Nearly 40 percent of Fox News' interview of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was devoted to the September 2012 Benghazi attacks, worth over $2 million in publicity value.
On June 17, Fox anchors Bret Baier and Greta Van Susteren interviewed Clinton during her book tour for her new memoir, Hard Choices. Baier started the interview by asking Clinton about the capture earlier that day of a suspect in the attacks on U.S. diplomatic facilities and focused on Benghazi for most of his questions.
According to a Media Matters analysis, Baier devoted 12 minutes and 16 seconds to questioning Clinton about Benghazi during the interview -- 38 percent of the total interview, which was 32 minutes and 10 seconds long. According to TVEyes' "national publicity value," the time Fox News devoted to Benghazi during the interview carried a value of approximately $2,169,986.34.
Previously, Media Matters found that just two weeks of Fox's obsessive Benghazi coverage in early May was worth over $124 million. TVEyes Media Monitoring Suite, a subscription-only database of television broadcasts, estimates the value of 30-second slots on any given program. Fox's June 17 interview with Clinton was estimated at $88,450.53 per 30 seconds.
From the June 17 edition of Fox News' Special Report with Bret Baier:
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From the June 17 edition of Fox News' Special Report With Bret Baier:
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An alleged ringleader of the September 2012 attacks in Benghazi, Libya, who is now in U.S. custody, reportedly told other Libyans during the attack that he was responding to an anti-Islam video that had been published on YouTube, demolishing a prominent right-wing media attack.
Conservatives in the media have fixated on Obama administration statements shortly after the attacks suggesting that the video had been a motive for the attackers. Conservatives have alleged that these statements were part of a deliberate effort to deceive the American people about the cause of the terror attacks in order to bolster President Obama's re-election campaign.
Abu Khattala told Libyans the night of the attack "that he was moved to attack the diplomatic mission to take revenge for an insult to Islam in an American-made online video," according to The New York Times. From the Times:
What he did in the period just before the attack has remained unclear. But Mr. Abu Khattala told other Libyans in private conversations during the night of the attack that he was moved to attack the diplomatic mission to take revenge for an insult to Islam in an American-made online video.
An earlier demonstration venting anger over the video outside the American Embassy in Cairo had culminated in a breach of its walls, and it dominated Arab news coverage. Mr. Abu Khattala told both fellow Islamist fighters and others that the attack in Benghazi was retaliation for the same insulting video, according to people who heard him.
In an interview days after the attack, he pointedly declined to say whether he believed an offense such as the anti-Islamic video might indeed warrant the destruction of the diplomatic mission or the killing of the ambassador. "From a religious point of view, it is hard to say whether it is good or bad," he said.
The Times article is consistent with media reports from the scene of the attack that suggested the anti-Islam video had been a motive for at least some of the attackers. That video triggered anti-American protests across the Muslim world.
Lara Logan is reportedly back at work at CBS News' 60 Minutes after a six-month leave of absence, even as questions linger over the network's investigation of her botched Benghazi report.
Logan and her producer Max McClellan took leaves of absence in November following an internal review into their October 27 report on the 2012 attacks on U.S. diplomatic facilities in Benghazi, which the network was forced to withdraw. Logan's report was based on the unreliable testimony of an "eyewitness" named Dylan Davies and crumbled once it became clear that he had lied about being present at the besieged diplomatic compound during the attack, telling the FBI he had never been there. That triggered a firestorm of coverage, with media observers suggesting that the debacle had permanently damaged the brands of CBS News and 60 Minutes. The CBS internal review found that Logan's story "was deficient in several respects."
According to the Associated Press on June 4, "CBS News spokeswoman Sonya McNair said Wednesday that Logan is back. She had no details on when the correspondent resumed work and what stories she is working on."
In a statement, Media Matters founder David Brock said:
The flawed 60 Minutes report on Benghazi permanently damaged the credibility of both the show and of CBS. A New York magazine report made clear that a lion's share of the blame for massive errors in that report belongs to Lara Logan. CBS indicated that they were serious about rebuilding its brand and taking accountability. Having Logan back on 60 Minutes shows the exact opposite.
The conservative Benghazi conspiracy theory has gotten so dense that it's almost impossible for even a well-intentioned, aggressive reporter to get through an interview with a GOP congressman leaving his audience better-informed than it was at the start.
