Fox News hyped the results of their own misleading poll question that dishonestly portrayed the Obama administration as giving "false information" about the September 11, 2012, attack on a diplomatic facility in Benghazi, Libya. However, a bipartisan review found that the administration's description of the attacks matched the information provided by the intelligence community.
On the January 24 edition of Fox News' America's Newsroom, co-host Martha MacCallum hyped the results of a new Fox poll to claim that "a majority of American voters blame Hillary Clinton and President Obama equally" for the Benghazi terror attack. MacCallum added that half of respondents "believe that the administration came out with false information" because "it was good for them politically."
But the Fox poll question that MacCallum used to justify her claim was framed dishonestly. After asserting that "the Obama administration falsely claimed it was a spontaneous attack in response to an offensive online video," the question asks "why Obama administration officials gave false information in their early public statements about the September attacks in Libya?" Respondents were then asked to choose if the false information was to protect America, to protect Obama politically, or because "They just made a mistake."
An inaccurate new media narrative claims that while New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie answered extensive questions about his role in a scandal plaguing his administration, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has yet to face questions regarding the September 2012 attacks on a diplomatic facility in Benghazi. In fact, Clinton has repeatedly addressed the Benghazi attacks, including answering 150 questions during a five hour congressional hearing on the attacks.
In an effort to control the political damage stemming from scandals plaguing his administration, Christie held a nearly two hour long press conference with state and national media to answer questions regarding his aides' involvement in the politically-motivated closing of lanes leading to the George Washington Bridge
Following Christie's press conference, conservative media pivoted from Christie's scandal to attack Clinton, claiming that she had never addressed Benghazi in the same way.
On January 19, The Boston Globe's Joan Vennochi wrote, "If New Jersey Governor Chris Christie must answer for four days of traffic jams on roads leading to the George Washington Bridge; surely Clinton has the same obligation to address a deadly assault that the bipartisan committee found 'preventable.' " In a January 22 piece, conservative Washington Post columnist Jennifer Rubin complained that Christie was receiving undue scrutiny while Clinton received very little attention in the "mainstream media" and had not had to endure a "two-hour bearing-of-the-soul press conference," as Christie did:
No car company would dare manufacture a car with as vast a blind spot as that which plagues the pro-Hillary Clinton mainstream media.
There is no interest and never has been in investigating how she missed the infiltration of jihadis into Benghazi, Libya. No curiosity simmers about how she could have been unaware of the dire security situation that her ambassador faced. Accountability? Confession? No two-hour bearing-of-the-soul press conferences are needed. Benghazi was not at her level. No responsibility, no culture of cover-up. None.
TAPPER: Christie, it's also the nature of Christie to go out there and give a two-hour plus press conference and answer all those questions, although he has laid low since then. But still, that was one of the longest press conferences in modern American politics. Hillary Clinton was on her way out, and you know, I can't tackle her. I haven't had a chance to interview her since Benghazi happened. I don't even know, has she done interviews? I think she did some interviews on her way out.
HEWITT: It's a pretty stark contrast, isn't it, between Christie's two hour longest day press conference and Hillary hiding?
TAPPER: So a big contrast between Christie's press conference and most politicians in scandals, but certainly, of course what you've said is right. I mean, most politicians don't then go out there and give two hour press conferences. John McCain did like a 90 minute one after Keating Five.
But Clinton has faced questions from both the media and members of Congress about her role as Secretary of State during the attacks in Benghazi. As Tapper alluded, in a February 2013 interview with the Associated Press, Clinton confronted those critical of her actions during the attacks. She also testified for five hours in front of hostile Senate and House committee members -- testimony that was covered extensively in the press. The Huffington Post pointed out that during her testimony Clinton faced almost 150 questions from Democrats and Republicans:
At the Jan. 23 hearings before two congressional panels, Clinton faced some 150 questions from 48 House and Senate members, split almost evenly between Democrats and Republicans. Nearly half of those queries fit into a small handful of broad categories: What happened to memos or other warnings about the security situation before the attack? -- 25 questions, from 10 different lawmakers. Why had the administration put a mission in Benghazi in the first place? -- 20 questions, from 10 lawmakers. When exactly did the administration know that the Libya attack was terrorism and not part of a broader regional protest about the video? -- 22 questions, from eight lawmakers. (The repetition of questions did not produce notably different answers from Clinton.)
