attackers,” and that “much of the early intelligence was conflicting”:
After reviewing hundreds of pages of raw intelligence, as well as open source information, it was clear that between the time when the attacks occurred and when the Administration, through Ambassador Susan Rice, appeared on the Sunday talk shows, intelligence analysts and policymakers received a stream of piecemeal intelligence regarding the identities/affiliations and motivations of the attackers, as well as the level of planning and/or coordination. Much of the early intelligence was conflicting, and two years later, intelligence gaps remain.
Various witnesses and senior military officials serving in the Obama Administration testified to this Committee, the House Armed Services Committee, and the Senate Armed Services Committee that they knew from the moment the attacks began that the attacks were deliberate terrorist acts against U.S. interests. 125 No witness has reported believing at any point that the attacks were anything but terrorist acts.
Along those lines, in the Rose Garden on September 12, 2012, President Obama said that four “extraordinary Americans were killed in an attack on our diplomatic post in Benghazi,” and said that: "[ n ]o acts of terror will ever shake the resolve of this great nation, alter that character, or eclipse the light of the values that we stand for."
However, it was not clear whether the terrorist attacks were committed by al-Qa'ida or by various groups of other bad actors, some of who may have been affiliated with al-Qa'ida. Early CIA, NCTC, DIA, and CJCS intelligence assessments on September 12th and 13th stated that members of AAS and various al-Qa'ida affiliates “likely,” “probably,” or “possibl[y]” participated in the attacks. [House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, 11/21/14]
Democratic Staff Report On Benghazi Committee Findings Concluded That Clinton's Conversation With Egyptian Prime Minister Included “Information Consistent With Reporting At The Time” As Intelligence “Chang[ed] Throughout The Week.” As reported by the October 2015 Democratic staff report on the Benghazi attacks, intelligence about the cause of the attack “continued to change throughout the week,” and Clinton “relayed information consistent with reporting at the time” to Egyptian Prime Minister Hesham Kandil during their September 12, 2012 conversation:
The evidence obtained by the Select Committee confirms previous accounts that the information being gathered in the aftermath of the attacks--and intelligence assessments of that information--continued to change throughout the week. For example, although initial reports claimed that Ansar al-Sharia was responsible for the attacks, the group later disavowed responsibility.
Later that afternoon, Secretary Clinton had a call with the Egyptian Prime Minister Hesham Kandil regarding the events in Cairo and Libya. The notes from that call indicate that the Secretary relayed information consistent with reporting at the time: “We know that the attack in Libya had nothing to do with the film. It was a planned attack--not a protest.” The notes also indicate that she acknowledged that Ansar al-Sharia reportedly claimed responsibility for the attacks: “Your [sic] not kidding. Based on the information we saw today we believe the group that claimed responsibility for this was affiliated with al Qaeda.” [Democratic Staff Report, Results Of Interviews Conducted By The House Select Committee On Benghazi,October 2015]
Clinton Has Repeatedly Said That Incomplete Intelligence Led Her To Go “Back And Forth On What Likely Happened, [And] Who Did It”
Clinton: “This Was The Fog Of War” And The Administration Relayed The Conclusion Of The Intelligence Community At The Time. During a June 17, 2014, interview on Fox News' Special Report with Bret Baier, Clinton told host Bret Baier that “this was the fog of war” and explained that the Obama administration told the public what it knew based on what the intelligence community thought at the time:
HILLARY CLINTON: This was the fog of war. You know, my own assessment careened from, the video had nothing to do with it -- it may have affected some people, it didn't affect other people. And I think the conclusion to draw, because we were not just monitoring what was happening in Benghazi once it began to unfold, but remember we had a very dangerous assault on our embassy in Cairo that same day, which was clearly linked to that video. So I was trying to make sense of it. And I think that the investigations that have been carried out basically conclude, we can't say that everybody was influenced and we can't say that everybody wasn't. But what the intelligence community said was spontaneous protest, and that is what, at the time, they thought. [Fox News, Special Report with Bret Baier, 6/18/14]
In Her Recent Book, Clinton Explained That Her Views On The Attackers' Motivations Changed Several Times Throughout The Week. Clinton explained in her memoir, Hard Choices, that she “went back on forth on what likely happened, who did it, and what mix of factors -- like the video -- played a part.” Describing the administration's initial search for answers amid incomplete information, Clinton wrote that “in the days that followed administration officials continued to tell the American people that we had incomplete information and were still looking for answers.” As the Democratic Staff Report noted:
In her book, Secretary Clinton explained that she personally changed views several times that week about the possible motivations of the attackers, whether there was a protest, and whether the attacks were preplanned:
What about the attack in Benghazi? In the heat of the crisis we had no way of knowing for sure what combination of factors motivated the assault or whether and how long it had been planned. I was clear about this in my remarks the next morning, and in the days that followed administration officials continued to tell the American people that we had incomplete information and were still looking for answers. There were many theories-- but still little evidence. I myself went back and forth on what likely happened, who did it, and what mix of factors--like the video--played a part. But it was unquestionably inciting the region and triggering protests all over, so it would have been strange not to consider, as days of protests unfolded, that it might have had the same effect here, too. That's just common sense. Later investigation and reporting confirmed that the video was indeed a factor. All we knew at that time with complete certainty was that Americans had been killed and others were still in danger. [Democratic Staff Report, October 2015]