The right-wing obsession with Benghazi took center stage at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) as two prominent speakers, John Bolton and Sen. Mitch McConnell, focused on the attacks in an attempt to drive more media coverage of their manufactured scandal.
The first day of the American Conservative Union's annual convention featured speeches from prominent conservatives. Within two hours of CPAC's opening remarks, two of those speakers used their time to invoke the September 11, 2011 attacks on a diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, promising to continue using the tragedy as a political attack. Former U.N. ambassador and Fox News contributor John Bolton called Benghazi the "paradigm of the Obama doctrine failure," even saying, "Under Barack Obama, you can murder his personal representative and get away scott-free."
He then turned his remarks into an attack on former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, pledging to tell Clinton, "We know what difference it makes, even if you don't." Earlier, McConnell attacked media coverage of the Benghazi tragedy, suggesting that the media were "trying to fix Benghazi for Hillary [Clinton]" by not repeating right-wing myths.
Benghazi's prominent placement at CPAC is hardly surprising, considering the effort on the part of the right-wing media to maintain focus on their distorted version of the tragedy to attack President Obama and Clinton.
Fox News host Chris Wallace admitted that Fox's "stand down order" narrative about the 2012 Benghazi attacks was false, but still allowed disreputable source Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) to desperately try and redefine the debunked claim into a new attack on the Obama administration
Fox News has persistently pushed the myth that the administration had issued a "stand down" order to stop reinforcements from coming to the aid of American diplomatic facility in Benghazi, Libya during the September 11, 2012 attack. Though the claim was rapidly discredited, by June 2013, the network had repeated the charge at least 85 times in prime time segments, and the allegations didn't stop there. In early February, a House Armed Services Committee report and a bipartisan Senate Intelligence Committee report put the myth to rest.
On the March 2 edition of Fox Broadcasting Network's Fox News Sunday, host Chris Wallace admitted that the Senate report had thoroughly debunked claims of a "stand down" order and reported that The Washington Post Fact Checker had given Issa "four pinocchios" -- the rating it issues for "whoppers" -- for his suggestion that "Secretary Clinton told [then-Defense Secretary] Leon [Panetta] to stand down, and we all heard about the stand-down order for two military personnel. That order is undeniable."
But Fox's focus on the facts was short lived. Though Wallace's acknowledgement of the facts led Issa admit that the term "stand down" was not "used in some sort of an explicit way," Wallace made no move to question Issa's attempt to spin the administration's supposed "failure to react" to the attack as the kind of thing that could "represent a stand down":
WALLACE: But to be honest, you do not have any evidence that Secretary Clinton told Leon Panetta to stand down.
ISSA: Well, the use in answering questions in a political fundraiser -- that was in response to a question -- the term "stand down" is not used in some sort of an explicit way. But rather the failure to react, the fact that only State Department assets and only assets inside the country were ever used, that members arms forces, gun carrying, trained people were not allowed to get on the aircraft to go and attempt to rescue. Those kinds of things through State Department resources represent a stand down. Not maybe on the technical terms of "stand down, soldier," but on the American people believe is a failure to respond what they could have.
WALLACE: All right.
Even Issa's effort to repackage his attack falls flat. Former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates has already debunked claims that further assistance could have been sent from U.S. military bases, criticizing the conservative media's "cartoonish impression of the military" which has ignored the need for "planning and preparation before we send people in harm's way." As Gates said:
Given the number of surface to air missiles that have disappeared from Qaddafi's arsenals I would not have approved sending an aircraft, a single aircraft, over Benghazi under those circumstances.
Fox contributor Karl Rove deceitfully shuffled the words of former U.N. ambassador Susan Rice in an effort to accuse her of pushing a "contemptible falsehood" about the 2012 Benghazi attacks and claiming that she was part of an "endless Benghazi coverup."
In a February 26 op-ed for the Wall Street Journal "The Endless Benghazi Coverup," Rove took Rice's comments about the violent protests that were then erupting across the Middle East out of context, falsely representing them as a specific reference to the attacks on a U.S. diplomatic facility in Benghazi, Libya. According to Rove, Rice said the Benghazi attack was "absolutely" the result of the protests against a "'very hateful, very offensive video that has offended many people around the world":
The worst part of National Security Adviser Susan Rice's comments on Sunday's "Meet The Press" was that she expressed no regret for saying that the Sept. 11, 2012, attacks on U.S. outposts in Benghazi were "absolutely" the result of protests against a "very hateful, very offensive video that has offended many people around the world."
