The New York Times is Inexplicably Clinging to These Myths about Benghazi
By Matt Wolking
Myth: Security in Benghazi was deficient because Congress did not provide enough funding.
This claim is one of the earliest and most thoroughly debunked myths spread by Democrats attempting to shift blame from the Obama administration to Republicans in Congress. The editorial geniuses at The New York Times, however, are either woefully ignorant of the facts or simply don’t care:
- Carol Giacomo – who initially identified Chairman Trey Gowdy as a representative from Texas, according to the official correction appended to her post – attacked the Benghazi Committee and dismissed its final report, writing, “The administration obviously needs to do better to protect American diplomats but Congress has to approve sufficient funds to underwrite the effort.”
- Andrew Rosenthal – who was forced to issue an official correction to his September 2015 rant to clarify the investigation was not the longest in congressional history – wrote last week that “the country’s diplomats were woefully unprotected — to a significant degree because Congress deprived the diplomatic protection service of money.”
Here are the facts:
- The Washington Post Fact Checker awarded Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) three Pinocchios for a similar claim in May 2013. “[I]t is almost as if Boxer is living in a time warp, repeating talking points from six months ago that barely acknowledge the fact that extensive investigations have found little evidence of her claim that ‘there was not enough security because the budget was cut,’” wrote the Fact Checker. “State Department officials repeatedly told Congress that a lack of funds was not an issue. Instead, security was hampered because of bureaucratic issues and management failures. In other words, given the internal failures, no amount of money for the State Department likely would have made a difference in this tragedy.”
- Six months prior, Vice President Joe Biden falsely claimed in a political debate the administration never received Benghazi’s requests for more security, and attacked then-House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan for supposedly cutting embassy security. Eli Lake, then at The Daily Beast, dug into the matter, and wondered how Biden came up with this line. He found that “one of the first mentions of budget cuts in relation to Benghazi appears to have came [sic] from Rep. Elijah Cummings, the Democratic ranking member on the House Oversight Committee. In a press release before Wednesday’s hearing, Cummings wrote, ‘The fact is that, since 2011, the House has cut embassy security by hundreds of millions of dollars below the amounts requested by the President.’” As Lake noted, at that very hearing the deputy assistant secretary of state for diplomatic security testified that “no,” budget considerations did not factor into the State Department’s decision not to increase security in Benghazi.
- PolitiFact examined this issue in May 2014 and concluded “the cuts over recent years aren’t really cuts.” It ruled as “mostly false” then-MSNBC host Ronan Farrow’s claim that “Congress’ decision to ‘spend less around the world’ on embassy security contributed to ‘tragedies’ like Benghazi.” As this fact-check points out, at least two other State Department security officials agreed that “resources were not an issue.” Diplomatic Security Chief Financial Officer Robert Baldre wrote in September 2012, “I do not feel that we have ever been at a point where we sacrificed security due to a lack of funding. … Typically Congress has provided sufficient funding.
Coincidentally, the former Secretary of State blamed inadequate resources in her testimony to Congress in both 2013 and 2015 – despite the security professionals she says she relied on very clearly rejecting that excuse. Perhaps that’s why the great opinionators at The New York Times feel the need to keep up the ruse.
Myths: The Benghazi attacks were incited/fueled by an inflammatory YouTube video, and not carried out by terrorists.
The so-called “newspaper of record” needs to just let these myths go.
- On the day the Benghazi Committee released its report, June 28, 2016, The New York Times actually wrote the four Americans were killed “in Benghazi by a mob of militia fighters who had been incited by an American-made video deriding the Prophet Muhammad. The fighters were apparently further inflamed by news of an assault on the American Embassy in Cairo.”
It really wrote that.
- The Gray Lady has stubbornly clung to this narrative since its embarrassing December 2013 expose, which was quickly undercut and dismissed by Republicans and Democrats alike. It’s report stated, “Months of investigation by The New York Times, centered on extensive interviews with Libyans in Benghazi who had direct knowledge of the attack there and its context, turned up no evidence that Al Qaeda or other international terrorist groups had any role in the assault. … And contrary to claims by some members of Congress, it was fueled in large part by anger at an American-made video denigrating Islam.”
Of course, the paper revealed the motivations behind its reporting up front: “Republicans have accused the Obama administration of covering up evidence of Al Qaeda’s role to avoid undermining the president’s claim that the group has been decimated[.]”
But perhaps The New York Times can be forgiven for conducting a 14-month investigation and still getting the story completely wrong. December 2013 was a good while before March 2015, when the world learned about the former Secretary of State’s exclusive use of personal email and a private server for official government business. And it was also a long time before October 2015, when the Benghazi Committee revealed Secretary Clinton had emailed her daughter on the night of the attack and said it was perpetrated by “an Al Queda-like [sic] group,” just one hour after she issued a public statement omitting that insight, but including the allegation “some have sought to justify this vicious behavior as a response to inflammatory material posted on the internet.”
That public statement came roughly three hours after she privately told the Libyan President “Ansar as-Sharia [sic] is claiming responsibility” for the still-ongoing Benghazi attacks. The next day, she told the Egyptian Prime Minister the attacks “had nothing to do with the film. It was a planned attack – not a protest. … Based on the information we saw today we believe the group that claimed responsibility for this was affiliated with al Qaeda.”
Further, contrary to The New York Times’ inaccurate conclusion the attack “was fueled in large part by” the video, State Department officials from Washington to Libya knew the truth from the beginning. As the Committee’s final report made clear, “None of the information coming directly from the agents on the ground in Benghazi during the attacks mentioned anything about a video or a protest” (p. II-25). The Deputy Chief of Mission in Libya testified that “[t]he Youtube video was a nonevent in Libya.”
Two days after the attack, an Embassy Tripoli official wrote an email to colleagues in Washington, D.C., stating that “it is becoming increasingly clear that the series of events in Benghazi was much more terrorist attack than a protest which escalated into violence,” and urging them to “be cautious in our local messaging with regard to the inflammatory film trailer” because “the films [sic] not as explosive of an issue here as it appears to be in other countries …. Relatively few [Libyans] have even mentioned the inflammatory video” (p. II-64).
Ambassador Susan Rice’s comments on the Sunday talk shows a few days after the attacks were met with shock and disbelief by State Department employees in Washington. The Senior Libya Desk Officer, Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs, State Department, wrote: “I think Rice was off the reservation on this one.” The Deputy Director, Office of Press and Public Diplomacy, Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs, State Department, responded: “Off the reservation on five networks!” The Senior Advisor for Strategic Communications, Bureau of Near East Affairs, State Department, wrote: “WH [White House] very worried about the politics. This was all their doing.” (p. II-132)
More: “NY Times Attacks Benghazi Committee For Following NY Times’ Advice”