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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Right-wing media were quick to discount a report from The New York Times' David Kirkpatrick that debunked favored conservative claims, but the outlets offered scant evidence to contest Kirkpatrick's findings. Instead, they resorted to questioning the Times' actions during the attack, baselessly claiming that the paper "whitewash[ed]" Hillary Clinton's culpability, and scouring outdated reporting to hype a tenuous Al Qaeda connection.
From the December 29 edition of MSNBC's Disrupt with Karen Finney:
From the December 27 edition of CNN's CNN Newsroom:
From the December 6 edition of Fox News' America's Newsroom:
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Soon after reports broke confirming the murder of an American teacher in Benghazi, Libya, Fox News exploited reports on that crime to push the phony scandal the network has attempted to create surrounding the September 11, 2012, attacks on American diplomatic facilities in that city.
On December 5, American chemistry teacher Ronnie Smith, who worked at an international school in Benghazi, was gunned down while jogging. At the time of publication, motive for the attack remained unclear and no one had claimed responsibility.
Hours after the news broke, America's Newsroom host Martha MacCallum used a report on Smith's murder to pivot into a brief discussion of the Obama administration's response to the 2012 attacks that left U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans dead. While presenting a timeline of the 2012 attacks, MacCallum claimed "The Obama administration initially insisted that the Benghazi attack was the result of a spontaneous demonstration that had broken out over an anti-Muslim film" -- comments that echo the months-long Fox News misinformation campaign to smear the president with phony reports about his handling of the tragedy.
But it was the CIA's Office of Terrorism Analysis -- not political appointees within the Obama administration -- that originally linked the video to the attacks. The president labeled the attacks an "act of terror" in his September 12 address to the nation regarding the incident. The Associated Press reported on September 13 that the "The Obama administration ... is investigating whether the assault on the U.S. consulate in Libya was a planned terrorist strike."
Fox's exploitation of the murder should come as no surprise. Following the 2012 attacks, Fox immediately exploited that tragedy to relentlessly spread falsehoods in an attempt to smear President Obama, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and the administration's response. Most recently, the network has resorted to reporting months-old information as though it were a new development.
This post has been updated for accuracy.
Fox News won't let the Benghazi story peter out, and they're going to recycle as much old news as they can to keep it going. Fox chief intelligence correspondent Catherine Herridge reports on December 4 that "CIA personnel who testified Tuesday on the Benghazi attack provided new evidence that it was premeditated, telling lawmakers that the deadly mortar strike on the CIA annex began within minutes of a rescue team's arrival, Fox News has learned."
For anyone who's been following Benghazi reporting, the "new evidence" that the CIA annex came under mortar fire shortly after the rescue team arrived is really, really old information.
Here's CBS News' timeline of the attack, published in May:
5:15 a.m. (11:15 p.m. ET): The U.S. Regional Security Office in Tripoli gets a phone call from an Arabic-speaking source who says a Westerner has been found in Benghazi and is perhaps at a hospital. It's believed to be Ambassador Stevens. Transfer to airport is arranged.
At around the same time, the additional security team finds transportation from the airport under the escort of the Libyan Shield, another local militia, but decides to head to the annex after learning that Stevens was almost certainly dead. Just after their arrival, the annex takes mortar fire, sustaining three direct hits. The precision of the attacks indicates a level of sophistication and coordination.
Here's the State Department Accountability Review Board's report on the attacks, released in December 2012:
The seven-person response team from Embassy Tripoli arrived in Benghazi to lend support. It arrived at the Annex about 0500 local. Less than fifteen minutes later, the Annex came under mortar and RPG attack, with five mortar rounds impacting close together in under 90 seconds. Three rounds hit the roof of an Annex building, killing security officers Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty. The attack also severely injured one ARSO and one Annex security team member. Annex, Tripoli, and ARSO security team members at other locations moved rapidly to provide combat first aid to the injured.
And, just for good measure, here's Fox News' Jennifer Griffin, from this past July:
Doherty left Tripoli at about midnight local time, after chartering a local plane for the rescue. There were no U.S. air assets in Tripoli. He and the quick reaction force arrived at the CIA annex at 5:15 a.m. after being delayed for several hours at the Benghazi airport by the Libyans. The CIA annex, a fortress-like compound with several buildings, is where the Americans in Benghazi had retreated and the body of State Department official Sean Smith had been brought after the initial attack. At the time, Stevens was still missing.
Doherty joined Tyrone Woods, another highly trained former SEAL, on the roof of one of the buildings at the CIA annex. Within minutes, mortars were fired. Doherty and Woods were both killed.