Take the following interview CNN's Jake Tapper did on Friday with Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT). Chaffetz is a member of the Oversight Committee who makes regular media appearances accusing the Obama administration of wrongdoing during and after the attack on our diplomatic facility 20 months ago. Tapper is clearly doing his best to fact-check Chaffetz's claims in real time, repeatedly pushing back against false claims. But Chaffetz is throwing out so many falsehoods and half-truths that it's impossible for him to get them all.
Tapper is right to push back against Chaffetz's attacks on Hillary Clinton for linking the Benghazi attack to an anti-Islam video and his suggestion that no one in the State Department was punished for the security failure. Unfortunately, there were many more misleading and false claims that went unaddressed, including:
None of this is a knock on Tapper, who clearly attempted to hold Chaffetz accountable during the interview. But because there are so many lies at the center of the Benghazi conspiracy, and because conservatives are so willing to promote those lies in interview after interview, some of them will inevitably get through and mislead the audience.
This is a vulnerability in the media environment without an easy solution. But it's becoming increasingly clear that the current strategy for journalists of litigating and re-litigating Benghazi with congressional Republicans isn't going to leave their viewers better-informed.
Fox News host Andrea Tantaros completely fabricated a passage from Hillary Clinton's forthcoming memoir, claiming that the former secretary of state wrote that she "doesn't care" about the details of U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens' death during the Benghazi attacks. Widely reported excerpts from Clinton's book contradict Tantaros's attack.
On the June 2 segment of Outnumbered, co-host Andrea Tantaros attacked Clinton based on the recently released excerpt of her new book Hard Choices, which discussed the attack on Benghazi that led to the death of Stevens and three others during the September 2012 attacks on diplomatic facilities in Benghazi, Libya. After proclaiming that the book was "disingenuous," Tantaros launched into an assault on Clinton, claiming that she wrote in the book that "she didn't care about" how Stevens was murdered or who had done it (emphasis added):
TANTAROS: And also, for her to just disregard how Ambassador Stevens got killed -- in that same chapter she says, "Well it doesn't really matter what led up to it. It's like the intruder getting into your house. It is what happened afterwards." That was supposedly a friend of hers. If it were a friend of mine, and I were Secretary of State, I would care about how he was murdered in the first place, and certainly about still bringing whoever did it to justice. And she in the book says she doesn't care about either one.
According to Politico's exclusive report on the excerpt, the truth is almost exactly the opposite. Not only did Clinton take personal responsibility for the attack, but she also expressed her grief at the loss of her colleague while explaining that her highly publicized and often mischaracterized "what difference does it make" remark was pulled out of context:
Early on in the chapter, she describes her grief over losing U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three of his diplomatic colleagues -- "a punch in the gut," she writes -- and says she takes responsibility.
The deaths of "fearless public servants in the line of duty was a crushing blow," Clinton writes. "As Secretary I was the one ultimately responsible for my people's safety, and I never felt that responsibility more deeply than I did that day."
Clinton also addresses her much-seized-upon remark before a congressional committee in January 2013, when she used the phrase "what difference at this point does it make." Republicans have claimed it betrayed Clinton's lack of interest in getting to the bottom of the attack. Clinton writes that her words were blatantly twisted.
"In yet another example of the terrible politicization of this tragedy, many have conveniently chosen to interpret" that phrase "to mean that I was somehow minimizing the tragedy of Benghazi. Of course that's not what I said," she writes. "Nothing could be further from the truth. And many of those trying to make hay of it know that, but don't care."
She adds, "My point was simple: If someone breaks into your home and takes your family hostage, how much time are you going to spend focused on how the intruder spent his day as opposed to how best to rescue your loved ones and then prevent it from happening again?
Tantaros's false assertion is just the latest attempt by Fox to to spin the former Secretary of State's words in order to fit its debunked Benghazi narratives and undermine Clinton's efforts to correct the record.
Fox News hosts falsely suggested former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton lied in her upcoming book about the CIA's involvement in the development of talking points used by the Obama administration to discuss the September 2012 Benghazi attacks.
In the days immediately following the attacks on U.S. diplomatic facilities in Benghazi, then-U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice and other members of the administration described the assault as developing from spontaneous protests against an anti-Islam video that had been posted on YouTube, which had inspired riots across the Muslim world. That conclusion was largely consistent with the analysis of the intelligence community at the time. But because it was later revealed that there was no protest in Benghazi, conservatives led by Fox News have since claimed the Obama administration engaged in a deliberate effort to deceive the American people about the cause of the attacks.
