Benghazi | Media Matters for America

Benghazi

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  • Lara Logan rewrites the history of her Benghazi trainwreck

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Lara Logan, formerly CBS News’ chief foreign correspondent, is downplaying the massive journalistic failure that led to the retraction of her infamous 60 Minutes report on the 2012 Benghazi attack and her own lengthy leave of absence, choosing instead to blame the entire calamity on what she suggests was a bad-faith effort by Media Matters.

    This is nonsense -- an embarrassing effort by a journalist to slough off responsibility for what she had previously acknowledged was her own substantial error.

    Logan, who quietly left CBS News last year, made the comments during a lengthy interview published Friday with Mike Ritland, a former Navy SEAL and podcaster. Her remarks have rocketed through the pro-Trump media ecosystem, making their way to Fox News, with right-wing commentators praising her for describing the media as “mostly liberal.”

    According to Logan, she was simply trying to tell a good story about the September 11, 2012, attack on a U.S. diplomatic facility in Benghazi, Libya, and was smeared because she had previously given a speech which revealed that she didn’t believe the Obama administration’s initial statements that the attack began as a spontaneous protest.

    “I made one random comment about Benghazi in one hour-and-a-half presentation that lasted seconds, basically,” she told Ritland. “And that was used to say that I should never have reported on Benghazi because I was biased.” Logan claimed that because of that speech, Media Matters “targeted” her, and as a result, she “paid for that heavily, but nothing that was said about me in the wake of that was true.”

    Logan is rewriting the historical record, and her claims are unequivocally false. She wasn’t “targeted” or the victim of a political hit job because of a line in a speech. She got in trouble because she based her October 27, 2013, Benghazi report for 60 Minutes on the claims of a purported “eyewitness” to the attacks who turned out to have fabricated his story. Logan’s segment was championed by Republicans and right-wing media figures who argued that it showed the Obama administration had blundered and then lied to avoid repercussions.

    Media Matters wrote about her because her story was deeply flawed. Our work had little to do with the October 2012 speech she mentioned during her podcast interview -- as far as I can tell, we didn't mention it until roughly a month after her 60 Minutes report ran, when CBS News called it a "conflict" with her reporting. I should know -- as head of our investigations department at the time, I wrote or edited dozens of stories about Logan's Benghazi reporting.

    We were among Logan’s most fervent critics, but we were far from alone; her report was shattered by stories in The New York Times and The Washington Post, and CBS News was subjected to a firestorm of criticism from other journalists until the report fell apart and the network finally retracted it.

    Logan initially defended her work and “attributed the critical response to the report to the intense political warfare that has surrounded the episode,” according to the Times. But once the story fell apart completely, she made two on-air apologies to the CBS audience.

    “You know the most important thing to every person at 60 Minutes is the truth and today the truth is that we made a mistake, and that's very disappointing for any journalist,” Logan said on the November 8, 2013, edition of CBS This Morning. “It's very disappointing for me,” she continued. “Nobody likes to admit that they made a mistake, but if you do, you have to stand up and take responsibility and you have to say that you were wrong, and in this case we were wrong. We made a mistake.” She added that she no longer “had confidence in our source, and that we were wrong to put him on air, and we apologize to our viewers.”

    In a second apology on 60 Minutes that weekend, Logan admitted that she had been “misled, and it was a mistake to include [the source] in our report.” “For that, we are very sorry,” she added. “The most important thing to every person at 60 Minutes is the truth, and the truth is, we made a mistake.”

    Logan has now returned to her initial claim to the Times that she has simply been the victim of “political warfare.” She is no longer admitting she made a mistake, no longer taking responsibility or saying she was wrong. It appears that the most important thing to her is no longer the truth.

    After retracting Logan’s 60 Minutes story, CBS News conducted a “journalistic review” of Logan’s report that concluded with the November 26, 2013, announcement that she had agreed to a request to take a leave of absence. She did not return for six months.

    Did Media Matters play a big role in ensuring that CBS News had to take responsibility for its failure? Absolutely, and I’m very proud of our work holding the network -- and Logan -- accountable.

    But I’ll tell you a secret: As much as I might like it to be otherwise, major broadcast networks don’t often retract stories, launch internal investigations, and force correspondents to take leaves of absence just because Media Matters criticizes their reports.

    The reason CBS News was forced to answer for what it did was because we were right, and everyone else in the media knew it. We kept attention on the story, which prevented the network from being able to wait for it to blow over.

    But it was major publications like the Times and the Post that provided the reporting that destroyed Logan’s story, and other commentators piled on. CBS was buried by headlines like “What’s the Matter With ‘60 Minutes’?” and “What’s wrong with ‘60 Minutes’?” Months later, New York magazine asked whether Logan was “too toxic to return” to the show.

