SIMON MALOY/Media Matters for America
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.)
3. Airborne evacuation of survivors. In that same segment, Fox's source said that we should have sent "a quick reaction force that could facilitate their exfil out of the problem situation. [...] If it's an unknown situation, at a minimum, you send forces there to facilitate the exfil or medical injuries. We could have sent a C-130 to Benghazi to provide medical evacuation for the injured." [emphasis added] According to the State Department report, evacuees and "all wounded personnel" were taken out of Benghazi on a chartered jet, with a Libyan C-130 taking "the remaining U.S. government personnel from Benghazi to Tripoli":
Evacuees, including all wounded personnel, departed Benghazi on the chartered jet at approximately 0730 local. Embassy Tripoli staff, including the Embassy nurse, met the first evacuation flight at Tripoli International Airport. Wounded personnel were transferred to a local hospital, in exemplary coordination that helped save the lives of two severely injured AmericansEmbassy Tripoli worked with the Libyan government to have a Libyan Air Force C-130 take the remaining U.S. government personnel from Benghazi to Tripoli. Two American citizen State Department contractors traveled to the airport and linked up with the remaining U.S. government personnel.
4. CIA security team "took matters into their own hands." Fox's source is also apparently giving a boost to the network's previous Benghazi "bombshell" -- that CIA personnel had been ordered to "stand down" in response to the Benghazi attacks. Fox News correspondent Adam Housley, who interviewed the unnamed man, reported on April 29:
HOUSLEY: He also says that as the attack began, there were at least 15 special forces and highly skilled state department security staff available in the capital Tripoli who were not dispatched, even though they were trained as a quick response force. Meantime, a group of American reinforcements also in Tripoli, which included the CIA's global response agent, Glen Doherty, and about seven others took matters into their own hands. A little known fact which also contradicts the version of events in the State Department report.The team commandeered a small jet and flew to Benghazi to help try and secure the CIA annex still under fire. Doherty would eventually be killed on the roof along with his friend, Tyrone Woods. And our source says, these men deserve the highest medal of honor for their actions.UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If it wasn't for that decision, I think we'd be talking completely different about this entire situation. I think you would be looking at either 20 plus hostages loose captured by AQ or you'd be looking at a lot of dead Americans dead in Benghazi.
It's not just the State Department that contradicts the notion that the CIA security team bucked the chain of command and struck out on their own; the CIA also denied this was true. The CIA timeline of events notes that the security team waited to depart while CIA officials attempted to contact Libyan intelligence and local militias for assistance, and left only after the team leader and the CIA base official agreed they could not wait any longer. There was definitely a sense of urgency, but all indications are that the security team and CIA officials were acting in concert.
5. The "commandeered" jet. As for the "commandeered" plane, the CIA timeline documents an unsuccessful attempt by the security team to commandeer heavy weaponry from the militias, but agrees with the State Department that they arrived in Benghazi in a chartered plane -- the same craft that later helped to ferry survivors from Benghazi. The State Department report goes so far as to note that one of the few instances in which the Libyan government did more to help than harm was in facilitating the departure of that chartered jet from the airport in Tripoli [page 36].
Foreign policy experts are already going on record challenging the accuracy, expertise, and credentials of Fox's anonymous source. His own words do little to boost his credibility, given that he's purporting to "contradict" the official record with facts that are already part of the official record and claims that have already been debunked. But for Fox, getting the Benghazi story right is less important than getting the rest of the media to cover it the same way they do -- as the second coming of Watergate.