Fox News contributor Karl Rove claimed that President Obama skipped intelligence briefings following the September 11 attack on the U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya. In fact, Obama received multiple intelligence briefings after the attack, including on September 12, and the right-wing media claim that Obama regularly skips presidential daily briefings has been refuted.
Less than two days after Mitt Romney was pressured to stop using the death of a Navy SEAL killed in Libya as political fodder in campaign rallies, the media are whipping themselves into a frenzy over comments an Obama campaign official made criticizing Romney for politicizing the deadly September attack on a U.S. consulate.
Stephanie Cutter, deputy campaign manager for President Obama's reelection effort, appeared on CNN Thursday to preview that night's vice presidential debate. During her appearance, Cutter criticized the Romney campaign for politicizing the attack in Benghazi, Libya, saying that "the entire reason that this has become the, you know, political topic it is, is because of Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan. It's a big part of their stump speech and it's reckless and irresponsible."
When she was later challenged on those comments, Cutter said in an email to Buzzfeed:
From the time of the attack in Libya, Mitt Romney has stopped at nothing to politicize these events.
On Friday, Fox's Megyn Kelly turned to Cutter's comments and asked whether it was fair to blame Romney for politicizing the attack.
One name missing from Kelly's discussion was Glen Doherty.
Media outlets largely focused on criticizing Vice President Joe Biden's demeanor during the October 11 vice presidential debate, ignoring the substantive arguments being addressed in the discussion. Meanwhile, fact-checkers were busy pointing out the inaccuracies in Congressman Paul Ryan's claims.
For weeks now, Fox News has been pushing the narrative that the Obama administration, and U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice in particular, lied to the public or is engaged in a cover-up regarding the attack in Benghazi where a U.S. consulate was breached. In fact, as Fox's own Chris Wallace pointed out, the administration's response to the attack was informed by the intelligence community's best estimate.
During Fox's coverage of the vice presidential debate, Wallace stated that Vice President Biden had "back up" for his claim that the administration communicated the most accurate information it had about the attack. Wallace noted that the intelligence community's best assessment following the attack was that it "began spontaneously following protests earlier that day at our embassy" and that this initial assessment was provided to executive branch officials.
However, Rice and other administration officials have repeatedly been attacked by Fox News figures claiming they misled the public on what really happened in Benghazi, even though the administration's comments about Libya were in line with the intelligence community's best assessment at the time.
As Rice made clear in several interviews on September 16, an ongoing investigation would determine the true cause of the attack, but that the administration's "current best assessment" based on information available at the time was that the attack began as "a spontaneous -- not a premeditated -- response to what had transpired in Cairo." She continued: "In Cairo, as you know, a few hours earlier, there was a violent protest that was undertaken in reaction to this very offensive video that was disseminated."
Fox News commentators have reimagined U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice's statements about the consulate attack in Benghazi, saying Rice was "so definitive" in Sunday show interviews about what had happened there. In fact, Rice repeatedly made clear during her interviews that definitive conclusions would only follow from an administration investigation, which she stressed was under way.
From the October 10 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor:
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Fox's K.T. McFarland claimed that no additional forces were sent to help Americans at the diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, while it was attacked and claimed that this was "probably a political decision." But before McFarland made her claims on Fox, State Department officials had already said that when agents in the compound requested aid during the attack, additional forces from both Benghazi and Tripoli responded.
Frequent Fox News guest Rep. Jason Chaffetz is pursuing investigations into the September attacks on a U.S. consulate in Libya, capping a month-long campaign in the right-wing media. This is just the latest example of the right-wing media working with Chaffetz to pursue fringe theories and far-right campaigns.
The conservative media talking point that the White House abdicated its responsibility to secure the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, took a hit Wednesday when CNN's Soledad O'Brien pressed Congressman Jason Chaffetz to acknowledge that he joined House Republicans in voting to cut funding for embassy security.
Since the September attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, the right-wing media have attacked the Obama administration for supposedly not having enough security at the compound. That myth is undermined by a State Department explanation that "no reasonable security presence could have successfully fended" off the attack.
Chaffetz, a surrogate for Mitt Romney's presidential campaign who is helping to lead an investigation into the attack, appeared to discuss that investigation on CNN's Starting Point with Soledad O'Brien. During the interview, Chaffetz echoed the right-wing media talking point that security was insufficient in Benghazi. But O'Brien pointed out the fundamental hypocrisy in this argument by noting that Chaffetz, like other Republicans in the House, voted to cut funding for embassy security.
O'Brien asked: "Is it true that you voted to cut the funding for embassy security?" Chaffetz responded: "Absolutely. Look we have to make priorities and choices in this country."
