What The Media Should Know About Secretary Clinton And Benghazi

As Secretary of State Hillary Clinton prepares to testify before Congress about the September 11 attack on a U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, Media Matters reviews the falsehoods conservative media have pushed regarding Clinton and her response to the attack.

Why Did Clinton Mention An Anti-Islam Video When Responding To The Attack?

How Willing Has The Obama Administration Been To Investigate The Attack?

Did Clinton Take Responsibility For The Benghazi Attack?

What Has Clinton Said Publicly About Benghazi?

MYTH: Clinton's Mention Of An Anti-Islam Video Was A “Diversion Tactic”

Hannity: Clinton “Chose ... To Rant About A Phantom Movie That May Or May Not Exist.” On the September 13, 2012, edition of his Fox News show, Sean Hannity attacked the Obama administration for citing an anti-Islam video posted on YouTube as a catalyst for the attack in Benghazi. Hannity said that Obama administration officials “now appear to be buying into a narrative that the trailer for a low-budget anti-Muslim film is actually responsible for the chaos in the streets in the Middle East.” He then said that Clinton “rant[ed] about a phantom movie that may or may not exist.” [Fox News, Hannity, 9/13/12, via Nexis]

Fox's Bolling Calls Clinton's Reference To Anti-Islam Video A “Diversion Tactic.” On the September 13 edition of Fox News' The Five, co-host Eric Bolling said:

BOLLING: Some people are trying to blame [an] obscure movie, a YouTube movie, for murders of Americans and escalating violence. Even Secretary of State Hillary Clinton mind-numbingly doubled down on this diversion tactic today.

After audio of Clinton calling the video “disgusting and reprehensible” was played, Bolling asked co-host Dana Perino why Clinton would mention the video two days in a row. [Fox News, The Five, 9/13/12, via Nexis]

FACT: Video Reportedly Did Motivate Attackers ...

NY Times: Attackers Said They Struck U.S. Compound In Benghazi “In Retaliation For The Video.” An October 15 New York Times article reported that the people who attacked the U.S. compound in Benghazi said that the anti-Muslim film prompted the attack. Furthermore, Libyans “who witnessed the assault and know the attacks” also said the video was the catalyst for the attack. [The New York Times10/15/12]

... And Sparked Global Riots

Sept. 13: NY Times: “Turmoil Over Contentious Video Spreads.” The New York Times reported on September 13 that "[d]eadly outrage in the Arab world over an American-made video insulting Islam's founder" had “spread to at least half a dozen places across the Middle East,” including Iran, Yemen, Tunisia, Sudan and Pakistan. The article also reported that “at least five Yemenis were killed” when hundreds of protesters stormed the American Embassy in Sana, Yemen. [The New York Times9/13/12]

Sept. 14: NY Times: Anti-American Protests Over “Video Insult To Islam Spread To Nearly 20 Countries.” A New York Times article on September 14 stated: “Anti-American rage that began this week over a video insult to Islam spread to nearly 20 countries across the Middle East and beyond on Friday, with violent and sometimes deadly protests.” The article reported that protesters “had penetrated the perimeters of the American Embassies in the Tunisian and Sudanese capitals, and said that 65 embassies or consulates around the world had issued emergency messages about threats of violence.” [The New York Times, 9/14/12]

Google Blocked Access To Inflammatory Video In Egypt And Libya; Government Authorities Blocked The Video In Singapore And Iran. The New York Times reported on September 13 that Google, the owner of YouTube, had blocked access to the anti-Muslim video in Egypt and Libya, and Agence France-Presse reported on September 20 that Google had blocked access to the video in Singapore. CNN later reported that government officials in Iran had blocked access to the video, while the Associated Press reported officials in Turkey planned to do so. [The New York Times, 9/13/12; Agence France-Presse, 9/20/12, via The Straits Times; CNN, 9/24/12; Associated Press, 9/26/12, via The Huffington Post]

For more on the role the anti-Islam video played in the Benghazi attack, see here and here.

MYTH: Clinton Was Part Of An Obama Admin. “Cover-Up” Of What Happened in Benghazi

Fox's Bolling: “This Is A Cover-Up At The Highest Levels Of The United States Government.” On the September 20, 2012, edition of The Five, clips of White House press secretary Jay Carney and Clinton speaking about the Benghazi attack were aired. Bolling then said:

BOLLING: Americans deserve some answers. Why won't this president call a terrorist a terrorist? Hillary Clinton, Madam Secretary, smart lady, do you really think it was all about a movie? Jay Carney, c'mon, you know better than what you have been saying. Ambassador Rice, please stop insulting our intelligence. This is a cover-up at the highest levels of the United States government. Don't they realize this just emboldens al Qaeda? [Fox News, The Five, 9/20/12, via Nexis]

FACT: FBI Is Investigating Libya Attack And Clinton Launched Independent Inquiry -- Which Was Critical Of Admin.'s Response

Obama Administration Began Investigating The Benghazi Attack Almost Immediately After It Occurred. The day after the attack on the U.S. compound in Libya, press secretary Jay Carney told reporters that the violence was already “being investigated” and that “as we find out information that can be made available I'm sure we will.” [WhiteHouse.gov, 9/12/12]

