REPORT: Fox News Spent Nearly Three Hours Promoting Michael Bay's Benghazi Film As A Threat To Hillary Clinton

Fox News has devoted roughly three hours to promoting the release of Michael Bay's 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi, a movie about the 2012 attacks on diplomatic facilities in Libya, praising the film, repeatedly characterizing the movie as a threat to Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign, and hyping several debunked myths about the Benghazi terror attacks. More than half of the network's 32 segments focused on falsehoods about the State Department and Obama administration's responses to the attacks, and nearly 60 percent of the segments linked the movie to Clinton's 2016 bid for the White House.

Fox Devoted 32 Segments To The Film In Two Weeks

Michael Bay's 13 Hours Gives “Cinematic Treatment” To Benghazi Terror Attacks. 13 Hours, Bay's movie about the attacks, premiered on January 12. The film, according to The New York Times, was crafted to be a “cinematic catharsis for viewers whose understanding of the assault ... has been blurred by partisan politics.” [New York Times1/5/16]

Fox News Spent Nearly Three Hours Over 32 Segments Hyping The Film. From January 4 through January 19, Fox News aired a total of 32 segments running for a total of 2 hours, 53 minutes, and 15 seconds featuring significant discussion of 13 Hours, according to a Media Matters review. 

Megyn Kelly Covered The Movie The Most, With Almost An Hour And A Half Of Airtime On Her Prime Time Show. On The Kelly File, host Megyn Kelly included discussion of 13 Hours in 11 segments for a total time of one hour, 22 minutes and 45 seconds. The Kelly File aired almost half all of Fox's total discussions of the movie, and ran more than one-third of the segments about the film. Kelly kicked off Fox News' coverage of 13 Hours with a 17-and-a-half minute segment on January 4, claiming that the film “may pose a threat to Hillary Clinton's hopes for the White House.” Kelly also aired an hour-long special of the film on January 18. In a distant second behind The Kelly FileThe Five featured the second most discussion of the film, totaling 23 minutes and 33 seconds, and America's Newsroom followed with 14 minutes and 2 seconds of coverage.

Fox Hyped The Movie As A Threat To Hillary Clinton's 2016 Presidential Campaign

In Nearly 60 Percent Of Segments, Fox Linked The Movie And The Benghazi Attacks To Clinton's Presidential Campaign. 19 of the 32 segments, or 59 percent of all segments, featured Fox hosts or guests linking the movie to Hillary Clinton's bid for the White House and hyping it as a threat to her campaign. Megyn Kelly drove this narrative the most, invoking Clinton's White House run seven times, followed by The Five with four segments and Fox & Friends with three.

Clinton Is Not Mentioned In The Film, Has Taken Responsibility For The Benghazi Attacks, And Has Testified Before Three Congressional Committees. While Fox frequently invoked Clinton's presidential campaign in their segments on 13 Hours, Clinton is never mentioned in the film. Conservatives have sought to damage Clinton by promoting a series of myths about her actions during and after the attacks, but after she appeared before the House Select Committee on Benghazi, media pointed out that her testimony produced no “major new revelations” and condemned the committee as a partisan exercise. [Media Matters, 10/21/15Media Matters, 10/23/15Media Matters, 1/15/16]

Fox Invoked Clinton's “What Difference ... Does It Make?” Comments In 13 Percent Of The Segments. In four separate segments, Fox News personalities paraphrased or aired video of Hillary Clinton saying “what difference, at this point, does it make?” to attack her by falsely claiming she was dismissing the deaths of the four Americans killed in Benghazi.

But Clinton Was Referring To The Administration's Post-Attack Talking Points, Not The Tragic Consequences Of The Attack. During her January 2013 congressional testimony, Clinton was asked a question by Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) about the State Department's role in editing then-U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice's media appearance talking points to remove a reference to the attackers' motive. Sen. Johnson asked Clinton “I'm going back to Ambassador Rice, five days later going to the Sunday shows and what I would say purposefully misleading the American public ... But why weren't we transparent at that point in time?” In response, she dismissed the relevance of asking who edited a government memo, saying, "[T]he fact is, we had four dead Americans. Was it because of a protest? Or was it because of guys out for a walk one night and decided they'd go kill some Americans? What difference, at this point, does it make? It is our job to figure out what happened and do everything we can to prevent it from ever happening again." [Media Matters, 9/16/14Media Matters, 10/21/15]

Fox Obsessed Over Debunked Myth That Hillary Clinton And The Obama Administration Deliberately Misled The Public About Attackers' Motives

Fox News Suggested Clinton And White House Officials Intentionally Lied To The Public About The Attacks In More Than Half Of The Segments. Out of 32 segments, 17 included the implication that Hillary Clinton's State Department and the Obama administration deliberately misled the public about who perpetrated the attack and why, amounting to 53 percent of all segments. The Kelly File raised the topic the most, with seven segments suggesting Hillary Clinton and other senior White House officials deliberately lied about the attackers' motives.

