Blog ››› ››› ZACHARY PLEAT
Fox News host Bill O'Reilly discounted well-established facts when pushing the myth that President Obama did not order the military to help during the Benghazi attack.
On May 1, O'Reilly hosted Fox military analysts Ralph Peters and David Hunt to discuss new testimony about Benghazi that has been distorted by the network. After O'Reilly noted that military forces couldn't mobilize without an order from the president, Hunt said that "the president never gave the order" to deploy. Hunt later said "we had forces close enough to affect the battle, where they were ordered not to." Peters said that "the White House would have said stand down, that will still come out," to which O'Reilly responded, "that will be huge." O'Reilly echoed the Fox analysts, saying: "There wasn't anybody who said do something. That had to come from President Obama, through Leon Panetta ... it didn't happen."
But testimony from military leadership said otherwise. In his congressional testimony on February 7, 2013, former Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta said that after he informed the president about the attack in Benghazi, Obama "at that point directed both myself and General Dempsey to do everything we needed to do to try to protect lives there." The Associated Press reported that Panetta ordered Marine anti-terrorism teams in Europe to prepare to deploy to Libya, and ordered other special forces teams to prepare to deploy to a European staging base.
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Martin Dempsey similarly testified that the military "reacted quickly once notified of the attacks" and "deployed a Fleet Antiterrorism Security Team to Tripoli while a second team prepared to deploy."
But the units were unable to reach Libya until well after the attack ended due to time and distance constraints.
Peters' claim that there was a "stand down" order sent to American forces stationed in Tripoli during the attack has been debunked repeatedly, even by Fox News itself.
The Pentagon explained in May 2013 that there "was never any kind of stand down order to anybody." That June, Dempsey testified before Congress that the team wasn't "told to stand down. A stand down means don't do anything." He continued to explain that the team was ordered to assist in Tripoli. Fox finally admitted that the "stand down" order didn't happen on June 26, 2013, after the leader of that special forces team told Congress that he was never ordered to "stand down."
O'Reilly closed the segment by using the aforementioned myths as justification to call for a new congressional hearing:
O'REILLY: So now, so everybody is clear, I want everybody to be clear about this -- you have to pull in Dempsey and Panetta and say to them, "Did someone tell you not to get a rescue mission up and running?" That is a simple question these two men have to answer. Is that correct, is that where we are? ... That's where we are. I want everybody to be clear we take it step by step.