Conservative media have sought to legitimize the House's new select committee on Benghazi by claiming only it could answer questions about Benghazi that have already been answered, a tactic that appeared to spill over to CNN on May 22.
Anchor Wolf Blitzer hosted Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), a newly announced member of the House committee, and pressed him on why Ambassador Chris Stevens was in Benghazi on the day of the attack. Even though this matter has been repeatedly investigated in the public record, Blitzer asserted, "Maybe you'll get the answer" as to why during the House's latest investigation:
From the May 22 edition of MSNBC's The Reid Report:
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After airing House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi's remarks about appointing Democrats to the Republican-led House select committee on Benghazi, Fox News immediately misled viewers about what she said, claiming that Pelosi conceded the committee is a "serious effort" when she did not.
On May 21, Fox News' The Real Story aired live Pelosi's statement on the selection of Democratic members to the Benghazi select committee. Pelosi prefaced the announcement by making clear her objection to the formation of the committee, outlining the numerous prior investigations and blasting the Republican mismanagement of the investigations. Pelosi labeled this latest select committee "an unnecessary partisan exercise." She went on to explain Democratic participation in the committee as a way to "fight for a fair hearing and process" (emphasis added):
PELOSI: Unfortunately, the Republican obsession with Benghazi has not been about the victims or their families or our country. We had hoped the house Republican leaders would not go down the path forming a select committee. We've already been there. Eight reviews have been conducted in the House and Senate, 25,000 documents released, millions of taxpayer dollars spent. It was not necessary to put the families or our country through this partisan exercise once again. Over the past two weeks, we have engaged in good-faith discussions with Speaker Boehner on the shape and standards of the select committee. We had hoped for a level of fairness and transparency and balance, especially considering the subject matter. We were not able to reach any agreement.
Regrettably, the Republican approach does not prevent the unacceptable and the repeated abuses committed by Chairman Issa in any meaningful way. That is all the more reason for Democrats to participate in the committee, to be there to fight for a fair hearing and process, to try to bring some openness and transparency to what's going on. What is the purpose of this investigation? What is the timetable? What are the milestones? What are they hoping to achieve? I could have argued this either way. Why give any validity to this effort? But I do think it is important for the American people to have the pursuit of these questions done in a fair and open and balanced way as possible. That simply would not be possible leaving it to theRepublicans. That's why I'm appointing my distinguished colleagues here today to serve on the select committee.
Shortly after Pelosi made her statement, host Gretchen Carlson cut away from the press conference to discuss the issue with Fox chief intelligence correspondent Catherine Herridge. Despite Pelosi's clear dismissal of Republicans' handling of the investigation, Herridge baselessly characterized Pelosi's announcement as "a real recognition that this is going to be a serious-minded investigation" while ignoring Pelosi's criticism of the committee as "an unnecessary partisan exercise":
HERRIDGE: I think what we heard is a recognition by the Democrats that they must now engage in a very serious way with the Republican-led select committee. This is a reflection of the fact that the members of this Republican select committee are very serious in nature and are communicating that this will be a broad and vast investigation where they already believe that there are gaps that need to be filled in between the various committees that have already looked at it. So this is a recognition by the Democrats that they must seriously engage and that it would be a political mistake not to be engaged and to leave some of these issues unanswered, especially leading up to the midterm elections.
Looking at the composition of this committee, what strikes me is almost everyone has relevant experience on the requisite oversight committees that looked into Benghazi. What is also striking to me is -- I think you can make the argument that several of the committee members are true partisans and have been on the attack on Benghazi from the get-go. So they seem to have been picked by the speaker as a way to answer these Republican allegations that the administration in effect dropped the ball on Benghazi, they misled the American people and, even more specifically, that there was real negligence at the state department that was led by Mrs. Clinton.
The bottom line for the folks at home is that the Democrats recognize it's going to be a serious effort and it would be a political mistake not to engage in the fullest possible way.
While Herridge portrayed the Democratic members of the committee as "true partisans," she did not attribute partisan motive to the Republican members, asserting that have "the requisite oversight background, also a legal background" and will "move through this in a very methodical way."
CNN President Jeff Zucker reportedly said his network would not "to be shamed into" covering the new special House committee investigating the 2012 attacks in Benghazi by "others who have political beliefs that want to try to have temper tantrums."
Zucker discussed his plans for the network at the Deadline Club's May 19 annual awards dinner during an interview with New York Times television reporter Bill Carter, Capital New York reported. When asked about the new select committee formed by House Republicans this month to yet again investigate the attacks on U.S. diplomatic facilities, Zucker criticized "other news organizations" who attempt to "shame" journalists, adding, "If it's of real news value, we'll cover it":
And will it cover the special committee hearings by House Republicans to probe the 2012 Benghazi embassy attack? Zucker told Carter he didn't know yet.
"We're not going to be shamed into it by others who have political beliefs that want to try to have temper tantrums to shame other news organizations into covering something," he said. "If it's of real news value, we'll cover it."