But Initial Intelligence On Attackers And Their Motivations Was “Piecemeal” And “Conflicting” And “Continued To Change Throughout The Week. Susan Rice appeared on the Sunday political talk shows on September 16, 2012, to discuss Benghazi and a series of anti-American demonstrations across the Muslim world, which were a response to an anti-Muslim YouTube video. Rice immediately came under fire for linking the Benghazi attacks to the video and for not referring to the attack as terrorism, even though she called the perpetrators “extremists” and made clear that her comments were based on the limited intelligence available. Lawmakers and media subsequently fixated on the “talking points” she was given for the appearances, falsely suggesting that the Obama administration had deceptively edited CIA intelligence to downplay the role of terrorism in order to benefit President Obama's re-election campaign. However, the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence's Benghazi's investigation found that, in the wake of the attacks, “intelligence analysts and policymakers received a stream of piecemeal intelligence regarding the identities/affiliations and motivations of the attackers,” and that “much of the early intelligence was conflicting.” As reported by the October 2015 Democratic staff report on the Benghazi attacks, intelligence about the cause of the attack “continued to change throughout the week,” and Secretary Clinton “relayed information consistent with reporting at the time” to Egyptian Prime Minister Hesham Kandil during their September 12, 2012 conversation. [Media Matters11/30/12Media Matters9/11/13Media Matters5/15/13Media Matters6/5/13Media Matters10/23/15]

Fox Furthered The Falsehood That The Obama Administration Issued A “Stand-Down” Order To Halt Reinforcements During The Attack

Fifty Percent Of Segments Forwarded The False Claim That The Obama Administration Issued A “Stand-Down” Order. 16 of the 32 segments suggested that the Obama administration, including Clinton's State Department, issued a “stand down” order to soldiers or CIA personnel while the Benghazi attacks took place. The Kelly File aired this myth the most, for a total of five segments, followed by Fox &Friends for a total of four segments.

But There Was No Obama Administration “Stand-Down” Order. 13 Hours portrays a confrontation between the CIA contractors it stars and their CIA base chief, who orders them to hold off on going to the State Department facility during the attacks so he can seek additional support. The base chief serving at the time of the attack subsequently disputed 13 Hours' characterization of these events. Fox has repeatedly pushed the myth that CIA and military personnel were ordered to “stand down” by higher-ups or someone in the Obama administration, theoretically hindering their ability to save the Americans who were killed during the attacks. But multiple investigations found that while commanders on the ground made tactical decisions in the interest of protecting Americans in Tripoli and ensuring a successful rescue effort in Benghazi, no such “stand down” orders were given. CIA personnel, the Pentagon, the House Armed Services Committee, the Senate Intelligence Committee, Tripoli commander Lt. Col. S.E. Gibson, then-Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsey, nine other military officers, the Senate Intelligence Committee, and the GOP-led House Intelligence Committee have all confirmed that no “stand down” order was given. [Media Matters1/15/16Washington Post1/15/16Media Matters7/10/14Media Matters7/27/13Media Matters8/27/14Media Matters2/11/14Media Matters5/9/13]

Fox Aired Six Segments Suggesting That No Forces Were Sent To Benghazi During The Attack. Fox has frequently claimed that no assistance was deployed during the attacks, with one contributor even going so far as to suggest that Obama “sacrificed Americans” as a “political calculation.” Megyn Kelly revived this myth twice, and America's Newsroom, Cashin' In, The Five, and Fox & Friends all brought it up once.

But Reinforcements Were Sent To Aid The Diplomatic Post During The Attacks. A six-member quick-reaction team and 60 Libyan militiamen in Benghazi responded to the initial distress calls from the diplomatic post, and reinforcements from the embassy in Tripoli arrived the same night, before the second round of attacks on the CIA annex. In fact, one of the four Americans who were killed that night, Glen Doherty, was part of the rescue effort. Additional special operations teams were ordered to deploy from Croatia and the United States, but did not arrive in Libya until long after the attack had concluded. Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates has accused critics who believe more U.S. forces should have responded of having a “cartoonish impression of military capabilities.” During a February 2013 hearing, then-Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta stated that even though “time, distance, the lack of an adequate warning, [and] events that moved very quickly on the ground prevented a more immediate response” to the Benghazi attacks, he immediately ordered DOD assets to respond. Panetta also explained that “within hours, this six-man team, including two U.S. military personnel, chartered a private airplane, deployed to Benghazi.” [Media Matters7/10/14Media Matters11/4/12Media Matters, 10/28/13Media Matters12/08/15]

Fox's 13 Hours Cheerleading Ignored Congressional Probes And Attacked Clinton Supporters

