By: Roger Aronoff
Accuracy in Media
Fox News aired new revelations this weekend in its documentary based on the forthcoming book, 13 Hours in Benghazi, but the left is not interested in what it calls old news. Benghazi is a “phony scandal,” right?
In fact, the left is on the defensive about this story, and is releasing salvos from all quarters. The Washington Post, The New York Times, Media Matters, and the Democratic members of the Select Committee have all gotten involved in the effort to dismiss what eyewitnesses have said about what happened that night, sometimes preemptively, as I cited in a previous column. Their message is loud and clear: This has already been investigated thoroughly; both sides agree that there was no wrongdoing other than bureaucratic missteps; this is another Fox News story and a phony scandal at that. Time to move on.
But nothing could be further from the truth.
What cannot be undone now is that eyewitnesses have publicly spoken out about what happened in Benghazi two years ago. What they say threatens to haunt the left’s strategy machine, which seems more concerned with spin than finding the truth.
Three contractors who were on the ground in Benghazi two years ago during the attacks on the U.S. Mission and CIA Annex said on Fox News that they were told specifically to “stand down” three times before defying orders, and heading out to try and save the personnel at the U.S. Mission, which was under fire—quite literally—less than a mile away from the Annex, where they were located at the time. They were delayed by 25 minutes, and say they could have possibly saved the lives of Ambassador Chris Stevens and Sean Smith if they’d been allowed to depart sooner. As a matter of fact, they all said that they believe the two would still be alive today had they been allowed to leave when they first made the request.
Washington Post writer Eric Wemple apparently received an advance copy of the book and said that these claims written therein, and previously reported by Jennifer Griffin in October 2012, were exaggerated for effect and “report after report has shredded this contention.” This is, of course, the line in the book that he voiced a problem with, saying it was mined for “maximum literary effect:”
“The more time the attackers had to dig in, the more likely they’d secure the Compound perimeter and organize defensive positions, at least until they achieved their objectives.”
“Maximum literary effect?” One wonders what world Wemple inhabits. Wemple points readers to the media’s favorite left-wing group, Media Matters, which also ran a hit piece on the broadcast sight unseen.
The day the documentary first aired, September 5th, the Democrats on the Select Committee on Benghazi went into full damage control mode. Representative Elijah Cummings (MD) stated that “these individuals were delayed while their supervisor attempted to ensure that he was not sending his team into an ambush,” the intelligence committees have already spoke to multiple witnesses on this issue, and “it is critical that the Select Committee understand what came before it to ensure we are not re-investigating the same issues all over again.” In other words, look somewhere else for your smoking gun. How many other topics are conveniently off limits for Rep. Cummings?
Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger (D-MD), a member of the House Intelligence Committee, also stated that “The team said they were prepped and ready to go within minutes, but the senior CIA officers responsible for the welfare of all Annex personnel were concerned they might be sending their security team into an ambush so they tried to obtain better intelligence and heavy weapons before dispatching the team.”
The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (SSCI) did, indeed, explore “claims that there was a ‘stand down’ order given to the security team at the Annex” but found “no evidence of intentional delay or obstruction by the Chief of Base or any other party.” Will the bipartisan Select Committee on Benghazi reach the same conclusions? Shouldn’t it at least be allowed to re-investigate the issue?
Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC), who heads the Select Committee, issued a statement on September 5th that “The Committee has heard of these concerns and they go to the heart of why Congress established this Committee—to determine all of the facts of what happened in Benghazi before, during and after the terrorist attack that day…There are still facts to learn about Benghazi and information that needs to be explained in greater detail to the American people.”
Something smells, however, in the approach that the Obama administration has taken in the past towards the optics of this particular piece of “old news.” Greta Van Susteren of Fox News recently outlined on her show how her channel was excluded from State Department and Central Intelligence Agency media background meetings. “Well, I think Fox News is being punished for aggressively asking questions, doing our jobs,” she said. That wasn’t all. “A few weeks later, when reporter Jennifer Griffin said she was told that there was a stand down order at Benghazi, I got a weird call from the Obama administration trying to pressure me to get Jennifer to back down on her report. I thought the call from the Obama administration was dirty,” contended Susteren. The story was published.
Why, exactly, did the Obama administration not want to have this particular piece of information, now confirmed, not published in October nearly two years ago? Was it merely because of how it would affect the election, or was there something else motivating President Obama?
Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-KS), also on the Select Committee, reacted to the eyewitnesses’ story on Susteren’s show, saying, “We need to then establish in detail the timeline that you refer to, so that we know whether it was, in fact, 30 seconds, three minutes, or 30 minutes as described by these three men in the clip that you played.” Is Pompeo questioning the integrity of the three men interviewed by Bret Baier?
“There might have been a good reason to delay,” said Rep. Pompeo. “It might have been safety of those very men that were standing there. It might have been a bad reason. There might have been something political.”
And while Bret Baier and Fox News deserve a lot of credit for bringing this story to the public’s attention, they barely scratched the surface of these men’s stories. The rest of the media have been predictably uninterested in acknowledging even this bombshell part of their story.
The Select Committee on Benghazi can, and should, get to the bottom of these particular issues, regardless of the mainstream media’s sensibilities.
(On Monday evening, September 8th, the same three authors of 13 Hours in Benghazi are scheduled to be on “The O’Reilly Factor” on Fox News, and “The David Webb Show” on Sirius XM Radio.)