    Our criticism wasn’t personal: Media Matters had rarely mentioned her before her Benghazi report, and we have not regularly criticized her since her return to CBS. But with regard to this particular 60 Minutes report, she didn't do her job, so we did ours. It is shameful for her to deny responsibility for her work and embarrassing for her to pretend that she was smeared.

  • Fox News puts chief Benghazi mythmaker Trey Gowdy on its payroll

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    After spending years pursuing baseless congressional investigations that fed Fox News’ insatiable demand for stories on Democratic malfeasance, former Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC) has now signed on with the network as a contributor.

    In a Wednesday press release, Fox announced that Gowdy had been hired to “offer political and legal analysis.” The network added Gowdy to a stable of former Republican officials that also includes his predecessor as chairman of the House oversight committee, former Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT), who left Congress in 2017 to grab a hefty Fox paycheck.

    This is no coincidence -- much of Fox’s news coverage is devoted to credulous reporting on Republican congressional investigations, making it useful for the network to have people on the payroll who can authoritatively support those inquiries’ claims.

    For years, much of Fox’s reporting revolved around the 2012 terrorist attacks on U.S. diplomatic facilities in Benghazi, Libya, which killed four Americans, as the network aimed first to prevent President Barack Obama’s re-election and then to scuttle Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s presidential aspiration.

    In the first 20 months following the attacks, the network’s evening lineup alone ran nearly 1,100 segments on the story. Much of the coverage was conspiratorial and false, devoted to proving that the Obama administration was to blame for the deaths and that Obama, Clinton, and others had deliberately deceived the public through a sinister cover-up. A rotating set of Republican congressmen rolled through Fox’s studios to give its segments weight and bolster their own political stars, even as a series of investigations debunked these myths.

    Gowdy was one of the Republican members who benefited the most from Fox’s spotlight. A former South Carolina prosecutor who used his courtroom skills to good, if sometimes deceitful, effect during congressional hearings, Gowdy made dozens of appearances on the network, often using the Fox platform to push long-debunked myths about the Benghazi attacks. When then-House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) gave in to a Fox campaign demanding the formation of a special committee to re-investigate the attacks, he naturally turned to Gowdy to lead the effort.

    The Benghazi select committee was a politically motivated crock, spending $7 million over more than two years to uncover little new of note about the 2012 attacks, with its highest-profile moment a dramatic hearing in which Republican representatives tried and failed to lay a glove on Clinton. It nonetheless achieved its aim: As then-House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) boasted during a September 2015 appearance on Sean Hannity’s Fox show, the committee’s attacks damaged Clinton’s approval ratings as she sought the presidency.

    The select committee also kept Gowdy in the spotlight. He made dozens more Fox appearances, using that platform to give Fox access to the latest revelations on Benghazi. After the 2016 presidential election ended with Clinton’s defeat, Gowdy quietly shuttered the committee, then moved on to chair the oversight committee after Chaffetz abandoned Congress for his Fox gig.

    With President Donald Trump in the White House, there were plenty of opportunities for an aggressive investigator who truly cared about public corruption to dig in. But Gowdy spent his two years as head of the oversight committee doing everything he could to ignore rampant criminality and malfeasance in Trump’s campaign, company, and administration. Instead, he made headlines for his efforts to protect Trump from the purported “deep state” conspiracy that the president and his Fox News allies claim is targeting him. Among his final acts as chair was bringing in former Attorney General Loretta Lynch for a nearly seven-hour hearing about how the Justice Department and FBI handled its probe regarding Clinton’s use of a private email server.

    That’s the Trey Gowdy you can expect to see on Fox -- someone willing to go to the mat to attack Democrats while doing his best to protect Republicans.

  • House Benghazi Committee Shuts Down After Spending $7.8 Million Taxpayers Dollars In A Media Fueled Witch Hunt 

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    After two and a half years, the House Benghazi Committee has ended their right-wing media endorsed attempt to blame Hillary Clinton and the Obama administration for the deaths of four Americans during the 2012 attack on a temporary diplomatic facility in Benghazi, Libya.

    The House Select Committee on Benghazi was created in May 2014 “to form a 12-member committee to investigate the Obama administration’s handling of the 2012 attacks” after Fox News’ unrelenting coverage of the attack for two years despite a review by the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, and an independent report by the State Department Accountability Review Board (ARB) found no wrongdoing by the administration.

    Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton became the focal point of conservative media smears when the committee revealed that Clinton had been using a private email server during her time at the State Department. Right-wing media relentlessly attacked Clinton on the private server, repeatedly claiming released emails revealed Benghazi “smoking gun[s].” They didn’t.. Adding to the political nature of the committee was admissions by Republicans that the purpose of the investigation was to damage the likely Democratic nominee for president, Hillary Clinton.

