The substance of a story is what matters, but sometimes, when a story breaks is nearly as important. The Republican-run House Intelligence Committee, for example, waited until late on a Friday afternoon, the week before Thanksgiving, to announce the results of a two-year investigation into the deadly attacks on a U.S. outpost in Benghazi, Libya.
For the right, the findings were simply devastating: all of the Benghazi conspiracy theories, the GOP-led committee found, are completely, demonstrably, and unambiguously wrong. From the Associated Press account:
A two-year investigation by the Republican-controlled House Intelligence Committee has found that the CIA and the military acted properly in responding to the 2012 attack on a U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, and asserted no wrongdoing by Obama administration appointees.Debunking a series of persistent allegations hinting at dark conspiracies, the investigation of the politically charged incident determined that there was no intelligence failure, no delay in sending a CIA rescue team, no missed opportunity for a military rescue, and no evidence the CIA was covertly shipping arms from Libya to Syria.
The report, which is available in its entirety here, is an unflinching summary of the available evidence, which utterly destroys everything right-wing conspiracy theorists have been pushing for more than two years about the deadly attack. For conservatives, there’s no sugarcoating any of this – literally every accusation has been debunked. No exceptions.
And for Republicans, who’ve invested so much in the ugly exploitation of the terrorism for partisan gain, that obviously posed a problem. For House GOP lawmakers, the solution was to release the findings late on a Friday, shortly before a major national holiday, in the hopes the American public wouldn’t hear the facts. For the most part, the tactic worked exactly as intended: much of the national media overlooked the findings, which were also largely forgotten on the Sunday shows.
Which is a shame, because this seems like an important accountability moment.
Republicans – lawmakers, media personalities, campaign committees, et al – decided the deaths of four Americans abroad should be manipulated into a partisan tool. The party and its allies built a political machine of sorts, raising money, attacking the character of officials such as Susan Rice, misleading their own base, and ignoring real work to chase after ridiculous conspiracy theories.
And now we know, with great clarity, that they were wrong.
It would seem an apology is in order.
Indeed, perhaps no one should be angrier than conservatives themselves. The people they trust most misled them, on purpose, telling loyalists for years that the conspiracy theories had merit, that this was a real scandal, that President Obama and his team were guilty of monstrous wrongdoing. Americans on the right, who assumed they could believe their powerful allies, bought it, only to be quietly told on a Friday afternoon that it was all a sham.
For conservative Americans, this betrayal should be no small development. If Republicans lied to them about a terrorist attack, what else is the party lying to its base about?
For Fox News, that has to be especially demoralizing. No entity was more responsible for keeping the conspiracy theories alive than the cable network, which aired, endorsed, and pushed the conspiracy theories with an unhealthy enthusiasm. Over the summer, Fox went so far as to say it would only cover the parts of White House press conferences that addressed the 2012 attack.
And what, pray tell, did the network tell its viewers on Friday night after the Intelligence Committee’s report was released? Not much. Wouldn’t you know it, Fox News, which found no Benghazi detail too small, somehow managed not to tell its audience about the findings. The network ran one online report, which tried, to a genuinely (albeit unintentionally) funny degree, to overlook every relevant detail of the Intelligence Committee report.
The on-air apology to Fox’s viewers ought to be amazing, right?
Postscript: It’s worth emphasizing that the House Intelligence Committee’s findings, while devastating for the right, were arguably superfluous. The House Intelligence Committee, the Senate Intelligence Committee, the House Armed Services Committee, and the State Department’s independent Accountability Review Board have all published reports on the 2012 attack, and each found the same thing. In addition, the attack has been scrutinized by the Senate Armed Services Committee, the Senate Homeland Security Committee, the House Oversight Committee, and the House Foreign Affairs Committee, each of which has held hearings, and each of which failed to find even a shred of evidence to bolster the conspiracy theorists.
In other words, we knew the right’s Benghazi story was wrong before Friday afternoon, because their claims had already been discredited. This new report, however, should seal the deal.