Megyn Kelly: The Benghazi Film Could “Pose A Threat To” Hillary Clinton's Campaign. Megyn Kelly opened her January 4 edition of The Kelly File with a 20 minute “exclusive” on the “gripping new film,” claiming that it “may pose a threat to Hillary Clinton's hopes for the White House.” Kelly said 13 Hours “reintroduces Benghazi as a potential campaign issue that cannot be helpful to Mrs. Clinton,” and further invoked the falsehoods that “desperate calls for help ... went unanswered by President Obama's administration, including Hillary Clinton's State Department.” [Fox News, The Kelly File 1/4/16]

Andrea Tantaros: Anyone Who Sees 13 Hours “And Then Goes On To Vote For Hillary Clinton, They're A Criminal.” On the January 18 edition of Outnumbered, co-host Andrea Tantaros said that “anyone [who] sees this movie ... and then goes on to vote for Hillary Clinton ... [is] a criminal.” [Fox News, Outnumbered, 1/19/16]

Fox Host Claims 13 Hours Will Raise Questions Eight Congressional Probes Have Failed To Answer. On the January 5 edition of America's Newsroom, co-host Martha MacCallum insisted that “there is no doubt that [the movie] will put some more questions to Hillary Clinton about her reaction that night,” despite Clinton already having testified in three congressional hearings about the Benghazi attacks and eight different congressional committees having investigated them. [Fox News, America's Newsroom1/5/16]

Fox's Kilmeade Uses Benghazi Movie To Push Debunked “Stand Down” Order Myth. Co-host of Fox & Friends Brian Kilmeade revived the “stand down” order myth on January 13, saying “the people who have seen it say it comes down to this: who gave the stand-down order, and that is included in the movie.” [Fox News, Fox & Friends1/13/16]

The Five Co-Hosts Blame The Media For Attacking Fox's Obsessive Coverage Of Benghazi. On the January 5 edition of The Five, co-host Greg Gutfeld lamented that “the media is going to let this slide,” and co-host Eric Bolling agreed, bemoaning that "[the media] point[s] the finger at us, saying Fox or the right is rehashing this." Bolling further added that “we need to keep harping on this, because it matters.” [Fox News, The Five1/5/16]

Fox News' 13 Hours “Advocacy” Is Part Of Network's Benghazi Obsession

Fox News Is Obsessed With The Benghazi Attacks. Fox News' evening lineup ran nearly 1,100 segments on the Benghazi attacks and their aftermath in the first 20 months following the attacks. Nearly 500 segments focused on a set of Obama administration talking points used in September 2012 media interviews; more than 100 linked the attacks to a potential Hillary Clinton 2016 presidential run; and dozens of segments compared the attacks and the administration response to the Watergate or Iran-Contra scandals. The network hosted Republican members of Congress to discuss Benghazi nearly 30 times more frequently than Democrats. [Media Matters9/16/14]

Washington Post's Wemple: Fox Is “Acting As An Advocacy Organization” With 13 Hours Coverage. Washington Post opinion writer Erik Wemple wrote that Fox “is promoting the Michael Bay movie for its potential to revive Benghazi as a problem for Clinton,” and thus is acting not as a “news organization” but as an “advocacy organization”:

That Fox News, even after hyping the bona fide revelations in the book version of “13 Hours,” is promoting the Bay movie for its potential to revive Benghazi as a problem for Clinton. In so doing, Fox News isn't acting as a news organization, which reports events as they arise; it's acting as an advocacy organization, verily rooting for the movie to tilt the contemporary political debate. If Bay could only produce a Hollywood reenactment of Obamacare's lowest moments or of the failures of the president's Islamic State policy, he could surely bank on similar excitement from the country's No. 1 cable news outfit. [Washington Post1/20/16]


Media Matters identified segments based on Nexis transcripts and internal video archives for Fox & Friends, America's Newsroom, Happening Now, Outnumbered, The Real Story with Gretchen Carlson, Shepard Smith Reporting, Your World with Neil Cavuto, The FiveSpecial Report with Bret BaierOn the Record with Greta Van SusterenThe O'Reilly FactorThe Kelly FileHannity, Fox & Friends Weekend, The Cost of Freedom, Bob Massi is the Property Man, The Journal Editorial Report, America's News HQ, Fox Report Weekend, The Greg Gutfeld Show, Sunday Morning Futures with Maria Bartiromo, #MediaBuzz, Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace, and Justice with Judge Jeanine between January 4, 2016, at 6:00 a.m. and January 19, 2016 at 11:00 p.m. for “13 Hours,” “Benghazi,” or “Libya.”

We included each segment where “13 Hours” was the stated topic of discussion. We defined significant discussion as at least two speakers in the segment talking about “13 Hours” to one another (e.g. the host asking a guest a question about the movie during a multi-topic interview). We coded for the following criteria:

  • Suggestions that the administration deliberately misled about who perpetrated the attack and why
  • Suggestions that the Obama administration ordered security forces to stand down
  • Suggestions that no security forces were deployed to Benghazi in response to the attack
  • Segments linking the Benghazi attack to Hillary Clinton's 2016 presidential run
  • What difference does it make paraphrase, or “what difference, at this point, does it make?” direct quote