Nearly every question was asked more than once. Many were packed together in a tight bundle, as part of the legislator's opening remarks.
In a rational world, that would settle the dispute over Benghazi, which has further poisoned the poisonous political discourse in Washington and kept Republicans and Democrats from working cooperatively on myriad challenges, including how best to help Libyans stabilize their country and build a democracy. But Republicans long ago abandoned common sense and good judgment in pursuit of conspiracy-mongering and an obsessive effort to discredit President Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, who may run for president in 2016.
This new narrative continues the right-wing media's campaign to distract from the ongoing scandals plaguing Christie's administration by pivoting to Benghazi -- for Fox News in particular, the Christie scandals have been all about Benghazi. But the repeated collapse of these narratives demonstrates why traditional media should not get fooled by another Benghazi Hoax.
From the January 22 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor:
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From the January 20 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor:
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Fox's Sunday morning political talk show cherry-picked information from recently-released House hearing transcripts and a Senate report on the September 11, 2012, attacks on U.S. diplomatic facilities in Benghazi, Libya, to falsely suggest that the Obama administration's explanation of events was deliberately intended to mislead the American people.
Fox News attacked the Obama administration's reluctance to sidestep legal considerations that prevent the government from indiscriminately waging war without congressional approval and suggested that it was possible for the military to "just get the SOBs who killed our people."
On January 13, the House Armed Services Committee released a series of declassified transcripts of briefings on the September 11, 2012, attacks on an American diplomatic facility in Benghazi, Libya. The review debunked right-wing myths about the attack and further revealed that the administration has been hampered in its efforts to bring the perpetrators to justice because of the legal limits imposed by the Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF), which authorizes military action against al Qaeda and its "associated forces." According to the Senate report's transcript of Chairman of the Joint Chiefs General Martin Dempsey's October 10, 2013 testimony, the attack's leaders do not fall under AUMF's authority:
DEMPSEY: Well, first of all, the individuals related in the Benghazi attack, those that we believe were either participants or leadership of it are not authorized use of military force. In other words, they don't fall under the AUMF authorized by the Congress of the United States. So we would not have the capability to simply find them and kill them, either with a remotely-piloted aircraft or with an assault on the ground. Therefore, they will have to be captured, and we would, when asked, provide capture options to do that.
Fox News reported on this revelation during the January 17 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends. Co-host Steve Doocy dismissed the legal constraints by claiming that the administration has "too many lawyers on the staff." Responding to co-host Elisabeth Hasselbeck's complaints that the rules are "awfully wordy" and "disheartening," guest host Clayton Morris claimed that "it doesn't make any sense" suggesting that it could be "some sort of excuse [...] for not having any assets in the area."
During the January 17 edition of Fox & Friends Hasselbeck and Fox's Geraldo Rivera downplayed the need for the AUF restrictions and claimed that the Obama administration's adherence to them constituted a politicization of the attacks. Rivera suggested Obama put aside "politics" by ignoring AUMF and "go get the SOBs who killed our people." From the show (emphasis added):
HASSELBECK: When things are ever-evolving, in terms of al-Qaeda and the changes that take course, it seems as though it evolved, and therefore this should also evolve, right in terms of who is approved and authorized.
RIVERA: You're being much too logical, Elisabeth, because to say that Ansar al-Sharia is al-Qaeda is to say that the Benghazi tragedy where Ambassador Stevens and the others were killed was an al-Qaeda operation. The politics of this country is such that we are divided now. Was it an al-Qaeda operation, was it a spontaneous militia --activity that grew out of the reaction to this anti-Muslim film --
CO-HOST STEVE DOOCY: The Senate said last week it was al-Qaeda-related.
