Fox News' Adam Housley suddenly flipped his own network's script, calling the capture of Ahmed Abu Khattala not "that big of a deal," and accused the White House of embellishing his role in the deadly Benghazi attacks -- a report that's inconsistent with other Fox News reports naming Khatalla as a key suspect.
American forces apprehended Khattala in Libya on June 15. When the news broke on June 17, Fox News quickly reported the top militia leader's arrest. Then on June 27, Khattala went from a top terrorism leader to small potatoes.
Fox News diminished Khattala's capture, suggesting the militia leader was small time and the Obama administration is ignoring "actionable intelligence" on larger suspects. On the June 27 edition of Fox News' America's Newsroom, Fox correspondent Adam Housley reported that Khattala's capture "wasn't that big of a deal at all," because Khattala was considered by officials to be "low-hanging fruit." Housley capitalized on diminishing Khattala's profile in order to criticize President Obama for failing to follow through on his "promise to stay focused on hunting down those responsible for the 2012 attack.":
One of the curious sub-plots to the ongoing drama of 60 Minutes and its since-retracted October 27 Benghazi report is the extent to which Dylan Davies, CBS News' discredited Benghazi "witness," informed Fox News' reporting. The day after the 60 Minutes report aired, Fox News' Adam Housley disclosed on-air that "some of our reports for FoxNews.com last fall included this 60 Minutes witness' account," but added that he stopped talking to Davies "when he asked for money." Even still, Housley said at the time that Davies' story on 60 Minutes "reaffirms, really, what we've been reporting." After CBS retracted their story, Fox News vice president Michael Clemente stated unequivocally: "We stand by our reporting on Benghazi."
This is an awkward situation for Fox: they cited a "witness" whose credibility has since been trashed, and they had suspicions about his credibility before it was publicly destroyed, but they're nonetheless defending every scrap of their Benghazi reporting, including the pieces that cited Davies. So which Fox News articles featured the now-discredited British security contractor as a source? That's tough to nail down, as Fox News never cited Davies by name. But there are a couple of FoxNews.com reports from late 2012 that cite British sources to make claims that are incorrect or unsupported by other accounts of the attacks.
On November 3, 2012, Housley published an "exclusive" for FoxNews.com challenging the CIA's timeline of Benghazi attacks and claiming that "security officials on the ground say calls for help went out" before the attack on the diplomatic compound actually started at 9:30 p.m., Libya time. Housley's report cited "multiple people on the ground" who said that the "Blue Mountain Security manager" -- a possible reference to Davies, who was training the British firm Blue Mountain's security forces at the consulate -- "made calls on both two-way radios and cell phones to colleagues in Benghazi warning of problems at least an hour earlier."
One source said the Blue Mountain Security chief seemed "distraught" and said "the situation here is very serious, we have a problem." He also said that even without these phone and radio calls, it was clear to everyone in the security community on the ground in Benghazi much earlier than 9:40 p.m. that fighters were gathering in preparation for an attack.
Even if this isn't a reference to Davies, the report appears to be incorrect. Several different accounts of the night of the Benghazi attack make no reference to any "distraught" messages from the Blue Mountain security force prior to the attack -- indeed, they all describe a scene of (relative) normalcy until the moment the attack started. "The radio on the Blue Mountain frequency was silent," write Fred Burton and Samuel L. Katz in Under Fire. "There was no chatter on the February 17 [militia] frequency either. There was, for the most part, silence."
Following the collapse of CBS News' 60 Minutes report on the 2012 Benghazi attacks, Fox News, which cited 60 Minutes' now-discredited "eyewitness" for some of its Benghazi coverage, is standing by the accuracy of its reporting. CBS News' withdrawal of the story has been largely ignored by Fox News, even though Fox enthusiastically promoted the 60 Minutes story and boasted that it validated the network's own reporting on Benghazi.
CBS News withdrew the story and 60 Minutes correspondent Lara Logan apologized to viewers after it was revealed that their Benghazi "eyewitness," British security contractor Dylan Davies, had given contradictory statements about whether he was actually present for the attack on the diplomatic compound. On October 28, the day after the report aired, Fox News devoted 13 segments -- totaling 47 minutes -- to promoting the 60 Minutes story.