Fox News has been the primary media force behind the Benghazi hoax since September 2012. In addition to consistently pushing phony outrage and misinformation about Benghazi, Fox has frequently issued attacks on "mainstream media" for supposedly failing to adequately cover the story. The network began pushing for the establishment of a select committee in July 2013; after one was announced in early May, the network bragged that their coverage was in part responsible. Fox has since attempted to dictate the terms of Democratic cooperation with the investigation.
Despite their excitement, the questions Fox insists the new committee will "answer" have already been well-documented and explained, and given that the attacks have already been examined by an independent State Department panel as well as at least five House and three Senate committees, whether the new committee finds anything Zucker would deem "of real news value" remains to be seen.
Having successfully goaded House Republicans into forming a select committee on Benghazi with smears and phony outrage, Fox News is now attempting to dictate the terms of Democratic cooperation with the new investigatory body.
On May 2, House Republicans finally caved to the Fox News pressure campaign encouraging them to establish a select committee to investigate the 2012 attacks on a diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya.
Fox personalities have also pressured Democrats to get on board despite objections that the makeup of the committee is slanted to favor Republicans and is already ignoring evidence in pursuit of a forgone conclusion.
Fox host Andrea Tantaros warned that Democrats could face electoral repercussions if they "risk looking left out of it," Fox & Friends co-host Brian Kilmeade urged, "Democrats, put the five people up there. Stop with the rhetoric. Let's get started," and after listening to select committee chairman Rep. Trey Gowdy's (R-SC) description of the committee, Fox host Chris Wallace decided: "Alright, I'm going to declare victory here and say that the Democrats are going to participate."
On May 16, Rep. Alan Grayson (D-FL) volunteered to serve, and Fox was quick to reject the possibility of Grayson's involvement.
On the May 20 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends, co-hosts Steve Doocy and Elisabeth Hasselbeck agreed that the committee needed someone more on board with the committee's goals and described him as a "spoke in the wheel" to the select committee:
HASSELBECK: Now, if he's gonna prosecute and try to get in there and probe into someone, it should be why we haven't had any answers and why no one knew about this and why these Americans were left to die. But if his focus, then, if the center of the target happens to be Republicans, is that a good idea to have this guy in there?
DOOCY: Here's the thing. This all started out as a joke on Twitter and the blogs, and now essentially what they're saying is: 'let's go ahead and gum up the works, let's turn it into a kangaroo court, and have this particular guy.' MoveOn.org says, "Our interest is to have someone with great credibility and stature among Democrats and Republicans. Well you know what? With all due respect to the congressman, he's not the one. Republicans do not think he is a great statesman.
In an interview with Media Matters, Grayson criticized Fox for "calling the shots" on the Benghazi witch hunt.
From the May 10 edition of MSNBC's Disrupt With Karen Finney:
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Fox News has finally succeeded in convincing House Republicans to establish a select committee on Benghazi, a move it has hyped for more than eighteen months. The network has celebrated in classic Fox style: by reviving a host of debunked Benghazi myths and patting itself on the back for its political influence.
On May 2, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) announced that he would call for a vote in the House "to establish a new select committee to investigate the attack, provide the necessary accountability, and ensure justice is finally served." Fox figures were quick to brag about their role in the creation of the select committee and their unrelenting coverage of the 2012 attacks, which most recently included a misguided attempt to turn an innocuous email by Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes into the new "smoking gun" that proved the Obama administration covered up the truth about the attacks in Benghazi.
Boehner announced on May 9 the six GOP lawmakers who will join Republican Chairman Rep. Trey Gowdy of South Carolina on the select committee: Reps. Susan Brooks of Indiana, Jim Jordan of Ohio, Mike Pompeo of Kansas, Martha Roby of Alabama, Peter Roskam of Illinois and Lynn Westmoreland of Georgia. The Speaker even commemorated the announcement with this tweet:
Fox's calls for a select committee long precede the latest manufactured scandal du jour. The network's promotion of a select committee dates to as early as November 2012 and has continued ever since, unabated by the numerous investigations and hearings on Benghazi already completed. Take a look:
MSNBC's Morning Joe helped to legitimize House Republicans' witch-hunt into the Benghazi attacks by pushing some of Fox News' favorite myths about the tragedy.
House Republicans voted on Friday to establish a select committee on the 2012 Benghazi attacks, a move which follows months -- and years -- of Fox News pushing misinformation and consistently calling for Congress to further investigate Benghazi.
In the wake of the establishment of the select committee, right-wing media led by Fox have revived a litany of already-asked-and-answered questions on Benghazi, jumping off the White House's release of a September 14, 2012 email from Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes used to prepare Susan Rice for the Sunday talk shows after the attacks (despite the fact that the Rhodes' email was consistent with intelligence reports at the time and relied on CIA talking points).
Unfortunately, Fox was not alone -- MSNBC's Morning Joe has also legitimized the investigation by pushing debunked Benghazi myths.
