(Fox News)

Benghazi is a Fox News farce: What the witch hunt reveals about the right's most cherished lies

The conservative movement loves a grand story. And it's not about to let the facts get in the way of this one


Bob Cesca
October 20, 2015 1:59PM (UTC)

Early in October, Trey Gowdy, the notorious chairman of the House select-committee investigating Benghazi, sent a letter to Elijah Cummings, the ranking Democrat on the committee, accusing Hillary Clinton of sending an email containing the name of a highly classified CIA source. The email was allegedly forwarded by Clinton to someone on her staff.

If you automatically assumed the story would end up being a great big nothingburger, not unlike nearly everything else the GOP has conjured recently, you assumed correctly. It turns out the CIA investigated the email and determined there wasn't any classified information revealed after all, a fact which Cummings fired back to Gowdy in a Sunday letter to the controversial chairman.

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Cummings wrote, "The CIA [on Saturday] informed both the Republican and Democratic staffs of the Select Committee that they do not consider the information you highlighted in your letter to be classified. Specifically, the CIA confirmed that the State Department consulted with the CIA on this production, the CIA reviewed these documents, and the CIA made no redactions to protect classified information."

Whoops. But it gets worse for Gowdy.

The tenacious chairman outed the name of the CIA agent in his response to Cummings. In what was clearly a rookie email mistake, the name of the agent was redacted in the body of the email, yet according to Yahoo! News it wasn't redacted in the subject-line of the note. In other words, while Clinton may have privately forwarded the not-classified name to an aide, Gowdy publicly revealed the agent's name while simultaneously accusing Clinton of doing the same. Whoops, again.

Again, there's really no reason to be surprised that Gowdy's accusation turned out to be wishful thinking. And, no, Cummings' request for an apology won't be answered in kind. The GOP's business model forbids it. Simply put, the model goes like this: make stuff up and never apologize. The calculus is arguably the most cynical brand of politics imaginable. Knowing how a lie can travel halfway around the world before the truth gets its pants on, the GOP has been remarkably successful at unapologetically injecting total hooey into the discourse, only for it to metastasize as reality in spite of countless fact-checks to the contrary.

While the Republican frontrunners, including and especially Jeb Bush, continue to spread falsehoods about the September 11, 2012 Benghazi attacks, there continues to be a steady stream of debunkery that previously or, in some cases, has concurrently accompanied the lies. For instance, on the same telecast, NBC News' Andrea Mitchell debunked Kansas Republican Mike Pompeo's claims about the relationship between Hillary Clinton and one of her longtime advisers, Sidney Blumenthal.

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POMPEO: Well, we have focused on the central failure. We have focused on the security issues. And we will continue, you’ll see lots of questions about that on Thursday. But let me speak to Mr. Blumenthal. Because directly to the security issue, we see now that former Secretary Clinton relied on Mr. Blumenthal for most of her intelligence. That if she wants to rely--

MITCHELL: That is factually not true.

POMPEO: No, it is absolutely true.

MITCHELL: Relied on Mr. Blumenthal for most of her intelligence?

POMPEO: Ms. Mitchell, take a look at the email trails and you will see--

MITCHELL: That’s just -- I cover the State Department. That is just factually not correct.

Mitchell gets an "A" for effort, but it's not like it matters to anyone inside the GOP bubble where facts are irrelevant. As long as any junior congressman can invoke the far-right shibboleths "Benghazi," or "Planned Parenthood," or "Obamacare," they continue to score points with the base despite the reality that none of these words mean what they think they mean.

To date, the Benghazi select committee is the longest-running of its kind, even outpacing the Warren Commission and the Watergate hearings. Given its duration, you'd think there'd be something to show for the time and taxpayer dollars spent. On the contrary, there's been zero evidence uncovered showing malfeasance on behalf of the Obama administration, including Hillary Clinton. (Insofar as Clinton used her own server, it might not have been the wisest choice, but, 1) it has nothing to do with what happened in Benghazi and, 2) history shows she wasn't the first to conduct government business on a private account.) Worse, so far two Republican congressmen have spilled the beans about the true intent of the select committee -- that it's obviously a political witch hunt against one person, Clinton, and literally nothing else.

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Vox.com's Jonathan Allen had perhaps the best advice for the House Republicans on Monday, "It would be smart politically for Republicans to dissolve the panel before it helps Clinton and hurts them any more. But more important, the committee should be disbanded because it is a threat to the effectiveness of a very important congressional check on executive power. The viability of that tool, the select committee, should be preserved – even though it’s being abused now."

Sorry, Mr. Allen, nicely written, but the Republicans simply don't do that. They'll keep on screwing that Benghazi chicken until they bleed every last drop of outrage from their tea party disciples. Indeed, one congressman has contra-factually vowed to hold impeachment hearings as soon as Clinton is potentially sworn-in as president in 2017.

What else?

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--The Planned Parenthood videos have been thoroughly destroyed by fact-checkers, as well as seven state-level investigations and an HHS investigation, yet they continue to be campaign fodder for the entire Republican field, not to mention countless hours of garment rending on Fox News and AM talk radio.

--Elsewhere this week, Fox News instructed Jeb Bush to blame 9/11 on Bill Clinton, even though the GOP continues to blame Obama for Benghazi. The Republicans, by the way, seem to have forgotten the GOP's wailing cries of "No War for Monica!" when the former president wanted to bomb Afghanistan in pursuit of Bin Laden.

--And, of course, we shouldn't leave out the myriad lies that continue to orbit around the Affordable Care Act, aka. "Obamacare." The only thing we really need to know about the legislation's efficacy is the fact that the most vocal opponent of the law, Ted Cruz, signed up for health insurance via Obamacare, not because he had to do it, but because it was ostensibly the best value for his family. (Contrary to Cruz's lies, members of Congress aren't "exempt" from Obamacare. If members and their staffs want employer-based coverage, they have to sign up via an Obamacare exchange, or they can avoid Obamacare and buy insurance directly from an insurer. Cruz chose the Obamacare option, arguably because it's accompanied by premium-sharing through the government. Smart.)

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The Republicans love, love, love their stories. And as long as their people continue to uncritically devour these tall tales, the GOP will continue to make more. And the raw sewage that's being cranked out by the Benghazi select committee shows no sign of ending.


Bob Cesca

Bob Cesca is a regular contributor to Salon. He's also the host of "The Bob Cesca Show" podcast, and a weekly guest on both the "Stephanie Miller Show" and "Tell Me Everything with John Fugelsang." Follow him on Facebook and Twitter. Contribute through LaterPay to support Bob's Salon articles -- all money donated goes directly to the writer.

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Related Topics ------------------------------------------

Andrea Mitchell Benghazi Editor's Picks Elijah Cummings Fox News Hillary Clinton Mike Pompeo Trey Gowdy

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