Fox News pitched the release of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl as "Benghazi 2.0" after an Obama administration spokesperson declined to take a stand on whether Bergdahl is guilty of desertion before all the facts are in because, "like any American, he is innocent until proven guilty"
Since the White House's May 31 announcement that it had secured the release of Bergdahl, the only prisoner of war left in the Afghan conflict, in a prisoner swap, Republican strategists have led a coordinated campaign to hype claims that Bergdahl was a deserter. State Department spokesperson Marie Harf pointed out that the allegations have not yet been fully investigated and the government is "still establishing a fact pattern," but Fox has already began to aggressively hype the argument and accuse the Obama administration of lying about the facts.
On the June 3 edition of The Kelly File, Fox News' strategic analyst Col. Ralph Peters attacked the "arrogance" of Harf's statement, framing it as an insult to the troops and "Benghazi 2.0":
PETERS: Megyn, what you just saw and heard was Benghazi 2.0. A political flunkie in the State Department insisting that she knows better what happened on the ground than the soldiers on the front line or the people in a firefight. The arrogance is boundless. You know, I wish -- the Obama administration, if it can't have the grace to be decent about anything else, at least stop insulting our troops. She called those soldiers from the front lines liars. And by the way, she's the liar!
Fox & Friends had a similar take. Also responding to Harf's statement, co-host Steve Doocy called State's refusal to issue an immediate verdict on allegations of Bergdahl's desertion "unbelievable," putting the claims in the context of Fox's favorite Benghazi myth:
DOOCY: And how familiar does that sound: 'Don't listen to the guys on the ground.' Wait a minute, that's what we did in Benghazi, remember?
Doocy was attempting to jump off of a portion of the right-wing media's Benghazi mythology that has been so consistently repeated by Fox that, to many conservatives, it has become impervious to facts.
For more than a year, the network has been fixated on a set of administration talking points that then U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice used on September 16, 2012 and that linked the Benghazi attacks to an anti-Muslim video. Previous investigations have found that the talking points reflected the intelligence community's best assessment at the time and that further information only became available 2 days later, after the FBI disseminated its interviews with eyewitnesses -- which quickly led the administration to update its assessment. Yet Fox has continued to ignore reality and imagine the delay was part of an elaborate plot to conceal the truth about the attacks.
Fox has seen first hand how ignoring reality and doubling down on misinformation can get results. The network's revisionist history of how information about the Benghazi attack was disseminated; it succeeded in convincing House Republicans to establish a select committee on Benghazi based on a false attack.
But like Fox's Benghazi scandal-mongering, this supposed "Benghazi 2.0" falls flat in context.
Far from calling "soldiers on the front lines liars" or suggesting the administration won't "listen to the guys on the ground," Harf was simply echoing Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey to note that Bergdahl remains "innocent until proven guilty" but that the appropriate investigation will take place:
QUESTION: (Inaudible) according to those around him, his platoon mates, his squad mates, company mates, they said he walked off the base.
MS. HARF: Lucas, some of them - other - there are conflicting reports out there about this. Look --
QUESTION: Are there?
MS. HARF: There are. Go Google it on the web and you'll find a ton of conflicting reports. The fact is we're still establishing a fact pattern about what happened, how he ended up in Taliban captivity. So when he is able to share those, as Chairman Dempsey said today, he will. He also said, like any American, he is innocent until proven guilty. Our army's leaders will not look away from misconduct if it occurred. In the meantime, we will continue to care for him and his family.
So I think people need to be really careful about believing every second or third-hand report out there, and also what the President, what the Secretary, what Chairman Dempsey have said: Regardless of how he went missing, it is our responsibility to him to bring him home, period.