As media outlets focus on Republicans' select committee to investigate Benghazi, attention has centered on chairman Trey Gowdy (R-SC). Throughout the right-wing campaign to scandalize the tragedy in Benghazi, Gowdy has used the media to push dishonest claims about the administration's response to the attack.
Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC) has a history of deceiving media by misrepresenting evidence at a congressional hearing, a worrying past given his new role as the leader of the House select committee investigating the Benghazi attacks.
Gowdy was chosen on May 5 to run the new select committee into the Obama administration's handling of the September 2012 terrorist attacks in Libya, and was described by House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) as "dogged, focused, and serious-minded as they come. His background as a federal prosecutor and his zeal for the truth make him the ideal person to lead this panel."
But Gowdy's apparent "zeal for the truth" has not stopped him from misleading past congressional investigations into the attacks with media figures who are eager to amplify Republican scandal-mongering.
At a previous House hearing on Benghazi on May 8, 2013, Gowdy purported to read from a State Department email sent a day after the attacks, which Republicans claimed revealed State officials knew that terrorists were behind the attacks but initially attempted to cover-up this knowledge for political reasons. Gowdy quoted a State official as saying in this early email, "the group that conducted the attacks...is affiliated with Islamic terrorists."
Fox News immediately ran with Gowdy's line, claiming that the email opened up new questions about the administration's response to the attacks, including questions "about the accuracy of the past testimony of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton."
But when The New York Times obtained an actual copy of the email in question, they found that it referred to "Islamic extremists," not terrorists. The senior State Department official who sent the email, A. Elizabeth Jones, was noting exactly what senior White House officials and then-UN Ambassador Susan Rice had all acknowledged: the possibility that extremists could had been involved in the assault.
In response to the clear evidence that he had misrepresented an official email in a Congressional hearing, Gowdy deflected, claiming there was no relevant distinction between "extremists" and "terrorists" -- even though making that very distinction was exactly what Republicans were attempting to accuse the administration of doing in their supposed "cover up" of Benghazi. His Republican colleagues once again turned to Fox to push out the new line, now claiming the email said "definitively" that "it was Ansar-al-Sharia, Islamic extremists, that committed this terrorist act," despite the fact that the email still made no reference to terrorism.
As Republicans gear to up use this new select committee to continue to push the Benghazi hoax, media should be wary of trusting Gowdy's interpretation of the record -- he can't always be trusted to accurately quote reality.
From the May 8 edition of Fox News' America's Newsroom:
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Hosts of the network Sunday news shows treated Benghazi myths and facts with false equivalence, an approach that hides the truth about the tragedy.
The right-wing's manufactured hysteria over the release of new White House memos and the House GOP's announcement that it would form a special select committee brought the September 11, 2012 attacks in Benghazi, Libya back into the spotlight on the May 4 Sunday news talk shows. The latest charge from conservative media is that a newly-released email from Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes preparing then-UN Ambassador Susan Rice for the September 16, 2012 Sunday talk shows -- where she suggested that the terror attacks had grown out of spontaneous protests -- was part of a deliberate effort to deceive the American people about the cause of the attacks.
In a seeming effort to provide false balance between the facts and the myths, the network news hosts lent credence to evidence-free claims by their guests, giving them equal weight with the truth.
From the May 4 edition of Fox Broadcasting's Fox News Sunday:
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From the May 2 edition of Fox News' Fox News Reporting: Benghazi: White House Cover-Up Revealed?
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After Fox News' consistent calls for a special select committee to investigate Benghazi, House Speaker John Boehner announced plans to create a new select committee to investigate the September 11, 2012, attacks.
On May 2, Boehner announced that he intends to call for a vote in the House "to establish a new select committee to investigate the attack, provide the necessary accountability, and ensure justice is finally served":
Americans learned this week that the Obama Administration is so intent on obstructing the truth about Benghazi that it is even willing to defy subpoenas issued by the standing committees of the People's House. These revelations compel the House to take every possible action to ensure the American people have the truth about the terrorist attack on our consulate that killed four of our countrymen. In light of these new developments, the House will vote to establish a new select committee to investigate the attack, provide the necessary accountability, and ensure justice is finally served.
The administration's withholding of documents - emails showing greater White House involvement in misleading the American people - is a flagrant violation of trust and undermines the basic principles of oversight upon which our system of government is built. And it forces us to ask the question, what else about Benghazi is the Obama administration still hiding from the American people
Boehner's announcement came after the second day of Fox's misguided attempt to turn an email by Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes into the new "smoking gun" that proved the Obama administration covered up the truth about the attacks in Benghazi. Fox figures used the manufactured scandal to call for a select committee to investigate the attacks over the course of two days following the memo's release.
While Boehner's announcement is a new development, it is common practice for Fox to call for a select committee. In fact, the network has led the charge for just such an investigation, usually relying on false attacks to bolster their claim. Fox contributor Allen West called for a select committee after falsely claiming that the White House issued a "stand down" order to troops who were preparing a rescue mission. Fox contributor K.T. MacFarland also called for a select committee to investigate after the bipartisan Senate Review found that the White House had not engaged in any cover up of the truth about the attacks.