8 People Who Broke Through Fox's Benghazi CharadeSeptember 11, 2013 9:29 AM EDT ››› MATT GERTZ & COLEMAN LOWNDES
Since the September 11 attacks on U.S. facilities in Benghazi, Libya, Fox News has played the key role in wrongfully framing that tragedy as a political scandal.
Conservative activists and elected officials have praised the network for their focus and said that without Fox, the Benghazi attacks never would have been as big of a story. For their part, Fox employees have often patted themselves on the back over their coverage while criticizing the "media at large beyond Fox News" for not giving the story more attention.
But Fox's coverage has not been entirely monolithic. On several key occasions, some of Fox's own on-air hosts and guests -- including hosts Shepard Smith, Geraldo Rivera, and Juan Williams, military analyst Jack Keane, and guest Thomas Ricks -- contradicted the network's typical mix of lies, spin, and conspiracy theories to inject actual facts about the Benghazi attacks and the administration's response.
Fox Host Geraldo Rivera. In October and November, Rivera repeatedly used appearances on Fox & Friends to denounce the hosts' Benghazi smears and falsehoods. He urged them to "stop politicizing" the Benghazi attack with "reckless allegations," calling it "preposterous" that the administration was viewing the attack "in real time" and pointing out that military resources were unavailable to aid the victims. He called the speculation that an FBI investigation into Gen. David Petraeus' affair affected his Benghazi testimony "absolutely reckless." He said that "scapegoating" Rice had become "the affliction that's sweeping Washington." During one memorable November 2 segment,Rivera said the administration had done"whatever it could have done under the circumstances." Rivera labeled Fox host Eric Bolling's statement that the administration had "sen[t] no help" an "obscene lie" andsaid Bolling was "misleading the American people because you want to make a political point."
In May, The New York Times reported that in his book The Center Holds: Obama and His Enemies, Jonathan Alter claimed that Fox News president Roger Ailes called the control room and told producers to cut off Rivera's microphone during that segment. Mediaite, which frequently publishes anonymous claims from Fox News executives pushing back on stories critical of the network, reported that Ailes never called the control room, but that another Fox executive did in order to "to urge the show to move on because the segment had come to its conclusion, as the EVP seemed to believe that two Fox personalities calling each other liars with an escalating tone made for bad morning television and could potentially alienate their audience if it continued." The full video shows a change in Rivera's microphone volume after the discussion about Benghazi, as Fox & Friends teases its next segment.
Fox Guest And National Security Journalist Tom Ricks. Ricks blasted Fox News during a November 26 appearance, saying that "Benghazi was hyped, by this network especially," adding that "the emphasis on Benghazi has been extremely political, partly because Fox was operating as a wing of the Republican Party."
Fox Host Juan Williams. On the November 25 edition of Fox News Sunday, during a discussion of Susan Rice's potential nomination for Secretary of State, Williams criticized attacks on Rice for using the intelligence community-generated talking points on Benghazi during interviews, calling them "unfair" and concluding: "This whole Benghazi thing has been so politicized. It's time to end this." Fox News had led the witch hunt to smear Rice over Benghazi. Williams also used a column in The Hill to offer three "corrections" for what he describes as "deliberate misinformation" from Republicans about the Benghazi attack. All three smears had also been pushed by his colleagues at Fox.
Fox Host Shepard Smith. On the October 26 edition of Fox News' Studio B, discussing Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta's explanation for why additional military assets weren't sent to Benghazi during the attack, Smith said that "there is a lot of second-guessing in real time now of the American military. We won't do that." Much of that "second-guessing" was occurring elsewhere on Fox airwaves.
Fox Correspondent Peter Doocy. During an October 19 segment on America's Newsroom, Doocy reported on a New York Times story finding that Ahmed Abu Khattala, a leader of the Ansar al-Shariah militia group who was later charged in connection with the attack, had said the strike was "tied to that anti-Islamic video." This undermined the right-wing narrative, heavily pushed by Fox News, that the Obama administration covered up the Libya attack in early statements by saying that it was connected to that video, which triggered violent protests across the Middle East. The CIA cited that connection in the initial draft of talking points generated for the administration.
Fox Military Analyst Jack Keane. During an October 25 appearance, Keane, a retired Army general and former vice chief of staff, said that "this criticism about the lack of response is second-guessing at its worst," saying that "the response was pretty good," noting the response force that was sent from Tripoli. During a November 2 segment, Keane disputed Eric Bolling's claim that the Obama administration "did not call on the only response team that may have been able to intervene during the attack," again arguing that the administration did a good job of rushing help to the scene.
Fox Guest And Former Ambassador To NATO Nick Burns. During his October 25 appearance alongside Keane, Burns agreed with the general about the "heroic response" and that "we cannot possibly know -- we, sitting outside the government -- all the information that was available or not available to decision-makers in Washington and in Tripoli" and thus we should "keep politics out of this, keep this out of a partisan environment."
Fox Guest And Former FBI Special Agent And Navy Seal Jonathan T. Gilliam. After CNN interviewed the purported leader of the Benghazi attack, Fox News attacked the Obama administration because the suspect said he had never been contacted by the FBI. Responding to that criticism on the July 31 edition of Fox News' On the Record, Gilliam said: "[L]et's just go back to investigations 101 and think about this. First off, why in the world would an open investigation, that's active, would the investigators go and talk to a suspect? When I was in the FBI I could have talked to a thousand of the suspects that we were looking at. But we knew where they were, we knew what they were doing, and that's what leads an investigation."