GERALDO: Well now we have to convey that to our military leaders, and say, listen, as Congressman Peter King is now suggesting, for the purposes of the Authorization of Military Force[s] Act, we believe now that the people that killed our ambassador in Benghazi and our other three heroes was an al-Qaeda operation. Just for that. No more politics. Put it aside. Let's just get the SOBs who killed our people, get them with the best force we have, and that's the SEAL teams and drone strikes.
But Fox's assertion that the administration's concerns are "political" and that AUMF standards could be stretched to apply to any foreign actors perceived as a threat fundamentally misunderstands the legal constraints placed on the president by congress.
As The New York Times explained, the language of the original AUMF is limited, focusing specifically on the actors that "planned, authorized, committed or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on Sept. 11, 2001":
It gives the president the power to attack "nations, organizations or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on Sept. 11, 2001, or harbored such organizations or persons, in order to prevent any future acts of international terrorism against the United States by such nations, organizations or persons."
In early 2013, The Washington Post reported that administration officials have become increasingly concerned about the legality of continuing to rely on the 2001 document in responding to an increasingly decentralized threat (emphasis added):
The authorization law has already been expanded by federal courts beyond its original scope to apply to "associated forces" of al-Qaeda. But officials said legal advisers at the White House, the State Department, the Pentagon and intelligence agencies are now weighing whether the law can be stretched to cover what one former official called "associates of associates."
The debate has been driven by the emergence of groups in North Africa and the Middle East that may embrace aspects of al-Qaeda's agenda but have no meaningful ties to its crumbling leadership base in Pakistan. Among them are the al-Nusra Front in Syria and Ansar al-Sharia, which was linked to the September attack on a U.S. diplomatic post in Benghazi, Libya. They could be exposed to drone strikes and kill-or-capture missions involving U.S. troops.
Officials said they have not ruled out seeking an updated authorization from Congress or relying on the president's constitutional powers to protect the country. But they said those are unappealing alternatives.
The authorization makes no mention of "associated forces," a term that emerged only in subsequent interpretations of the text. But even that elastic phrase has become increasingly difficult to employ.
In a speech last year at Yale University, Jeh Johnson, who served as general counsel at the Defense Department during Obama's first term, outlined the limits of the AUMF.
"An 'associated force' is not any terrorist group in the world that merely embraces the al-Qaeda ideology," Johnson said. Instead, it has to be both "an organized, armed group that has entered the fight alongside al-Qaeda" and a "co-belligerent with al-Qaeda in hostilities against the United States or its coalition partners."
Moreover, the Post report highlighted that administration officials and independent experts' shared concerns about the legality using the authorization to target Ansar al-Sharia in Libya. Harvard national security law expert Jack Goldsmith said that tying the AUMF to groups like Ansar al-Sharia would be "a major interpretive leap" and stated that the "[t]he AUMF is becoming increasingly obsolete because the groups that are threatening us are harder and harder to tie to the original A.Q. organization."
The lack of nuance in Fox's attacks are nothing new for the network. Fox consistently prefers overhyped misinformation to evidence-based findings. The network has previously denied the findings of a lengthy investigation by The New York Times' David Kirkpatrick, which definitively debunked the myth that al Qaeda played a central role in planning the attack.
Hillary Clinton's name doesn't appear in the bipartisan portions of the Senate review of the tragic September 2012 terrorist attack in Benghazi, Libya, but you would not know that by looking at the media.
The report, released earlier in the week by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, has been a Rorschach test for the media, and as is almost always the case with Hillary Clinton, they are stretching to see something nefarious.
According to the Post, the report "is likely to provide fodder" for Clinton's political opponents, even though the Post acknowledged that the only references to the former Secretary of State came from partisan Republicans in an addendum, not from the review itself.
CNN's Wolf Blitzer said the report was "fueling heated debate, partisan debate, about her leadership," while correspondent Elise Labbott insisted that Clinton would "have to address Benghazi during" any 2016 campaign.
