On MSNBC, Former Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta Debunks Fox's Benghazi "Stand Down Order" Myth
Panetta: "There Was Never Any Order To Stand Down" From The Pentagon
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From the January 7 edition of MSNBC's Andrea Mitchell Reports:
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ANDREA MITCHELL (HOST): Now you're here in Washington because you're going to be testifying to the Benghazi Select Committee tomorrow. You have already testified to other committees, but to this committee, and there's a new movie coming out, 13 Hours, and it's about to be released. It is accusing the CIA operatives on the ground of being ordered to stand down and not go to the rescue in time. And the suggestion is that, if not for that order to stand down, that Chris Stevens and the others might have been saved. First of all, you were at the Pentagon at the time, I believe. Was there any order to stand down that you know of?
LEON PANETTA: Absolutely not. You know, I'm sure there are going to be movies and books and there will be all kinds of theories that will be presented, but from my experience, and from the role that I played as secretary of defense, there was never any order to stand down. On the contrary, the whole effort was to do everything possible to try to save lives.
MITCHELL: There's also a report, several reports, that the Pentagon made an offer of a rescue effort, military effort to the State Department, and that someone, the suggestion is Hillary Clinton, said, "no thanks, we don't need the help or stand down or stand back." Was there any effort by the Pentagon to intervene that the State Department rejected and would she have even been in the role?
PANETTA: I'm not aware of any such effort at all. As a matter of fact, after meeting with the president, I immediately went back and we made decisions to deploy forces, to put them in place to be able to go in and provide help to those involved, and we in fact put forces in place. The problem was that [the] attack ended quickly and because of time and distance we never had a chance to get there. This is a tragic event. It's tragic in a number of ways. But most importantly, it's tragic because it's now become a political football that unfortunately, I think, doesn't do service to all of those that were committed to trying to protect lives.