Your conservative uncle who sends angry, all-caps emails probably let you know this week there’s been a major, new breakthrough in the field of Benghazi conspiracy theories. And he’d be right, except this week’s reporting wasn’t major, or new, or even a breakthrough.
Salon’s Simon Maloy summarized the latest.
That brings us to Fox News, which published a hot scoop yesterday claiming that a newly unearthed email “appears to contradict testimony Defense Secretary Leon Panetta gave lawmakers in 2013, when he said there was no time to get forces to the scene in Libya, where four Americans were killed, including U.S. Ambassador to Libya Christopher Stevens.”The email, from Panetta’s chief of staff at the time, was sent to the office of then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on the evening of the attacks. “After consulting with General Dempsey, General Ham and the Joint Staff,” it reads, “we have identified the forces that could move to Benghazi. They are spinning up as we speak.”
“A ha!” said conservatives, looking for a reason to talk about Benghazi again. “This is proof of … something!”
One pundit went so far this week as to call the latest tidbit a “smoking gun.”
The truth, however, isn’t nearly so exciting.
[Wednesday], the Select Committee on Benghazi Ranking Member released an email in unredacted form that debunks recent rehashed allegations from conservative news outlets about the Department of Defense’s response on the night of the Benghazi attacks. […][T]he unredacted email confirms the previous testimony of Defense Department officials to Congress, supports the findings of previous Congressional Committees, and debunks these recent rehashed allegations.
A spokesperson for committee Democrats said in a statement, “This email is yet another example of how conservative conspiracy theorists use bits of information out of context to rehash baseless allegations that have been debunked time and again.”
This one’s actually pretty straightforward. The email that has the right excited is seen as proof that Defense Department officials identified “forces that could move to Benghazi.” But it’s been well documented, over and over again, by multiple committees and officials from both parties, those forces couldn’t make it to Benghazi in time.
Maloy added that the conspiracy theorists this week are confirming “what we already knew: the Defense Department ordered military assets to respond to Benghazi. But they’re putting a wildly tendentious spin on this email that is not bolstered by any known facts, and conservatives are eating up this nonsense because it confirms what they already believe to be true.”
The smoking gun, in other words, is still firing blanks. In this case, the revelations were so mundane, even the conspiracy theorists in the Republican presidential race took a pass, which says something about the merit of the allegations.