Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace, with the help of guest Dick Cheney, peddled a number of long-debunked myths about the September 11, 2012, attacks on U.S. diplomatic facilities in Benghazi, Libya, including the false claims that President Obama and the Pentagon decided to abandon Americans during the attacks, that troops could have reached Libya in time, and that U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice purposely deceived the American public about the attack.
During a June 16 Fox News Sunday interview with former Vice President Cheney, Wallace claimed that the president and the Pentagon decided not to send any assistance to the U.S. forces and citizens under attack in Benghazi:
Wallace's suggestion that the president and the Pentagon coordinated such a decision ignores known facts about the circumstances and deployment of forces that night.
During a February 7 Senate hearing, then-Defense Secretary Leon Panetta testified that President Obama had "directed both myself and General Dempsey to do everything we needed to do to try to protect lives there." During the same hearing, Panetta later said, "[Obama] basically said, 'do whatever you need to do to be able to protect our people" in Benghazi the night of the attacks. Following that conversation with the president, Panetta ordered two anti-terrorism security teams stationed in Spain to Libya and deployed another special operations team to the region. These forces arrived after the attacks were over.
Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates has also confirmed that military forces would not have arrived at the attack in time to prevent the casualties. During a May 12 appearance on Face The Nation, Gates said the idea that military forces could have responded in time required a "cartoonish impression of military capabilities."
Later in the segment, when the discussion turned to Susan Rice, President Obama's recently announced pick to become national security adviser, Cheney referenced several debunked claims about Rice's involvement in and the motivation behind the crafting of the Benghazi talking points, suggesting that she "peddled the party line" by knowingly deceiving the American public about the attack in order to help Obama win re-election. Cheney concluded:
I just question whether or not somebody whose judgment was so flawed that they took what was apparently very bad information and peddled it as aggressively as she did.
Cheney's statements ignore the role of the intelligence community in crafting the talking points as well as the hundreds of pages of emails revealing that information was removed from the talking points to protect multiple agencies' investigations, including the FBI and the CIA. Responding to initial emails among CIA officials on September 14, 2012, CIA General Counsel Stephen W. Preston urged caution to ensure that no investigation would be compromised:
Folks, I know there is a hurry to get this out, but we need to hold it long enough to ascertain whether providing it conflicts with express instructions from NSS/DOJ/FBI that, in light of the criminal investigation, we are not to generate statements with assessments as to who did this, etc. -- even internally, not to mention for public release. I am copying [CIA FO] who may be more familiar with those instructibns [sic] and the tasking arising from the HPSCI coffee.
Furthermore, then-Director of the CIA General David Petraeus has also testified before Congress that the talking points in question were changed in order to avoid tipping off those responsible for the attacks.