Indeed, Republicans, including Chaffetz and other House Republicans, voted in 2011 and 2012 to give the State Department far less than it requested for embassy security.
From the October 10 edition of MSNBC's Morning Joe:
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Media outlets are giving credence to upcoming "hearings" into the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, led in part by Rep. Jason Chaffetz, a key Romney surrogate, even as Congress is not in session.
Chaffetz, a Republican congressman from Utah on the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, has scheduled an October 10 hearing into the security situation in Benghazi prior to the attack, hearings that coincide with investigations into the attacks that are already underway. At least one prominent Democrat has said that the hearings are about politics.
Fox News took the lead in hyping Chaffetz's investigation with a Tuesday interview on Fox & Friends -- which is at least his 54th appearance on the network. Although Fox has previously identified Chaffetz as a Romney surrogate, it did not do so today.
During the interview, Chaffetz indicated that he would use the hearing to push the Fox News line that the Obama administration's handling of the Benghazi attack has constituted a "cover-up." But this allegation falls apart in the face of the facts. The FBI began investigating in the first days after the attack, and the State Department is setting up an independent panel to review the incident. Obama administration officials have made multiple media appearances to discuss the attack and testified before Congress on the subject as well.
Much of the right-wing media narrative about the Benghazi attack is rooted in falsehoods, including the claim that there was "no security" at the Benghazi consulate; in fact, there were multiple teams of armed guards at the consulate.
Similarly, conservative media figures have falsely claimed that the consulate attack was somehow an unprecedented event, that it was the "first successful terror attack since 9/11" and that there had been "no storming" of U.S. embassies under other presidents. In reality, there have been multiple terrorist attacks since 9-11 -- including several on U.S. soil. -- and there have been at least 15 attacks on U.S. embassies and consulates since 1979
A major component of the right-wing media narrative is the allegation that the Obama administration denied that the attack could be terrorism and blamed the violence on an anti-Muslim film.
The facts tell a much different story. As the Obama administration launched an investigation into the attacks, it said it was avoiding speculation and never dismissed the possibility of terrorism. The Obama administration ultimately called the attacks terrorism, and the office of the Director of National Intelligence has stated that the intelligence community did revise its appraisal of the attack to reflect new information. Meanwhile, there is clear reporting that indicates that the protests across the Middle East were indeed set off by the anti-Muslim film.
Nevertheless, major media have signaled that they will follow Fox's lead and cover this dog and pony show as serious news, rather than the work of a campaign surrogate.
On the October 2 edition of Fox News' The Five:
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Two Fox News Sunday panelists suggested that Susan Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, did not properly emphasize the fact that there is an ongoing investigation into the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya. In fact, in the interview that they were referring to, and throughout her appearances on the Sunday talk shows, Rice repeatedly noted that the investigation was ongoing and that its results would ultimately reveal what happened.
This suggestion feeds into the right-wing conspiracy theory that the Obama administration has been purposefully deceptive in its public statements about the investigation.
Today on Fox News Sunday, Christian Science Monitor reporter Liz Marlantes questioned why Rice, during a September 16 appearance on Fox News Sunday, didn't simply say, "We're investigating, we don't really know very much yet." Later, Fox News contributor Laura Ingraham similarly asked why Rice didn't say, "We have an ongoing investigation, and I'm really not going to say anything more. We're going to learn more."
But in her September 16 appearance, Rice stressed the fact that it was important not to jump to conclusions before the investigation was completed, but shared the administration's "best current assessment" (emphasis added):
RICE: Well, first of all, Chris, we are obviously investigating this very closely. The FBI has a lead in this investigation. The information, the best information and the best assessment we have today is that in fact this was not a preplanned, premeditated attack. That what happened initially was that it was a spontaneous reaction to what had just transpired in Cairo as a consequence of the video. People gathered outside the embassy and then it grew very violent and those with extremist ties joined the fray and came with heavy weapons, which unfortunately are quite common in post-revolutionary Libya and that then spun out of control.
But we don't see at this point signs this was a coordinated plan, premeditated attack. Obviously, we will wait for the results of the investigation and we don't want to jump to conclusions before then. But I do think it's important for the American people to know our best current assessment.
In her appearances throughout September 16, Rice repeatedly emphasized that the investigation was ongoing and would provide the definitive answer to what happened. Her statements mirrored those of other administration officials.
Rush Limbaugh peddled three conspiracy theories surrounding the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi during his radio program, claiming that the Obama administration is "engag[ing] in a cover-up" of the attack, is forbidding the FBI to investigate in Benghazi, and is jailing the maker of an anti-Muslim movie as punishment for creating the film.
From the September 28 edition of Fox News' The Five:
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