Inexplicably, Washington Post blogger Jennifer Rubin accused media of being too "incurious" when it comes to Clinton and called Benghazi Clinton's "drip, drip, drip problem." Partisan Republicans are certainly happy that the media is carrying their water. Almost on cue, Sen. Marco Rubio said the report should justify further investigations ... into Clinton.
The question of "leadership," however, has been a lopsided one as it played out in the media's campaign to use the Senate report as an indictment of Clinton.
Clinton has "deflected questions" about Benghazi, according to The New Yorker's Amy Davidson, who argued that Clinton "does not come out well" in the Senate report -- again, a report that never mentions Clinton. Davidson's explanation? "The State Department made mistakes when [Clinton] was its leader."
Clinton herself has acknowledged ultimate responsibility for any bureaucratic shortcomings that played a role to the tragedy in Benghazi. "I do feel responsible," she said under questioning by Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN). "I feel responsible for the nearly 70,000 people who work for the State Department. I take it very seriously."
So everybody agrees that Clinton had ultimate responsibility for leading the State Department.
That makes the question of what that leadership looks like critical, particularly since the media seems determined to parrot the right-wing narrative that Benghazi is a singular reflection on the former Secretary of State.
What is problematic about the way the media has used the Senate's review as a reflection on Clinton's leadership is that the reports ostensibly exploring Clinton's leadership make no mention of the fact that one of her last acts as Secretary of State was to fully accept and begin implementing the findings of the Accountability Review Board, an independent, nonpartisan review panel that looked into what went wrong and how to prevent a similar tragedy in the future.
That review, like the Senate report that led to the latest bout of Benghazi mania, also singled out bureaucrats, not the Secretary of State, for scrutiny over diplomatic security failures. Four mid-ranked department officials were suspended for those failures; according to Ambassador Thomas Pickering, one of the chairmen of the ARB, their "future career[s]" are "finished."
One of the pillars of the right-wing's Benghazi hoax has been to accuse Clinton of being dismissive of the tragedy during her Congressional testimony when she asked "what difference, at this point, does it make" what led the attackers to target the diplomatic facility on that day.
Often left out of the sound bite is what Clinton said next: "It is our job to figure out what happened and do everything we can to prevent it from ever happening again."
The Accountability Review Board laid out dozens of recommendations as to how to prevent future tragedies, recommendations largely in line with those contained in the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence report. Those recommendations are being implemented.
It's woefully inadequate to leave that fact out of a discussion of leadership.
"I don't care about the bloody report!"
With that, Bill O'Reilly delivered the climax to a night of Senate report denialism on Fox News.
This week, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence released the results of its investigation into the 2012 attacks in Benghazi. The report dispelled many of Fox News' favorite conspiracy theories surrounding the attacks, including the myth that the Obama administration engaged in a cover-up by suggesting the attacks may have grown out of protests outside U.S. facilities in Benghazi over an anti-Islam video, an idea then-U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice suggested in a series of interviews on the broadcast Sunday shows three days after the attacks.
And yet, Fox hosts Bill O'Reilly and Bret Baier continued to push these myths, even when covering the Senate report that debunked them.
On the January 16 edition of Special Report, guest A.B. Stoddard pointed out that the report found no evidence of a cover-up, and Baier responded, "You said no cover-up, but there's clearly an open question about this story about the protests, and about where that all came from."
Bill O'Reilly went even further, peppering guest James Carville with questions about the origins of Rice's suggestion that the attacks may have originated from a protest over the film. Carville attempted to explain that the Senate report answered O'Reilly's question, but the Fox host repeatedly interrupted him, finally yelling, "I don't care about the bloody report":
Fox News host Gretchen Carlson dubiously suggested that a Senate report on the Benghazi attack would damage a potential 2016 presidential run by Hillary Clinton, even while admitting that the report barely mentioned Clinton.