    After more than two years and $7.8 million dollars, the House Benghazi Committee shutdown. USA Today reported that while the House Benghazi Committee “accused the government of incompetence at various levels … the [final] report did not single out wrongdoing by then secretary of state Hillary Clinton.” And while Republicans on the committee called the investigation and the report a “‘final, definitive accounting’” of the attack, Democrats “contended all along that the committee was a political effort to taint Clinton”:

    WASHINGTON — The special congressional investigation into the 2012 terrorist attacks in Benghazi is officially over now that the panel filed its final report the day before the House adjourned for the year.

    The Select Committee on Benghazi initially released its findings in June but remained in place for months afterward trying to declassify supporting documents like emails and interview transcripts for public release.

    The final report, not including dissenting views from committee Democrats, clocks in at more than 322,000 words. It was added to the official House record without fanfare on Dec. 7 by Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., the panel’s chairman.

    The panel, which spent more than $7.8 million over two and a half years, disbanded at the end of the 114th Congress, before a new Congress begins in January.

    [...]

    Democrats contended all along that the committee was a political effort to taint Clinton, an allegation that got some traction when House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., told Fox News that because of the committee, "her numbers are dropping."

    The panel’s top Democrat, Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland, said Monday that the final report was a “desperate rehash.”

    “Republicans voted on this partisan report five months ago, but delayed filing it and completing the committee until after the election,” Cummings said. “Republicans promised a process that was fair and bipartisan, but the American people got exactly the opposite.”

  • What To Know About Fox Contributor And Possible Trump Secretary Of State John Bolton

    Trump Rumored To Be Considering Warmonger And Benghazi Conspiracy Theorist As Nation’s Top Diplomat

    ››› ››› CRAIG HARRINGTON & CAT DUFFY

    President-elect Donald Trump is reportedly considering numerous right-wing media personalities and cast-off Republican figures for key positions in his incoming administration. John Bolton, a former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations under President George W. Bush and a longtime Fox News contributor, is seen as a front-runner for secretary of state.

  • Fox’s Final Election Hail Mary Is A Four Year Old Benghazi Claim Floated By Organization Of Conspiracy Theorists

    Fox News Already Reported Speculation That Libya Consulate Guards Turned On U.S. Personnel Four Years Ago

    Blog ››› ››› ZACHARY PLEAT

    On the eve of the 2016 presidential election, Fox News pushed a report detailing the “explosive charge” that a security company hired to protect the U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, was staffed with locals that participated in the September 11, 2012, attack that left four Americans dead, including Ambassador Chris Stevens. Fox actually reported identical speculation more than four years ago; their sources for the charge are an anonymous “independent security specialist, the co-author of a book that stated that there is “no evidence” the guards “were in league with the attackers,” and an organization filled with birthers and conspiracy theorists; and the network’s previous reporting about the security company featured noted fabulist Dylan Davies.

    A week after the September 11, 2012, attack, Fox correspondent Ed Henry reported that “there are reports that security guards” hired by the British security contracting firm Blue Mountain Group “ “turned on the ambassador and that led to his death.” From a Nexis transcript of the September 18, 2012, edition of Fox News’ Special Report with Bret Baier (subscription required):

    HENRY: Today, [State Department spokesperson Victoria] Nuland clarified the administration had, in fact, hired a private security company, Blue Mountain Group, to work inside the perimeter.

    NULAND: They were hired to provide local Libyan guards who operated inside the gate doing things like operating the security access equipment, screening the cars.

    (END VIDEOTAPE)

    HENRY (on-camera): Significant, because there are reports that those Libyan security guards turned on the ambassador and that led to his death. Now, late today, Secretary Hillary Clinton said there was no actionable intelligence about an imminent attack in Libya. The keyword being actionable there.

    Tonight, a FoxNews.com report by Malia Zimmerman and Adam Housley called similar reports an “explosive charge,” and presented them as completely new information:

    An obscure private firm hired by the State Department over internal objections to protect U.S. diplomats in Benghazi just months before the American ambassador and three others were killed was staffed with hastily recruited locals with terror ties who helped carry out the attack, multiple sources told Fox News.

    The explosive charge against Wales-based Blue Mountain Group comes from several sources, including an independent security specialist who has implemented training programs at U.S. Consulates around the world, including in Benghazi, where he trained a local militia that preceded Blue Mountain. The source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Blue Mountain used local newspaper ads to assemble a team of 20 guards, many of

    whom had terror ties, after securing a $9.2 million annual contract.

    “The guards who were hired were locals who were part of the Ansar al-Sharia and Al Qaeda groups operating in Benghazi,” said the source, whose assignment in Benghazi had ended in November 2011. “Whoever approved contracts at the State Department hired Blue Mountain Group and then allowed Blue Mountain Group to hire local Libyans who were not vetted.”

    [...]