Washington Post reporter Paul Farhi wrote in a November 9 article that "CBS's withdrawal of the story not only undermined its reporting, but that of Fox News, which apparently relied on Davies as a source for stories that have challenged the Obama administration's account of events." Farhi quoted Fox News executive vice president of news Michael Clemente defending his network's coverage: "We stand by our reporting on Benghazi, and given what is still unknown, we anticipate further fact finding from those who know the truth about what took place on 9/11/12."
Erik Wemple, the Post's media blogger, noted that after the 60 Minutes report first aired, Fox News correspondent Adam Housley acknowledged on-air that some of the network's Benghazi coverage from 2012 had cited Davies, but they "stopped speaking to him when he asked for money." Wemple specifically noted a November 3, 2012, Fox News report that referenced "the Blue Mountain Security manager," a possible reference to Davies, who was working for Blue Mountain Security at the time. As Housley put it, Davies' 60 Minutes appearance "kind of reaffirm[ed] the fact that this attack was vicious."
After spending so much time promoting 60 Minutes' story and using it to praise their own reporting, Fox News spent just 26 seconds on the story's collapse. "CBS is backing off a report on 60 Minutes -- we told you about last week -- that relied on a source whose credibility has crumbled," Special Report host Bret Baier told viewers on November 8.
Right-wing media are using a congressional hearing to push new myths about the Obama administration's response to the September 11, 2012 attacks on a U.S. diplomatic facility in Benghazi, Libya. In fact, these myths are discredited by previous congressional reports and testimony, which show that the politicized nature of the hearings come from right-wing media and Congressional Republicans, that the military could not have rescued personnel from the second attack, that the administration was in constant communication at all levels during the attacks, and that the intelligence community believed there was a link to an anti-Islam video at the time of the attacks.
Fox News is heavily invested in turning Benghazi into the scandal that takes down Barack Obama. It's not just the dream of brutishly partisan actors like Sean Hannity, but the stated intention of Fox reporters like James Rosen, who told Bill O'Reilly that "there are certain elements...that are lacking here for this to become Watergate," among them the self-serving notion that the media -- save for Fox News -- refuse to dig into the "major scandal" that is Benghazi. The idea that media outlets have been reticent to investigate the September 2012 attack on the Benghazi diplomatic compound is laughably false. What Rosen really means is that the press aren't covering it in the way that Fox News is.
This plays into the Fox Cycle, a process Media Matters has documented by which false and misleading conservative attacks make the transition from right-wing hobbyhorse to national media narrative, with Fox News playing a key role in pressuring mainstream press outlets into covering the story. Fox has been working hard at doing just that this week with a series of segments on Special Report with Bret Baier featuring an anonymous Benghazi "insider" who purports to contradict the official account of the Benghazi attack.
Here, however, are five instances in which the "insider" describes events that actually took place, were already known, or have been debunked.
1. The presence of special forces in Croatia. Media Matters documented one such instance of Fox's confidential informant breaking news that everyone already knew -- the presence of a special operations force in Croatia. "I know for a fact that C-110 [a special ops team], the EUCOM CIF, was doing a training exercise, not in the region of Northern Africa, but in Europe. And they had the ability to react and respond," said Fox's unnamed source. Everyone knows that "for a fact" because it's been a matter of public record for months now and was included in the Pentagon's official Benghazi timeline. Then-Defense Secretary Leon Panetta ordered those forces to deploy, but they could not arrive in time.
2. Deployment of those special forces. That brings up another point of contention. Fox's source claimed: "We had the ability to load out, get on birds, and fly there at a minimum stage. C-110 had the ability to be there, in my opinion, in four to six hours from their European theater to react." [emphasis added] The phrase "in my opinion" is highlighted there because that's all this is. An opinion. The State Department independent Benghazi review and outside experts have a different opinion: that there were no military assets that could have made it to Benghazi in time to make a difference. This is less a contradiction of the official account than a disagreement from a party whose identity and expertise are as yet unknown. (Former Marine officer and special operations team leader Billy Birdzell dismantled Fox's source's claims about the deployment of C-110 here.)