Fox News Swaps Fact With Fiction On Amb. Stevens' Presence In Benghazi

››› ››› ELLIE SANDMEYER

Fox News host Steve Doocy attacked Hillary Clinton's statement that Ambassador Chris Stevens was in Benghazi in September 2012 of his own volition -- a fact supported by independent investigations and Congressional testimony -- as a "flat-out ... lie."

Hillary Clinton Explains That Amb. Stevens Chose To Travel To Benghazi

Hillary Clinton Explained That Ambassador Chris Stevens Went To Benghazi "Of His Own Choosing." During a June 9 interview with ABC's Diane Sawyer, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton explained that Ambassador Chris Stevens, who was killed in the September 11, 2012 assaults on the U.S. diplomatic outpost in Benghazi, was in Benghazi "of his own choosing":  

SAWYER: His last words in his diary: Chris Stevens: 'Never ending security threat.'

CLINTON: Right.

SAWYER: But he was there on 9/11.

CLINTON: Right. And of his own choosing.

SAWYER: But you wanted a post there.

CLINTON: It was important to have diplomatic assets. Were there security threats? Yes. And there are -- there's a long list of countries where there are security threats to American interests. [ABC News, 6/9/14]

Fox: It's "A Lie" To Claim Amb. Stevens Chose To Be In Benghazi 

Fox's Steve Doocy: It's A 'Flat-Out Lie' That Ambassador Stevens Chose To Be In Benghazi. On the June 10 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends, co-host Steve Doocy accused Clinton of lying when she said Stevens was in Benghazi on September 11, 2012 "of his own choosing," claiming, "That simply isn't true":

DOOCY: So Chris Stevens, according to the former secretary of state, was there in Benghazi that night of his own choosing. That simply is not true. Greg Hicks, who was the diplomat in Libya the night of that, he was told by Chris Stevens himself, Hillary Rodham Clinton asked him specifically and directly, 'will you go to Benghazi to see if we could have a permanent post there?' And he did. And that's why he was there. He wasn't there of his own choosing. He was there at the direction of the secretary of state. In the ARB, however, it came out that he went independently, and that, flat-out, is a lie. [Fox News, Fox & Friends6/10/14]

Independent Investigation: Amb. Stevens Chose To Go To Benghazi

Accountability Review Board"Amb. Stevens Made The Decision To Travel To Benghazi Independently Of Washington, Per Standard Practice." The State Department convened an Accountability Review Board (ARB) independent investigation into the Benghazi attacks, which determined that Stevens' decision to travel to Benghazi was not the result of any directive from Washington: (emphasis added) 

The Board found that Ambassador Stevens made the decision to travel to Benghazi independently of Washington, per standard practice. Timing for his trip was driven in part by commitments in Tripoli, as well as a staffing gap between principal officers in Benghazi. Plans for the Ambassador's trip provided for minimal close protection security support and were not shared thoroughly with the Embassy's country team, who were not fully aware of planned movements off compound. The Ambassador did not see a direct threat of an attack of this nature and scale on the U.S. Mission in the overall negative trendline of security incidents from spring to summer 2012. His status as the leading U.S. government advocate on Libya policy, and his expertise on Benghazi in particular, caused Washington to give unusual deference to his judgments.

[...]

Ambassador Stevens was scheduled to remain in Benghazi until September 14, and his visit was timed in part to fill the staffing gaps between TDY principal officers as well as to open an American Corner at a local school and to reconnect with local contacts. [United States Department of State, 1/15/14]

Gregory Hicks' Congressional Testimony: Stevens "Chose To Go" To Benghazi 

Gregory Hicks: Stevens "Chose To Go" To Benghazi. In his May 8, 2013 testimony before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform -- cited by Fox host Steve Doocy -- former Deputy Chief of Mission in Libya Gregory Hicks outlined a number of factors that contributed to Stevens' decision to travel to Benghazi and noted that the ambassador "chose to go for those reasons" (emphasis added):

Mr. LANKFORD: Mr. Hicks, why was Ambassador Stevens headed to Benghazi? There were a lot of concerns about him. There were a lot of security issues that Mr. Nordstrom had listed in numerous reports leading up to his trip there.

Why was the Ambassador headed there?