This is an egregious mischaracterization of the ambassador's words. In context, Rice's comment clearly referred to the protests that had broken out throughout the Middle East and not specifically to Benghazi.
Rove was referencing Rice's September 16 interview on Fox News' Fox News Sunday, which focused at different points on the anti-American protests that had broken out across the Middle East as well as the attack in Benghazi.
Wallace led with a question about the protests that were occurring "in two dozen countries across the Islamic world," and asked whether Rice agreed with White House press secretary Jay Carney's assessment that the protests came in "response to a video that is offensive" and had "nothing to do with the president's policies." The quote Rove cited was pulled from that response, and was not at all focused on the Benghazi attack (emphasis added on the portions quoted by Rove):
WALLACE: This week, there have been anti-American protests in two dozen countries across the Islamic world. The White House says it has nothing to do with the president's policies.
Let's watch. [...] You don't really believe that.
RICE: Chris, absolutely I believe that. In fact, it is the case. We had the evolution of the Arab spring over the last many months. But what sparked the recent violence was the airing on the Internet of a very hateful very offensive video that has offended many people around the world.
Beyond his misrepresentation of Rice's comments, Rove failed to add any new information to the increasingly stale media conversation about the Benghazi attack. The rest of his piece devolved into a dissection of whether or not "she was merely sharing 'the best information that we had at the time'" - something that Rove called "a contemptible falsehood." But there too, the evidence is on Rice's side.
Rove and other Fox figures have repeatedly pushed the smear that Rice deceptively attributed the Benghazi attack to the anti-Muslim video for political reasons, but even this unusually creative distortion doesn't change the facts.
Fox News' Brian Kilmeade invited dubious sources Richard Minter and Scott McEwen on to discuss whether the Obama administration's move toward "weakening the Navy SEALs to be diverse and politically correct" led to three unnecessary deaths and whether the outcome would "have been different if these SEALs were not white?"
Kilmeade introduced guests Richard Miniter and Scott McEwen, authors of Eyes on Target, and bizarrely invoked race to set up a conversation over whether the White House is weakening the Navy SEALs in pursuit of diversity and political correctness:
KILMEADE: It's one of our military's most notorious tragedies. Four Navy SEALs on a top secret Taliban mission and only one survives. But would that be -- would the outcome have been different if these SEALS were not white? An explosive new book claims our politically correct White House is weakening the Navy SEALs to be diverse and politically correct. Scott McEwen and Richard Miniter, authors of Eyes on Target, are here to explain.
McEwen quickly clarified that his book does not suggest the race of the SEALs was a factor in the tragedy in Afghanistan, but he added that he had concerns that the White House is "trying to make them politically correct" by changing the SEAL culture with regard to rules of engagement, codes of conduct, and gender inclusion.
From there, the interview turned to the 2012 attacks on a U.S. diplomatic facility in Benghazi, Libya, devolving into a fact-free recitation of Fox's favorite myths. Miniter claimed that two of the Americans who died in the assault, Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty, had been denied military aid from U.S. military bases in the Mediterranean and drones in the area and left to die. Miniter went on to attack then-U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice for her early description of CIA intelligence on the attack, claiming that if she has no regrets about her statements, then "she is on very strong medication."
That Miniter gets the facts wrong on Benghazi is no surprise: he has already been discredited as an author. The pair of authors misrepresented the role of Doherty, who was part of the rescue team the pair said didn't exist.
And their claims that further assistance could have been sent from U.S. military bases have been debunked by Former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, who criticized the conservative media's "cartoonish impression of the military."
And even Fox has admitted that its long-term effort to smear Susan Rice for her& September 16 descriptions of the attack were dishonest, as Rice's talking points represented the best intelligence available at the time.
Fox News' coverage of the September 11 attack on the U.S. diplomatic outpost in Benghazi, Libya, has long been marked by gross inaccuracies and outrageous smears. In the face of overwhelming evidence, a source like Miniter is clearly a last resort. His previous books have relied on dubious sources, misreadings of the evidence, and outright lies.
Just days after one Fox host made the lucid acknowledgement that the network's campaign against Susan Rice was based on dishonest smears about the genesis of her 2012 Benghazi talking points, another Fox host attempted to exploit Rice's recent appearance on Meet the Press by relapsing into the same debunked accusations against her.