Politico reported on a chapter of Clinton's memoir, Hard Choices, in which she criticized Republican efforts to politically exploit the Benghazi attacks. Clinton also defended Rice's description of the attacks, noting that she had been using talking points derived by the intelligence community. From the May 30 Politico article:
She defends then-Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice for describing the Benghazi attack as a "copycat' of the video-spurred Cairo protests when she appeared on Sunday TV shows days later. Rice, Clinton writes, was relying on existing intelligence. The talking points she used were written to help members of Congress address the attacks, and the information began with and was signed off on by CIA officials. Intelligence officials didn't know Rice would use them, Clinton writes.
The talking points have been a focus of Republican critics, who insist they stemmed from the White House as an effort to control a politically sensitive issue -- a terrorist attack on the eve of Obama's reelection.
On the May 30 edition of Fox & Friends, co-host Steve Doocy responded to the article by criticizing Clinton for "doubl[ing] down on saying it was a video" that motivated the attack. During a discussion with Fox's Geraldo Rivera, co-host Brian Kilmeade disputed Clinton's explanation that the CIA played a role in developing the talking point narrative stating, "specifically she says the CIA signed off on Susan Rice's talking points, when we have the deputy director [...] on the record saying I knew nothing about a video."
But initial intelligence did, in fact, suggest that the inflammatory anti-Muslim YouTube video may have been linked to the attacks.
From the May 7 edition of MSNBC's Morning Joe:
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Inconsistencies between a CBS News internal review following a botched 60 Minutes report on the attacks in Benghazi, Libya, and a New York magazine article revealed open questions about the program and the journalistic standards practiced at the network.
From the May 1 edition of Fox News' On The Record with Greta Van Susteren:
ABC's Jonathan Karl, who was previously burned when he pushed falsehoods about CIA talking points generated in the wake of the 2012 Benghazi attacks, is now adopting the conservative distortion of a separate set of talking points authored by the White House for media appearances by then U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice.
On September 16, 2012, Rice appeared on the Sunday political talk shows and suggested that the Benghazi terror attacks had grown out of spontaneous protests like those that were occurring worldwide in response to an anti-Muslim video. Conservatives have claimed that Rice's comments on the Sunday shows were part of a deliberate effort to deceive the American people about the cause of the terror attacks, to bolster President Obama's re-election campaign. This effort has often involved distorting the CIA-approved talking points that Rice used to prepare for the interviews.
Karl came under fire in May 2013 after reporting that the network had "reviewed" emails from administration officials regarding the creation and editing of those CIA-generated talking points. While nothing Karl reported undermined assertions from the CIA that the intelligence community had approved those talking points, Karl suggested that the emails bolstered the conservative critique of the administration's response.
In fact, Karl had never seen the emails in question -- his story was based on "summaries" of the emails and "detailed notes" from a source who, it turned out, had misrepresented what the documents actually said. After media observers slammed Karl's "sloppy" reporting, ABC News issued a statement saying that the network "should have been more precise in its sourcing of those quotes, attributing them to handwritten copies of the emails taken by a Congressional source. We regret that error." Karl himself apologized in a statement to CNN.
Now Karl is returning to the subject of talking points used to prepare Rice for those September 16, 2012, interviews, seizing on a separate email authored by Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes that was released yesterday. The email details "Goals" and "Top-lines" for Rice's interviews and provides sample questions and answers.
Conservatives have fixated on one of Rhodes' recommendations for the interviews, detailing one of the goals as "To underscore that these protests are rooted in an internet video and not a broader failure of policy." Conservatives claim this is evidence the White House was seeking to deliberately mislead the public by blaming Benghazi on the anti-Muslim video rather than terrorism in the region.
In what Mediaite described as a "heated back and forth" during the April 30 White House Press Briefing, Karl hyped this false attack, repeatedly challenging White House Press Secretary Jay Carney over the Rhodes email and Rice's interviews.
During their exchange, Carney sought to make clear that the Rhodes email was not just about the Benghazi attacks but was a more extensive document detailing the situation in the Middle East more broadly, and thus that the comment that "these protests are rooted in an internet video" was not about Benghazi specifically. According to Carney, Rice depended on the CIA talking points for information on Benghazi and the White House talking points for other topics.
Conservative media have been quick to use the exchange to attack Carney and the White House. But the White House documents upon which Karl based his misleading questions support Carney's argument.
Fox News is distorting a memo used to prepare an Obama administration official for media appearances to falsely suggest that the administration was lying about the Benghazi attacks for political gain.