Mr. HICKS: According to Chris, Secretary Clinton wanted Benghazi converted into a permanent constituent post. Timing for this decision was important. Chris needed to report before September 30th, the end of the fiscal year, on the physical and the political and security environment in Benghazi to support an action memo to convert Benghazi from a temporary facility to a permanent facility.

In addition, Chris wanted to make a symbolic gesture to the people of Benghazi that the United States stood behind their dream of establishing a new democracy.

Mr. LANKFORD: Why was this timing important? Was it significant that he went right now? Was there some hesitation about him going at that moment for that length of time? Could he have waited a couple more months to be able to go?

Mr. HICKS: He had originally planned to go to Benghazi in October. But we had a two-week gap in the principal officer position. Eric Gaudiosi was departed on August 31st, and his replacement was not due in the country until September 15th. We covered the initial 10-day period with David McFarland, and the Ambassador chose to go, and again he chose to go for those reasons.

Mr. LANKFORD: What was the time-line on trying to make this a permanent facility? Or was there anything pending that had to be accomplished by a certain deadline?

Mr. HICKS: We had funds available that could be transferred from an account set aside for Iraq and could be dedicated to this purpose. They had to be obligated by September 30th.

Mr. LANKFORD: Okay. And where did those instructions come from?

Mr. HICKS: This came from the executive office of the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs.

Mr. LANKFORD: So they were told to go ahead and check everything out, get the process going in Benghazi, because we had to do it and we had do it right now? He had planned to go in October and said, we have to get there earlier and get this started. And, plus, there was an opening as well, the principal officer.

Mr. HICKS: That's right. [House Committee On Oversight and Government Reform, 5/8/13]

Stevens' Personal Journal, Father Offer Insight Into Decision To Travel To Benghazi 

ABC News: Amb. Stevens' Personal Journal Shows He Was "Grateful To Be Back In Benghazi." Amb. Stevens' personal journal, recovered by CNN after the Benghazi attacks, reveals how Stevens was "grateful to be back in Benghazi" and understood the security risks, according to ABC:

The diary in which Ambassador Chris Stevens recorded the days leading up to his death in Benghazi, Libya has been published online, revealing that in his last entry, the ambassador scrawled, "Never-ending security threats..."

The seven-page diary, published with redactions today on the special operations website SOFREP.com, was originally found on the floor of the U.S. diplomatic facility in Benghazi by a reporter from CNN days after that facility and a nearby CIA annex were targeted in separate sustained attacks by militants on Sept. 11, 2012. Stevens was killed in the attack along with State Department computer specialist Sean Smith and two former Navy SEALs, Glen Doherty and Tyrone Woods, who were working as contractors with the CIA.

The journal shows Stevens was grateful to be back in Benghazi and eagerly watching democracy slowly sprouting in the northern African nation. He had last visited Benghazi nine months before when he snuck in the country in the midst of the popular uprising against dictator Moammar Gadhafi.

"Back in Benghazi after 9 months," he writes. "It's a grand feeling, given all the memories."

Stevens is generally optimistic in his descriptions of Libya and its people, but he notes the "dicey conditions" on the ground there, where he said militias rule, and references previous attacks on diplomats. That didn't stop Stevens from doing his job, detailing the many meetings he had the day he died. [ABC News, 6/26/13]

Stevens' Father: "Chris Was Not Willing To Be The Kind Of Diplomat Who Would Strut Around In Fortified Compounds. Jan Stevens, the father of Amb. Stevens, penned an op-ed for CNN in which he outlined Steven's dedication to his work and his appreciation of the risks involved:  

Chris was not willing to be the kind of diplomat who would strut around in fortified compounds. He amazed and impressed the Libyans by walking the streets with the lightest of escorts, sitting in sidewalk cafes, chatting with passers-by. There was a risk to being accessible. He knew it, and he accepted it.

What Chris never would have accepted was the idea that his death would be used for political purposes. There were security shortcomings, no doubt. Both internal and outside investigations have identified and publicly disclosed them. Steps are being taken to prevent their reoccurrence.

Chris would not have wanted to be remembered as a victim. Chris knew, and accepted, that he was working under dangerous circumstances. He did so -- just as so many of our diplomatic and development professionals do every day -- because he believed the work was vitally important. He would have wanted the critical work he was doing to build bridges of mutual understanding and respect -- the kind of work that made him literally thousands of friends and admirers across the broader Middle East -- to continue. [CNN, 6/26/13

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