Beginning in 2012, Fox repeatedly pushed the smear that then-U.N. ambassador Susan Rice deceptively attributed the September 11 attacks on U.S. diplomatic facilities in Benghazi to the violent protests that had broken out in other parts of the Middle East and Africa in response to an anti-Islam YouTube video. The network persisted in dragging Rice through the mud until Fox host Megyn Kelly briefly broke ranks on the February 12, 2014 edition of Fox News' The Kelly File and admitted Rice had simply cited the best intelligence available at the time.
Days later, after Rice made a nearly identical argument on Meet the Press, Fox apparently couldn't let an opportunity to continue inventing Benghazi news hooks go to waste. On February 24 the hosts of Fox News' Fox & Friends were back to pushing the networks' tired smears:
Substantial evidence supports Rice. A bipartisan Senate Select Committee on Intelligence report released in January 2014 stated that "[s]ome intelligence suggests the attacks were likely put together in short order, following that day's violent protests in Cairo against an inflammatory video." It also determined that "there were no efforts by the White House or any other Executive Branch entities to 'cover-up' facts or make alterations for political purposes" -- directly refuting Fox's efforts to drag both Rice and another official, then-CIA Deputy Director Michael Morell, through the mud.
Fox News' Chris Wallace baselessly suggested that Hillary Clinton dishonestly conflated the 2012 attacks on diplomatic facilities in Benghazi, Libya, with protests sparked by an anti-Islam video.
During the February 16 edition of Fox News Sunday, Wallace speculated about a potential 2016 presidential run by Clinton. Stating that her record as secretary of state would be "fair game," Wallace raised the specter of Benghazi and claimed that "Clinton seemed to conflate the attack on the consulate with that anti-Islam video" during her remarks at the September 14, 2012, transfer of remains ceremony for the Benghazi victims:
WALLACE: Well, let's talk about Clinton's record as secretary of state which I'm sure you both would agree will be fair game. It will be the last public role she held before she runs, if she runs. No signature diplomatic breakthroughs. And then, of course, there is also Benghazi where even on the day that the four Americans, dead Americans from Benghazi were returned to Andrews Air Force Base, Clinton seemed to conflate the attack on the consulate with that anti-Islam video. Take a look.
CLINTON (video clip): We've seen the heavy assault on our post in Benghazi that took the lives of those brave men. We've seen rage and violence directed at American embassies over an awful Internet video that we had nothing to do with.
WALLACE: Karl, how big a deal will Benghazi be for Hillary Clinton over the next two plus years?
But Clinton's comments were accurate: during the week of her speech, U.S. embassies or consulates in Egypt, Tunisia, Yemen, and Sudan were attacked by protestors angry about an anti-Islam video posted on YouTube by an American.
While Wallace suggested that conflating the video with the Benghazi attacks was necessarily dishonest, at the time of Clinton's remarks, there was a consensus within the intelligence community (IC), largely based on press accounts at the time, that a protest against the video had occurred at the consulate prior to the attack. It was not until September 24, 2012, ten days later, that the CIA changed its assessment of the events on the ground and concluded that there was in fact no protest on the night of the attack. From the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence's report on the Benghazi attacks (emphasis added):
In the immediate aftermath of the attacks, the IC received numerous reports, both classified and unclassified, which provided contradictory accounts that there were demonstrations at the Temporary Mission Facility. In some cases, these intelligence reports -- which were disseminated widely in the Intelligence Community -- contained references to press reports on protests that were simply copied into intelligence products.
Moreover, it appears this reporting from those present during the attacks did not make its way into assessments at CIA Headquarters, as the Deputy Director of the Middle East and North Africa Analysis Office at CIA wrote an internal email, dated September 16, 2012, that mentioned "protestors that preceded the violence." On September 18, 2012, the FBI and CIA reviewed the closed circuit television video from the Mission facility that showed there were no protests prior to the attacks. Although information gathered from interviews with U.S. personnel who were on the ground during the attacks was shared informally between the FBI and CIA, it was not until two days later, on September 20, 2012, that the FBI disseminated its intelligence reports detailing such interviews.
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.
Whether or not a protest occurred, The New York Times has reported that a journalist working for the paper was present at the Benghazi diplomatic facility during the attack and was told by the attackers and by other witnesses that they had been motivated to attack in response to learning of the anti-Islam film.
Without fanfare, Fox News host Megyn Kelly finally acknowledged that the network's campaign to sink Susan Rice's potential nomination to President Obama's cabinet was rooted in fundamental dishonesty.