Fox host Megyn Kelly repeated two long-debunked myths regarding the Obama administration's response to the 2012 attacks in Benghazi, Libya, ignoring congressional testimony, military experts, and even photographic evidence in order to claim "we still don't have any answers" about military aid and President Obama's whereabouts on the night of the attacks.
On the December 3 edition of Fox News' The Kelly File, Kelly hosted Republican Rep. Devin Nunes (CA) to discuss this week's closed-door congressional testimony from two CIA contractors present in Benghazi during the attacks on September 11, 2012. During the interview, Nunes claimed that there are still unanswered questions about the administration's response to the attacks, asking, "What were they doing? How come nobody came to help?" Kelly did not push Nunes on his claim, instead parroting it: "Your point is, they didn't dispatch any help, even when it was unclear whether the attack had ended or not. What would be the delay when they didn't know it was over?"
Kelly later asked if the congressional hearings had "been able to shed light ... about what the president was doing at the moment of the attack and on the night in question," to which Nunes said no. She concluded, "So we still don't have any answers."
Book review magazine Kirkus Reviews praised The Benghazi Hoax as a "strong defense of the Democratic response" to right-wing myths about the attack on the diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya.
In a review of The Benghazi Hoax, an e-book authored by Media Matters' David Brock and Ari Rabin-Havt that details the right-wing media's attempt to turn a tragic attack into a political scandal, Kirkus Reviews praised the e-book's response to conservative misinformation about Benghazi:
Beyond these facts, so much remains up for grabs, with conservatives claiming that the compound should have been better protected and should have received reinforcements, that President Barack Obama is soft on terrorism and tried to shift blame, and that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has lied about her role and responsibility in the tragedy. To the contrary, asserts Media Matters for America founder Brock (The Republican Noise Machine: Right-Wing Media and How It Corrupts Democracy, 2004, etc.) in this strong defense of the Democratic response, a conspiracy of conservative lies has kept this controversy alive, primarily through the Fox News talking heads and other "hoaxsters," including Mitt Romney and senators John McCain, Lindsay Graham and Kelly Ayotte. They have progressed from the scapegoating of Obama to an attempt to derail Clinton's campaign as the front-runner to be nominated as his successor. "The reality is that there are two Benghazis," writes the author, one in which "the most basic facts would get twisted, contorted, even invented out of thin air to create bogus narratives" by "a Republican noise machine."
For more on conservative media myths about the September 2012 attack, read The Benghazi Hoax, the new e-book by Media Matters' David Brock and Ari Rabin-Havt.
60 Minutes correspondent Lara Logan and her producer Max McClellan will reportedly be taking a leave of absence from the program, per a memo from CBS News chairman (and 60 Minutes executive producer) Jeff Fager obtained by Huffington Post media reporter Michael Calderone.
Calderone wrote on November 26:
Jeff Fager, chairman of CBS News and executive producer of '"60 Minutes," informed staff Tuesday that Lara Logan and her producer, Max McClellan, would be taking a leave of absence following an internal report on the newsmagazine's discredited Oct. 27 Benghazi report.
The memo lays out the findings of CBS News' internal investigation, led by CBS News executive producer Al Ortiz, into Logan's badly flawed October 27 60 Minutes report on the 2012 Benghazi attacks. CBS News withdrew the report after the credibility of Logan's Benghazi "eyewitness," security contractor Dylan Davies, crumbled amid allegations that he had lied about being at the besieged diplomatic compound while the attacks were happening. Ortiz describes Logan's report as "deficient in several respects," and found that her "team did not sufficiently vet Davies' account of his own actions and whereabouts that night."
Ortiz also noted that Davies' book on his Benghazi experiences, The Embassy House, "was published by Threshold Editions, an imprint of Simon & Schuster, part of the CBS Corporation. 60 Minutes erred in not disclosing that connection in the segment." Simon & Schuster pulled the book from circulation after Davies' story fell apart. CBS News has not yet acknowledged that conflict of interest on-air.
Fager asked Logan and producer Max McClellan to go on leave from the program, and they both agreed to do so. "When faced with a such an error, we must use it as an opportunity to make our broadcast even stronger. We are making adjustments at 60 Minutes to reduce the chances of it happening again," wrote Fager.
In a statement, Media Matters chairman David Brock said:
From the start of this controversy, Media Matters has demanded that CBS review the flawed 60 Minutes report and take appropriate action. Today, the network has done that. We hope this serves as a lesson learned to CBS about the danger of misinformation.