On September 16, 2012, five days after the September 11 attacks on U.S. diplomatic facilities in Benghazi, Libya, then-UN Ambassador Susan Rice appeared on the Sunday political talk shows and suggested that the terror attacks had grown out of spontaneous protests. At the time, there were riots at American facilities across the Muslim world, inspired by an anti-Islam video. Since then, conservatives led by Fox News have claimed that Rice's comments on the Sunday shows were part of a deliberate effort to deceive the American people about the cause of the attacks, to bolster President Obama's re-election campaign. This effort has often involved distorting the CIA-approved talking points that Rice used to prepare for the interviews.
On April 29, Fox renewed these claims, seizing on a newly released September 14, 2012 email from Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes to other key national security aides -- which details goals for the Sunday interviews and a series of potential questions and answers -- that was released under public records law by the conservative group Judicial Watch. Over on-screen text which claimed "New Benghazi Documents Lead Directly To The White House," Fox correspondent Catherine Herridge highlighted that according to the email, one of the goals for Rice's appearances was "To underscore that these protests are rooted in an internet video and not a broader failure of policy." She concluded that Fox had asked the White House "for comment on the Rhodes email, and what intelligence led to that conclusion that somehow an Internet video was responsible for the protests in Benghazi."
But contrary to Herridge's contention, the Rhodes email reveals nothing new. It is consistent with other intelligence briefings circulating at the time which have already been well-documented, and discusses a wide range of issues, not just Benghazi -- in fact, the specific comment Fox highlighted was an accurate depiction of the multiple riots occurring in the region at the time. When the email was sent, there were global anti-American protests in response to the video, often violent, many of which targeted U.S. diplomatic security posts, including in Egypt, Indonesia, Qatar, Pakistan, Sudan, Bangladesh, and Yemen.
In his twenty paragraph email advising Rice on her upcoming TV appearances, Rhodes made only two direct references to Benghazi -- first highlighting support from the Libyan government for U.S. diplomatic efforts in the country, and later debunking the false claim that there was any "actionable intelligence" prior to the attack on the facility in Benghazi and stating that "the currently available information suggests that the demonstrations in Benghazi were spontaneously inspired by the protests at the US Embassy in Cairo and evolved into a direct assault against the US Consulate and subsequently its annex." That language is identical to the initial draft of the separate set of CIA talking points that were crafted by CIA analysts earlier that day, suggesting that Rhodes had seen that early document and was using it to ensure the administration's statements were consistent with the intelligence community's conclusions.
A bipartisan Senate Select Committee on Intelligence report released in January 2014 stated that "[s]ome intelligence suggests the attacks were likely put together in short order, following that day's violent protests in Cairo against an inflammatory video." Indeed, former CIA acting director Mike Morrell has testified that the CIA chief of station in Libya believed at the time that the video might have motivated the attackers. The Senate report also determined that "there were no efforts by the White House or any other Executive Branch entities to 'cover-up' facts or make alterations for political purposes" -- a reality that Fox has refused to accept.
From the April 2 edition of Fox News' The Real Story:
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The right-wing's Benghazi scandal-mongering entered the realm of self-parody after Fox News let Sen. Lindsey Graham blame the Russian invasion of Ukraine on the Obama administration's handling of the 2012 attacks in Libya -- the latest attempt in a series of conservative alchemy experiments trying to turn tragedy into political gold.
On March 4, Sen. Graham (R-SC) tweeted that the crisis in Ukraine "started with Benghazi," blaming the Obama administration's response to the attacks for 'inviting' aggression from Russia.
Graham made the same accusation on March 3 during Fox News' On The Record with Greta Van Susteren. At Van Susteren's prompting, Graham claimed that the Russian aggression in Ukraine "in many ways started with Benghazi, when our consulate was overrun and our first ambassador was killed in thirty-something years in the line of duty ... You're sending absolutely the wrong signal to our foes."
VAN SUSTEREN: I can't tell whether you ripped the president more on foreign policy or the Washington Post Editorial Board when they described it fantasy. But you said that the president has a weak and indecisive policy that invites aggression.
GRAHAM: Right. This is a symptom of greater problem. It really, in many ways, started with Benghazi, when our consulate was overrun and our first ambassador was killed in thirty-something years in the line of duty. Three other brave Americans died and not one person has been held accountable. You're sending absolutely the wrong signal to our foes around the country.
The bizarre claim was swiftly ridiculed, but it didn't even seem to register with the Fox host. That's hardly surprising -- right-wing attempts to smear political opponents with Benghazi attacks have been disconnected from reality for some time.