In 2012, Fox repeatedly pushed the smear that Rice, for political reasons, deceptively attributed the September 2012 attacks on U.S. diplomatic facilities in Benghazi to violent protests over an anti-Islam video that were sweeping the Middle East and Africa. Together with scores of right-wing pundits, the network dragged Rice through the mud, despite the fact that she was simply citing intelligence community's talking points that attributed the Benghazi attacks to the video. At the height of Fox's dishonest campaign, Kelly questioned whether Rice was qualified to serve as Secretary of State:
I think now all of our viewers know [Rice], because she's the one who went on all the Sunday talk shows and told us that everything that happened in Benghazi was linked to this video, which we now know was not the case. Can she possibly ascend into the Cabinet, into this position in the Cabinet, given that?
Fox's messaging was clear: Susan Rice was a liar who could not be trusted to serve as Secretary of State.
And so it's shocking to hear Kelly now say that Rice was simply saying what the intelligence community told her to be their best assessment at the time. During a discussion with Rep. Martha Roby (R-AL) on the February 11 edition of her Fox News show, Kelly referenced a House committee report released that day, and admitted that Rice's talking points reflected CIA intelligence that "the attacks in Benghazi were spontaneously inspired by the protests at the embassy in Cairo":
KELLY: Let me ask you about DOD [Department of Defense]. Because I know your report concludes that DOD officials believed nearly from the onset that this was a terrorist attack and not some sort of a protest gone awry. Now, I want to get specific, because so many people have said, 'So then why did Susan Rice go out and talk about protests? Why did she mention a video?' But the CIA talking points, the very first draft that went out and was circulated, that Susan Rice ultimately was provided, that top officials ultimately saw, talked about a protest. They did. The CIA actually came out, I want to look at it here, and said this is a draft from September 14th, 11:15 am, 'We believe based on currently available information that the attacks in Benghazi were spontaneously inspired by the protests at the embassy in Cairo and evolved into a direct assault.' So, tell me, does that -- does it or does it not answer the question about how our officials started to come out and talk about protests and the video?
After Director of National Intelligence James Clapper gave congressional testimony that echoed President Obama's recent statements about the threat that al Qaeda poses, Fox News host Bret Baier claimed that the testimony was a "direct contradiction" to the president's description of the threat posed by the terrorist organization.
On the February 11 edition of Fox News' Special Report, Baier reported on Clapper's testimony earlier in the day before the Senate Armed Service Committee, in which Clapper testified that al Qaeda is "morphing and franchising itself" throughout the world. Baier categorized Clapper's testimony as a "direct contradiction" to what President Obama has said about the terrorist group in the past:
BAIER: A direct contradiction today from the nation's top intelligence chief, to what president Obama has said about al Qaeda. Director of National Intelligence James Clapper told a Senate committee today previous assessments from the president are not accurate.
Baier appeared to suggest that Obama's past claims that al Qaeda was "on the run," made several times during the 2012 campaign, are in contradiction to Clapper's testimony. But Baier failed to note Obama's most recent statements on the terrorist organization. In fact, Clapper's testimony before the Senate that al Qaeda is a "morphing" threat that is "franchising itself" in several countries is similar to recent statements from President Obama. In his State of the Union address last month, Obama acknowledged that al Qaeda still posed a threat to the United States, a threat that he said has "evolved": (emphasis added)
While we've put al-Qaida's core leadership on a path to defeat, the threat has evolved as al-Qaida affiliates and other extremists take root in different parts of the world. In Yemen, Somalia, Iraq, Mali, we have to keep working with partners to disrupt and disable these networks.
A House committee report released Tuesday refuted claims that any stand-down order was given to prevent military support from reaching Benghazi, dismantling a central story in right-wing media mythology of a Benghazi cover-up.
The House Armed Services Committee report, released February 11, concluded that "There was no 'stand down' order issued to U.S. military personnel in Tripoli who sought to join the fight in Benghazi." As The Washington Post explained, the report further determined that "no U.S. military assets could have arrived in Benghazi in time to affect the outcome of the attack, according to committee staff members who briefed reporters on the report."
The determination devastates one of right-wing media's favorite Benghazi hoaxes.
Fox News has persistently pushed the myth that the administration withheld military assistance during the Benghazi attack by issuing a "stand down order" to backup forces in Tripoli -- by June 2013, the network had repeated the charge at least 85 times in primetime segments. The accusations were vitriolic: In October 2012, Fox legal analyst Peter Johnson, Jr. asked if there was a "political calculation that was made to sacrifice Americans on the ground so we didn't kill innocents in front of the consulate," while the network's national security analyst, K.T. McFarland, claimed the supposed absence of aid to the consulate was "probably" politically motivated. Fox host Kimberly Guilfoyle claimed that the administration had decided that Americans targeted in Benghazi "were expendable." And the allegations didn't stop there.