The full memo from Fager and the conclusions from the internal review by Ortiz are below:
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Washington Post political blogger Jennifer Rubin is, like most pundits sympathetic to the Republican cause, upset over the move by Democrats to change Senate rules so that judicial and executive branch nominees will no longer have to face down a filibuster in order to get a confirmation vote. "It's a bad way to run the country," Rubin writes. But at the same time she is wistful for what might have been had the filibuster been done away with long ago, and what the nation might have discovered about... Benghazi?
If only. . .
The president cared as much about Iran's nuclear option as he does the Senate's.
The nuclear option was in place for superbly qualified Republican-nominated judges like Miguel Estrada whom the Democrats filibustered.
The nuclear option had prevented Sen. Barack Obama from blocking the confirmation of John Bolton as United Nations Ambassador in 2005.
The nuclear option had removed fear of a filibuster and allowed Susan Rice to get nominated as secretary of state so then she could have been questioned about Benghazi.
This is a perplexing hypothetical. At the time Susan Rice's name was being thrown around as a potential nominee for Secretary of State, there were few people in the media who opposed the idea more than Jennifer Rubin. "From my perspective, it makes no sense to have a three-ring confirmation hearing and lose over a subpar nominee such as Rice," Rubin wrote on December 4, 2012. When Rice asked that her name be withdrawn from consideration for the position, Rubin wrote: "To be frank, she should never have been floated as a possible nominee."
Fox News baselessly claimed that newly-released photographs of the aftermath of the Benghazi attacks reveal a "level of devastation" which contradicts the Obama administration's "original story of what happened" -- without explaining how the photos provided new insight or how they contradicted the administration's position on the destruction of the attacks.
On the November 20 edition of Fox & Friends First, co-host Ainsley Earhardt highlighted photos of the U.S. compound in Benghazi, Libya, following the September 11, 2012 attacks which were recently obtained by the conservative group Judicial Watch. The photos depict a car on fire, burnt furniture, and graffiti on the walls of the compound, and Earhardt claimed they revealed "a new level of devastation, contradicting the Obama administration's original story of what happened":
EARHARDT: New images of the aftermath of last year's September 11th terrorist attacks on U.S. compounds in Benghazi, Libya. The new pictures show a new level of devastation, contradicting the Obama administration's original story of what happened. The State Department gave 30 pages of records and 14 pictures to the conservative group Judicial Watch. That group is suing after requesting public materials through the Freedom of Information Act and not receiving them.
Earhardt did not explain how the photos contradicted anything the Obama administration had previously said about the attack, nor did she provide any evidence that administration officials previously downplayed or diminished the damage in Benghazi.
Her attack on the administration did, however, mirror comments made by Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton, who claimed the "photos reveal a level of total devastation thoroughly belying Obama's original cover story that the carnage was perpetrated by a bunch of random malcontents upset over an unpleasant video."
But as Media Matters has repeatedly documented, there was no cover story -- Then-U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice made clear during her initial comments on the attack that they were based on the administration's "current best assessment" of the situation, which was that the attacks were not premeditated. She acknowledged that the perpetrators were "extremists" and said that future investigations and analyses by intelligence services "will tell us with certainty what transpired." It would later be revealed that her suggestion that the attack was linked to an anti-Islam video that had embroiled the Middle East came from talking points generated by the CIA.
Furthermore, the photos released by Judicial Watch and billed as groundbreaking are actually similar to pictures which have been available online since the day after the attacks. On September 12, 2012, Buzzfeed posted photos showing the destruction at the compound, including a burnt car, graffiti, and broken windows. The next day, Daily Mail Online posted more photos of the burnt interiors of the compound.
For more on conservative media myths about the September 2012 attacks, read The Benghazi Hoax, the new e-book by Media Matters' David Brock and Ari Rabin-Havt.
Politico media reporter Dylan Byers reports that Al Ortiz, an executive producer at CBS News, will be "conducting the 'journalistic review' into the controversial '60 Minutes' report on Benghazi." As Byers notes, this presents a problem for Ortiz and a potential conflict of interest for CBS News, as the executive producer of 60 Minutes, Jeff Fager, is also the chairman of CBS News and Ortiz's boss.
Fager is also the person who, initially, decided that no investigation would take place. Though CBS says the review has been underway since they first learned of "the issue," a spokesman told the New York Times last Sunday that Lara Logan's televised apology would be the network's last word on the matter. "[T]he CBS News chairman, Jeff Fager, who is also the executive producer of "60 Minutes," has not ordered an investigation," the Times reported at the time.
Media Matters has previously addressed the problems with having a CBS News employee conduct the review. There were a number of problems with the report -- most notably the credibility of Benghazi "eyewitness" Dylan Davies -- all of which deserve intense scrutiny. Fager's dual role within the network invariably raises questions about the credibility and the independence of an internal review process.