Numerous media outlets have debunked Republican presidential candidate Marco Rubio's false claim that Hillary Clinton was “exposed as a liar” for misleading the public about the cause of the Benghazi attacks during her testimony in front of the House Select Committee on Benghazi October 22. Media outlets who have fact-checked that claim pointed out that all of Clinton's statements following the attack reflected the best available intelligence at the time, and CIA guidance to administration officials changed as more information became known.
Marco Rubio Falsely Claimed That Clinton Was “Exposed As A Liar” For Allegedly Misleading The Public About The Cause Of Benghazi Attacks
Marco Rubio: Clinton “Got Exposed As A Liar” During Benghazi Testimony For Citing YouTube Video As Cause Of Benghazi Attacks. In the October 28 CNBC Republican presidential debate, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) claimed that Hillary Clinton “got exposed as a liar” about the cause of the Benghazi attacks by admitting “she had sent emails to her family” attributing the attack to “Al Qaeda-like elements” while “telling the families of those victims and the American people that it was because of a video” :
MARCO RUBIO: Last week, Hillary Clinton went before a committee, she admitted she had sent emails to her family saying, “Hey, this attack in Benghazi was caused by Al Qaeda-like elements.” She spent over a week telling the families of those victims, and the American people, that it was because of a video. And yet the mainstream media is going around saying it was the greatest week in Hillary Clinton's campaign. It was the week she got exposed as a liar. It was the week that she got exposed as a liar -- but she has her super PAC helping her out, the American mainstream media. [CNBC, CNBC Republican Debate, 10/28/15]
In Post-Debate Analysis, Media Outlets Repeatedly Debunked Rubio's Claims As False
CNN's Cuomo Pushed Back Against Sen. Rubio's Previously Dismantled Benghazi Falsehoods. On the October 29 edition of CNN's New Day, Chris Cuomo corrected Rubio's claims that Clinton knowingly “misled” Americans about the attackers' motivations. Cuomo highlighted that Clinton “was following CIA guidance” when intelligence agents “changed their reckoning” of what happened:
CHRIS CUOMO (HOST): Is all the media the same?
SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R-FL): No, of course not, all the media's not the same. But by and large, I think a great example of it is last week. There was this testimony before the Benghazi committee, and in that testimony it was revealed that Hillary Clinton knew early on and was telling her family and telling her friends that the attack on the consulate was by terrorists, Al Qaeda-like terrorists. And yet for a week, not just her, but a lot of people in the administration, were going around telling the families of the victims and the American public that it was due to a video. And the reason why they did that is because they were in the midst of the presidential election in which the president was arguing that Al Qaeda was defeated and on the run. And that reality, of what truly happened in Benghazi, it countered that narrative. Well that was revealed last week, and yet the media around the country hailed her performance as incredible, the best week of her campaign. I thought it was the week she was exposed as lying about Benghazi. And it's going to be a major issue in this election. For me it was an example of the bias.
CUOMO: But I'm saying -- first of all, you say all media is not the same. That's good to hear because it seemed like that last night coming from the panel. And again, I get why that plays well to partisans. But look, here's the situation. I've gone after what Hillary said in that hearing a lot and much to getting beaten up on Twitter as a result, but that's ok, it's part of the job. She says, and Democrats and the administration say, no it wasn't a lie. She thought that's what it was. The CIA then came out with their rationales and changed their reckoning of what it was, and so she changed it. So certainly it wasn't a lie, and she was following CIA guidance.
RUBIO: There wasn't a single person on the ground near that incident in Benghazi, which -- she had access to those people -- there was not a single person on the ground in Benghazi who believed that it was a spontaneous uprising. Just the nature of the weaponry that was brought to that attack, the swiftness of which it was conducted. There was no reports of protests in that area. Everybody on the ground knew that. All they had do was talk to people in Benghazi, which she could have done. Survivors and others who responded to the attack. And they could tell you that they knew that it was an organized and orchestrated effort. They also should have known because that consulate was already, had come under a previous attack in the past. Not at that scale and scope but it had already come. And the Brits had left Benghazi. The Red Cross had closed its facilities. So it goes beyond just the lying. If that facility was going to remain open, which was questionable, but if it was going to remain open, it should have had a lot more security in place than it had. The compound was easily breached, and it led to the tragedy that occurred.
CUOMO: That's a fair criticism. And you certainly understand the situation well and the policy considerations around it. But I'm just saying a big part of your campaign is saying, I'm a new generation. I'm different. I don't play the same games that these guys did. You showed it last night when Jeb Bush came at you. How can it be a lie if it is true that Hillary Clinton changed what she said about her understanding of why it happened because the CIA told her something different. Had you been in her position and the CIA said, 'No, secretary it wasn't terrorists, it was this spontaneous thing here, and this is why we think it.' Would you have not followed them? [CNN, New Day, 10/29/15]
Washington Post: There Is Not “Enough Evidence” For Rubio “To Label Clinton A Liar.” In an October 30 article, The Washington Post fact-checker Glenn Kessler wrote that Clinton did not “deliberate[ly]” deceive the public but rather that evolving intelligence reports “caused confusion.” Kessler asserted that Rubio “does not have enough evidence to label Clinton a liar” :
These were pretty strong words uttered by Rubio at the third GOP debate, and they give us an opportunity to explore what was said by then-Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton in the week after the 2012 attacks in Benghazi that left four Americans dead, including the U.S. ambassador.
Looking at Clinton's public statements, it is clear she was very careful to keep the attacks separate from the video; the two incidents do not appear in the same sentence (unlike the controversial televised remarks by then-U.N. ambassador Susan Rice).
Focusing just on the public statements made by Clinton -- as opposed to the rest of the administration --one find little support for Rubio's claim that Clinton told the American people that the attacks were because of a video. She certainly spoke about the video, but always in the context of the protests that were occurring across the Middle East.
Can Rubio really attribute this to a “lie” rather than the fog of war? A “lie” suggests a deliberate effort to deceive, while the documentary evidence suggests there were few hard answers available then to policymakers. Even the Senate report signed by Rubio says the reports from the intelligence community “caused confusion and influenced the public statements” of policymakers.
Rubio is certainly within his rights to point out Clinton's contradictory statements -- and the remarks of the family members give us pause -- but he does not have enough evidence to label Clinton a liar.
Two Pinocchios. [The Washington Post, 10/30/15]
CBS' Charlie Rose Highlighted That The Intelligence Community Changed Its Own Assessment Of Benghazi. On the October 29 edition of CBS' This Morning, co-host Charlie Rose debunked Rubio's claims, explaining that the CIA sent out different information “as they assessed it” :
CHARLIE ROSE (HOST): The CIA was changing its own assessment of what happened there during that time zone.
MARCO RUBIO: That's not -- that's not accurate. It was clear from the very early moments after that attack that it was not a spontaneous uprising. It was a planned attack, well-orchestrated by people that brought armaments to that attack that you would never see as part of a spontaneous uprising. What was very clear is that from the very early moments of that attack, she knew that it was a terrorist attack, as she shared by email with various people. And yet she continued to perpetuate the lie that this was something different.
ROSE: If you're calling her a liar by saying she perpetuated a lie, then why do you think she did that? What was her motive?
RUBIO: Well, that's very clear why. Because they were in the middle of a 2012 reelection in which President Obama had made the claim that Al Qaeda was being defeated and on the run and this counteracted that narrative--
ROSE: But are you denying that the CIA was getting -- sending different information as they assessed it and providing different information to the leaders of our government? And that was part of the reason that they made different assessments? [CBS, This Morning, 10/29/15]