Rumor-mongering surrounds Chris Stevens’ death

Right-wing blogs continue to speculate about the ambassador's demise

Topics: Benghazi, Christopher Stevens, Hillary Clinton, Libya, Libya embassy attack, ,

Rumor-mongering surrounds Chris Stevens' deathU.S. envoy Chris Stevens speaks to Council member for Misrata Dr. Suleiman Fortia at the Tibesty Hotel in Benghazi, Libya, in 2011 (Credit: AP Photo/Ben Curtis, File)

Since Ambassador Chris Stevens was killed in the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, there’s been no end of speculation about the exact circumstances of his death.

Here’s what we know: American officials are still investigating what happened between the time Stevens was separated from his security detail, and when he was pronounced dead at the hospital.

From the New York Times:

“Officials in Washington said they were investigating that blacked-out period, but as they conduct that inquiry, witnesses have emerged who said that Mr. Stevens had fled to a room in the diplomatic compound, hoping to find safety behind a locked iron gate and wooden door. But fires raged around the mission, and Mr. Stevens, unable to escape the smoke and heat, died of asphyxiation.”

According to witnesses, Libyan citizens carried Stevens out of a window and brought him to a Benghazi hospital. Pictures that emerged of Stevens during the attack show him being carried outside of the consulate. The caption, via Getty Images, describes the picture as showing Libyans who were trying to help.

President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton both praised those Libyans who tried to help Stevens. But on right-wing blogs, and among pundits like Rush Limbaugh, there is no reason to believe that this occurred: “Then to add insult to injury, we have to listen this morning — honest to God folks — to Mrs. Clinton and Obama praise the Libyans for trying to save our ambassador,” Limbaugh said last week. “These pictures that you’ve seen with the ambassador upside-down, half naked, being carried over somebody’s shoulder? We’re told, ‘Yeah, our friends in Libya were taking him to the hospital.’ They paraded our ambassador around! Taking him to the hospital? How stupid do they think we are?”

The anti-Islam blog Gateway Pundit agreed: “It sure looks like a strange way to drag an obviously dead man to safety!”



On Monday, the New York Times posted a video that purportedly shows Libyans trying to take Stevens to the hospital, which supports what American officials have said about the images.

The video shows the window where Stevens was pulled out, and according to the Times’ translation of it:

“I swear, he’s dead,” one Libyan says, peering in.

“Bring him out, man! Bring him out,” another says.

“The man is alive. Move out of the way,” others shout. “Just bring him out, man.”

“Move, move, he is still alive!”

“Alive, Alive! God is great,” the crowd erupts, while someone calls to bring Mr. Stevens to a car.

Mr. Stevens was taken to a hospital, where a doctor tried to revive him, but said he was all but dead on arrival.

Amid the questions about Stevens’ last minutes, there is another rather vile peripheral debate occurring in the right-wing blogosphere. Michelangelo Signorile from the Huffington Post sums up the various rumors:

1) Ambassador Christopher Stevens was gay; 2) that the Obama administration is responsible for his death because it had the supposedly terrible judgment to send a gay man to an Islamic country, or even did it as an intentional provocation, and; 3) that Stevens’ corpse was dragged outside and sodomized by an angry mob because that’s what Muslims do — they have sex with the dead bodies of gay men.

The gay rumors seem to have originated on Hillbuzz.com, the website of Kevin DuJan, who also believes that President Obama is gay. DuJan uses the very, very shaky sourcing of a “Serbian consulate employee [who] identified himself to me as ‘Dino’ and wouldn’t give me any more of a name than that, but told me it was no secret that Chris Stevens was gay and that ‘it was stupid to send him to Libya as the ambassador when he was a known homosexual.’”

The story was picked up by a number of right-wing blogs, including Breitbart.com, which offers this explanation for why Stevens being gay would be at all relevant: “It just seems like one more way the Obama administration needlessly enraged the passions of protesters in that part of the world.” A blogger for the Examiner even speculates that Stevens was sent by Hillary Clinton as an “intentional provocation” to Libya.

As for the claim that Stevens was raped, that seems to have originated from a story  on the Lebanese news outlet Tayyar.org that erroneously cites the AFP, and that was picked up by the Washington Times. The AFP told TWT that the “report falsely quoted our news agency and has no truth whatsover to it.”

Jillian Rayfield is an Assistant News Editor for Salon, focusing on politics. Follow her on Twitter at @jillrayfield or email her at jrayfield@salon.com.

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