On the January 16 edition of Fox's The Real Story, Carlson asked whether a newly released Senate Select Intelligence Committee report could potentially damage any 2016 political aspirations for Hillary Clinton. Carlson began her segment by claiming the report means "potential new problems for Hillary Clinton and any White House aspiration she may have." Carlson acknowledged that Clinton "is barely mentioned by name in this report," but she still went on to ask if Clinton will "escape any association" with the attack:
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee that released the Benghazi findings, has patently denied the report lays any blame on Clinton. In a statement released by her office, Feinstein clarified that the report does not assign "culpability to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for the tragedy":
Statements on the Senate floor this morning and some media reports about the Senate Intelligence Committee's bipartisan report on the attack against our diplomatic mission and CIA annex in Benghazi, Libya, intimate that the report assigns culpability to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for the tragedy.
This is patently false.
The report approved on a bipartisan basis says no such thing. As a matter of fact, Secretary Clinton is not mentioned a single time in the 58-page bipartisan section of our Benghazi report.
Carlson then went on to rehash the already debunked accusation that Clinton deliberately played a role in dismissing the attack as an act of terror and instead blamed it on protests due to an inflammatory anti-Islam video, saying "Yeah, and maybe her biggest difficulty is the fact that she did still blame it on the videotape days after" some officials allegedly told the Obama administration otherwise.
Carlson failed to note what the Senate report did say about the video's role in the attack. The report indicated that in the immediate aftermath of the attack, the intelligence community (IC) received multiple reports of protests, through media accounts, over an anti-Islam video at the diplomatic facility. The report goes on to say that it took days for U.S. personnel to determine through eyewitness statements that there were indeed no such protests. Details like this from the Senate report have been repeatedly ignored by Fox while they continued to hammer calls for a further investigation into Benghazi.
A bipartisan Senate report released this week concludes that the intelligence community was behind the Obama administration's suggestion that the 2012 Benghazi attacks grew out of a protest against an anti-Islam video. The revelation is yet another devastating blow to Fox News' efforts to scandalize the administration's focus on the video. But instead of reporting on that conclusion, Fox News instead spent last night reporting that they "were told" that President Obama and his closest advisers held a meeting the night of the attack and issued "marching orders" for the "video explanation."
For more than a year, Fox News has been fixated on a set of administration talking points that linked the September 2012 attacks on U.S. diplomatic facilities in Benghazi, Libya, to the video. Those talking points were used by then-U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice in a series of highly-criticized September 15, 2012, interviews on the broadcast Sunday shows. Fox has suggested that the talking points were part of an elaborate plot to conceal the reality of the attacks as part of a scheme to protect President Obama's re-election effort. The network has continued to push this conspiracy long after the revelation that the initial draft of the talking points -- which was generated by the CIA -- promoted the video connection, and emails indicated that then-CIA director Gen. David Petraeus was disappointed that the final draft didn't do enough to link the two.
On January 15, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence released the results of its investigation into the attacks. Notably, the committee's report indicated that the intelligence community (IC) received and disseminated an account in the immediate aftermath of the assault that there had been protests against the anti-Islam video at the diplomatic facility prior to the attack, based largely on press accounts that made that claim.
According to the report, it took days for eyewitness statements by U.S. personnel indicating that there had been no protests to make their way into CIA assessments. Closed circuit television feed from the facility showing that there had been no protest was not reviewed until September 18, 2012 -- three days after Rice's interviews -- and the FBI did not disseminate its interviews with eyewitnesses until two days later (recent reporting has indicated that while there was no protest, the attackers were fueled by anger at the video). According to the report:
As a result of evidence from closed circuit videos and other reports, the IC changed its assessment about a protest in classified intelligence reports on September 24, 2012, to state there were no demonstrations or protests at the Temporary Mission Facility prior to the attacks. This slow change in the official assessment affected the public statements of government officials, who continued to state in press interviews that there were protests outside the Mission compound.
While Fox News heavily covered the Senate report -- which the network claimed was a "bombshell" damaging to the Obama administration -- it did not mention the CIA revelations during its January 15 programs, according to a review of the Nexis database.