The House report is not the first investigation and testimony to debunk the claim that a "stand down" order was issued. A January 2014 Senate Committee on Intelligence review of the Benghazi attacks determined there was no evidence that any "stand down" order was given to responding units during the attack. Tripoli security team leader LTC. S.E. Gibson soundly debunked the notion that a "stand down" order was given in testimony from a declassified June 26, 2013, House Armed Services Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigation, stating: "Madam Chairman, I was not ordered to stand down." The CIA has repeatedly denied that any "stand down" orders had been given, and noted that reinforcements actually arrived from Tripoli in time for the second attack on the CIA facility.
Yet just as the network often ignored previous determinations that debunked the "stand down" order myth, Fox's coverage on the House report thus far has either ignored or dismissed this newest evidence of the collapse of its "stand down" narrative. A Fox & Friends First headline segment that focused on the report ignored the "stand down" finding entirely, instead claiming that "the report also found U.S. military forces were left vulnerable at the time of the attack.
Fox News deflected from its role manufacturing scandals about the Benghazi attack by complaining that President Obama pointed to the network as a source of misinformation during a Super Bowl interview with Bill O'Reilly.
On February 2, Fox New host Bill O'Reilly conducted a live interview with President Barack Obama which aired before Super bowl XLVIII. During the interview, Obama responded to O'Reilly's claim that "your detractors believe that you did not tell the world it was a terror attack because your campaign didn't want that out" by pointing out that "they believe it because folks like you are telling them that," later noting "these kinds of things keep on surfacing, in part because you and your TV station will promote them."
During the February 3 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends, co-hosts Elisabeth Hasselbeck, Steve Doocy, and Brian Kilmeade attacked Obama for pointing to Fox's role in pushing the manufactured scandal, complaining that the president "actually went on to blame Fox News for all the mistakes":
HASSELBECK: When Bill O'reilly, yesterday, sat down with the president, he asked him some tough questions and he said 'look let's go over some game tape here, you know, there have been some mistakes like Benghazi, the IRS scandals that's been bugging you.
HASSELBECK: Let's maybe review the tape and see what's wrong. Now most coaches would say this happened or the defense failed. No. He actually went on to blame Fox News for all the mistakes.
Later, Kilmeade likened this to other administrations claiming, "Bill Clinton didn't blame the New York Times for his scandal. George Bush didn't blame every media outlet for running down the war or for Katrina. Why attack the people who are asking you questions?"
But Obama was right, Fox led the charge in misinforming about every aspect of the Benghazi attack, including the false claim that Obama refused to call the attack an act of terror. In a May 13, 2012, press conference, Obama responded to an AP reporter's question by saying "The day after it happened, I acknowledged that this was an act of terrorism." In the days following the attack, Obama repeatedly called it an "act of terror."
Fox has repeatedly dodged the facts on Benghazi, hyped supposed "lingering questions" while ignoring the transcripts that answer them, and used its own Benghazi trutherism as a way to avoid discussing issues that could damage Republicans.
Syndicated columnist and Fox News contributor George Will inaccurately criticized President Obama's 2014 State of the Union address for supposedly using the term "al-Qaida's core leadership" as a subtle change in language from the previous year, showing that his efforts against the terrorist organization have stalled. But a simple fact check shows Obama's statement on Tuesday regarding al Qaeda is almost identical to his 2013 speech.
During the January 29 edition of Special Report with Bret Baier, Will accused Obama of substituting the more general language used to describe his efforts to fight the entire al Qaeda organization in his 2013 State of the Union address for less encompassing language only targeting "al Qaeda's core leadership" in his 2014 speech:
WILL: [L]isten to how the language has changed. One year ago in the State of the Union, the president said "[t]he organization that attacked us on 9/11 is a shadow of its former self." He didn't use the word "al Qaeda." It has a name, why didn't he use it? Because we were on the way to last night, where we now talk about core al Qaeda. "[W]e've put al-Qaida's core leadership on a path to defeat." It turns out, that the devil is in the adjective -- core leadership. And the more they use it, the less informative this gets.
But Obama explicitly mentioned his efforts to defeat the "core" of al Qaeda in both speeches. From President Obama's 2013 address:
From the January 28 edition of Fox News' The Real Story with Gretchen Carlson:
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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 20 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor:
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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.