    John “Tig” Tiegen, one of the CIA contractors that responded to the Sept. 11, 2012 attack and co-author of “13 Hours: The Inside Account of What Really Happened in Benghazi,” confirmed to Fox News that the local Libyans who attacked the consulate that night included guards working for Blue Mountain.

    "Many of the local Libyans who attacked the consulate on the night of Sept. 11, 2012, were the actual guards that the State Department under Hillary Clinton hired to protect the Consulate in Benghazi,” Tiegen told Fox News. “The guards were unvetted and were locals with basically no background at all in providing security. Most of them never had held a job in security in the past.

    “Blue Mountain Libya, at the time of being awarded the contract by our State Department, had no employees so they quickly had to find people to work, regardless of their backgrounds,” he said.

    One former guard who witnessed the attack, Weeam Mohamed, confirmed in an email sent to the Citizens Commission on Benghazi and obtained by Fox News, that at least four of the guards hired by Blue Mountain took part in the attack after opening doors to allow their confederates in.

    “In the U.S. Mission, there were four people [who] belonged to the battalion February 17,” Mohamed wrote to the Commission, an independent body formed with Accuracy in Media to investigate the attack and the administration's handling of it.

    Fox’s sourcing for the story -- which would contradict several reports by congressional committees and a review by the State Department -- is extremely dubious. Their lead source is anonymous. Their second source, Tiegan, wrote in his bestseller 13 Hours that there was “no evidence” the guards helped the attackers. From 13 Hours (page 84-85):

    Who opened the gate wasn’t clear, but responsibility for the entrance rested with the Blue Mountain Libya guards. By some accounts the armed invaders threatened the unarmed guards, who immediately acquiesced. A US government review raised the possibility that the “poorly skilled” local guards left the pedestrian gate open “after initially seeing the attackers and fleeing the vicinity.” No evidence has shown that the Blue Mountain guards were in league with the attackers, but maybe they were incompetent. As the report noted, “They had left the gate unlatched before.” Further complicating matters, the camera monitor in the guard booth at the front gate was broken, and new surveillance cameras.

    The network’s third source comes by way of the Citizens Commission on Benghazi, which is staffed by multiple birthers, anti-Muslim activists, and conspiracy theorists who maintained that there was a Benghazi “cover-up.”

    Fox previously relied upon Blue Mountain Group security contractor Dylan Davies for Benghazi reporting -- in fact, Housley himself acknowledged on-air that some of the network's 2012 Benghazi coverage had cited Davies, but they "stopped speaking to him when he asked for money." In 2013, CBS News retracted a report that featured Davies’ fabricated claims about having scaled a wall of the Benghazi diplomatic compound while it was under attack and striking a terrorist with his rifle.

    It’s no surprise that Fox News, whose obsession with finding a way to turn the tragedy in Benghazi into political attacks on President Obama and then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, would close the 2016 presidential campaign with a new Benghazi conspiracy.

  • Trump’s Latest Lie Comes Straight From State-Owned Russian Media

    Russia’s Alleged Sidney Blumenthal Quote Actually From Newsweek Article Decrying “Show Trial” GOP Hearings

    Blog ››› ››› BOBBY LEWIS

    At an October 10 campaign rally, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump claimed Clinton family friend and adviser Sidney Blumenthal told Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman, John Podesta, that “one important point has been universally acknowledged by nine previous reports about Benghazi: The attack was almost certainly preventable.” Trump alleged Blumenthal said that “if the GOP wants to raise that as a talking point against her, it is legitimate”:

    However, Newsweek reporter Kurt Eichenwald found the alleged Blumenthal comments “really, really familiar.” Eichenwald found the comments “so familiar” because, in fact, “they were something I wrote.”

    In an October 10 article, Eichenwald revealed that Sputnik, a news organization “established by the [Russian] government controlled news agency, Rossiya Segodnya,” discovered in a WikiLeaks dump of Podesta’s hacked emails “a purportedly incriminating email from Blumenthal” calling the Benghazi attacks a “legitimate” talking point against Clinton.

    In reality, Sputnik’s declared “‘October surprise’” quoted “two sentences from a 10,000 word piece” Eichenwald wrote for Newsweek “which apparently Blumenthal had emailed to Podesta.” Contrary to the lies from Sputnik and Trump, Eichenwald’s article is not about how the Benghazi attacks are Hillary Clinton’s fault, but rather “the obscene politicization of the assault that killed four Americans” and “the Republican Benghazi committee which was engaged in a political show trial disguised as a Congressional investigation.” 

    Even though “once they realized their error, Sputnik took the article down,” Trump continued to use Russian state media’s lie as a weapon against his political opponent. This fits Trump and his campaign’s pattern of questionable relations with Russia, including calls for the Kremlin to commit a cyberattack against Hillary Clinton.