Instead, during On the Record with Greta van Susteren, chief intelligence correspondent Catherine Herridge reported that the network has "had information" and "were told" that during a meeting at the White House between President Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, the "marching orders were laid out for the video explanation."
It's unclear who "told" Fox News of the contents of the meeting. In nearly-identical reports on Fox's Special Report and The Kelly File, Herridge claimed only that that the administration is "block[ing] access to witnesses and documents that should explain whether" the meeting "on the day of the assault" was about those purported "marching orders," and quoted Sen. Saxby Chambliss' (R-GA) assertion that he had sought information about that meeting but was rebuffed.
At no point in the three segments did Fox point to any actual evidence from Chambliss or elsewhere that this meeting dealt with the so-called "marching orders." Instead of discussing the Senate report revelations that demolish their conspiracy, they are running with baseless speculation to keep the "scandal" going.
Fox News national security analyst KT McFarland ignored key findings in a new bipartisan Senate report on the attacks in Benghazi to revive calls for a special prosecutor or select congressional committee to further investigate the attacks, despite the fact that the new exhaustive report is largely in line with previous investigations.
On the January 15 edition of Happening Now, McFarland discussed the newly released Senate Select Intelligence Committee report, declaring it a "bombshell." She went on to conclude that the report proved Benghazi is "not a phony scandal" and that it showed the need for a special prosecutor or special select committee to investigate "more unanswered questions."
Fox has supported efforts to establish a special prosecutor or select committee to investigate Benghazi in the past. In May 2013, Fox turned to Whitewater deputy counsel Robert Bittman to express support for a similar investigation into Benghazi. That July, six separate Fox shows promoted a doomed right-wing effort to force the House to convene a select committee to investigate the attacks.
McFarland did not detail what "unanswered questions" are left to investigate, but the report concluded that there "were no efforts by the White House or any other Executive Branch entities to 'cover-up' facts" in the Obama administration's early attempts to explain how the attack happened. According to the New York Times, the report "is broadly consistent with the findings of previous inquiries" into the attacks, and it "does not break significant new ground on this issue."
Fox has used the release of other investigations into Benghazi to fan the flames of this "scandal" even when the results debunk their favorite narratives. This report similarly debunks many myths about Benghazi that Fox has pushed for many months.
Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif. said in a statement that she hopes the report "will put to rest many of the conspiracy theories and political accusations about what happened in Benghazi." It won't if Fox News has its way.
On January 15, 2014, the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence released a bipartisan review of its findings in an investigation of the September 11, 2012, attacks on an American diplomatic facility in Benghazi, Libya. Much of the report dispels myths perpetuated by Fox News over the last sixteen months.
From the January 14 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor:
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Declassified transcripts from House Armed Services Committee hearings on the September 11, 2012 Benghazi attacks revealed Fox News' highly politicized Benghazi reporting rarely reflected the facts on the ground.
Fox News jumped on newly declassified transcripts from secret congressional hearings on the Benghazi attack, but ignored that the transcripts debunk some of the network's own favorite myths about the attack.
On January 13, the House Armed Services Committee released hundreds of pages of formerly classified transcripts of committee hearings on the September 11, 2012, attacks in Benghazi, Libya. According to the press release, the hearings were conducted over a period of several months by Rep. Martha Roby (R-AL), then-chairwoman of the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations.
Fox News' Special Report aired several segments on the declassified transcripts but hid the fact that many of the military officers and defense officials who testified during the hearings debunked myths that Fox itself had previously reported.
During the show, Fox national security correspondent Jennifer Griffin explained that the testimony of General Carter Ham, commander of AFRICOM at the time of the Benghazi attack, "debunks widespread speculation he was removed from overseeing the military operation because he wanted to do more militarily that night than he was allowed to by his superiors or the White House."
Griffin did not mention it, but that speculation appeared on Fox News.
Exactly one year after the attack, Sean Hannity hosted Charles Woods, father of one of the Americans killed in Benghazi. Woods explained that he wrote President Obama a letter asking the president to answer several questions, one of which concerned whether Ham was "relieved from duty for refusing to order the order from above not to rescue":