Attorney General Holder Cut Trip Short To Manage FBI's Libya Probe. On September 13, the Associated Press reported that Attorney General Eric Holder ended a trip to the Middle East early, skipping stops in Saudi Arabia and Turkey, to return to the United States to manage an FBI investigation into the Benghazi attacks. The AP wrote, “The attorney general's change in plans followed remarks he made Thursday in Doha, Qatar, that the FBI has opened a full investigation into the deaths and the attack on the consulate.” [Associated Press, 9/13/12]

Director Of National Counterterrorism Center Testified At Senate Committee Hearing About The Attack. On September 19, director of the National Counterterrorism Center Matt Olsen informed lawmakers about information obtained in the investigation of the Benghazi attack. [The Washington Post9/19/12]

Clinton: State Dept. Launching Independent Inquiry Into Benghazi Attacks. Clinton announced on September 20 that the State Department would open an independent inquiry into the attack. As The Washington Post reported: "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." [The Washington Post9/20/12]

NY Times: Independent Panel “Sharply Criticized The State Department.” The Pickering panel released a report on December 18 that “sharply criticized the State Department for a lack of seasoned security personnel and for relying on untested local militias to safeguard the compound,” as The New York Times reported. The panel made 29 recommendations to improve security and internal communication at the State Department. [The New York Times, 12/18/12]

MYTH: Clinton Never Took “Any Kind Of Responsibility” For Attack

Fox's Kirsten Powers: Clinton Seems Not To Be “Taking Any Kind Of Responsibility” For Benghazi. During the December 22 edition of Fox News Watch, Fox News contributor Kirsten Powers said, “I think Hillary Clinton has said the buck stops with her. The president says the buck stops with him, and yet, they're the only two people who don't seem to be really taking any kind of responsibility.” [Fox News, Fox News Watch, 12/22/12, via Nexis]

FACT: Clinton Accepted Responsibility For Benghazi Attack

WSJ: “Clinton Accepts Blame For Benghazi.” From an October 16 Wall Street Journal article:

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said she takes responsibility for security at the American diplomatic outpost in Benghazi, Libya, where Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans died in an attack last month.

“I take responsibility,” Mrs. Clinton said in a recent interview in her office. “I'm the Secretary of State with 60,000-plus employees around the world. This is like a big family...It's painful, absolutely painful.” [The Wall Street Journal, 10/16/12]

MYTH: Clinton Was Silent On Benghazi

Fox's Krauthammer: Clinton “Didn't Say A Word” For Months Following Benghazi Attack. During the January 8 edition of Fox News' Special Report, Fox News contributor Charles Krauthammer said, “The first thing [Clinton] has to explain is why for three months after the event -- two months after the event, and before her injury she didn't say a word. She is the head of the department. The ambassador worked for her. He didn't work for Susan Rice. And she said the buck stops here and then she said nothing.” [Fox News, Special Report, 1/8/13, via Nexis]

The Hill's A.B. Stoddard: Clinton “Has Been Conspicuously Absent” From Benghazi Discussion. On the December 18 edition of Special Report, The Hill's A.B. Stoddard said that Clinton “has been conspicuously absent from any situation since September 11 where she would have to talk about it. Absent. She did finally make a comment about Susan Rice, but absent defending her, absent from giving an account of what happened, with the exception that she wanted to make a statement of being fully accountable.” [Fox News, Special Report, 12/18/12, via Nexis]

Fox's Gutfeld: Clinton Is On An “Avoid Benghazi Tour.” During the November 20 edition of The Five, co-host Greg Gutfeld said: “It's good to see [Clinton] continue the avoid Benghazi tour. It's very nice, and way to roll in on the tenth inning.” [Fox News, The Five, 11/20/12, via Nexis]

FACT: Clinton Spoke Extensively About Benghazi

September 11: Clinton Condemns Benghazi Attack. On the day of the Benghazi attacks, Clinton released a press statement condemning the events and coordinated additional security for Americans in Libya. [State.gov, 9/11/12]

September 12: Clinton Pays Respects To Stevens And Smith. During remarks made from the State Department, Clinton again condemned the attacks on Americans in Benghazi and paid respects to Ambassador Chris Stevens and Sean Smith, one of the other three Americans killed in the attack. [State.gov, 9/12/12]

September 13: Clinton Pays Respects To Woods And Doherty. Following the notification of their families, Clinton issued a press statement which paid respects to the other two Americans killed in the attacks, which she again condemned. [State.gov, 9/13/12]

September 14: Clinton Pays Respects To Four Dead Americans. During a ceremony at Andrews Air Force Base, Secretary Clinton paid respects to the four deceased Americans and thanked their families for their service to the country. [State.gov, 9/14/12]

October 12: Clinton On Benghazi: “To This Day We Do Not Have A Complete Picture.” In remarks made on October 12, Clinton said that the details of the attack were still being investigated and that “there is much we still don't know.” [ABC News, 10/12/12]

October 15: Clinton Takes Responsibility For Benghazi Attack. In an October 15 CNN interview, Clinton said that she was responsible for the security of diplomats abroad and committed to bringing those responsible to justice. [CNN, 10/15/12]

October 16: Clinton Speaks In Depth About Attacks. Speaking in depth with CBS News, Clinton emphasized that the information about the details of the attacks would evolve beyond what was immediately known. [CBS News, 10/16/12]