It was probably only a matter of time. A Fox News personality yesterday noted the ongoing controversies surrounding the National Football League and suggested Americans should demand “that same transparency” about Benghazi.
Yes, we’ve reached the point at which Fox News can at least try to connect anything and everything to the 2012 attack that left four Americans dead in Libya.
Then again, given the latest report from Media Matters, the comments hardly come as a surprise.
Fox News’ evening lineup ran nearly 1,100 segments on the Benghazi attacks and their aftermath in the first 20 months following the attacks. Nearly 500 segments focused on a set of Obama administration talking points used in September 2012 interviews; more than 100 linked the attacks to a potential Hillary Clinton 2016 presidential run; and dozens of segments compared the attacks and the administration response to the Watergate or Iran-Contra scandals. The network hosted Republican members of Congress to discuss Benghazi nearly 30 times more frequently than Democrats.
The total of 1,098 evening segments – an average of about 13 segments per week, every week, for 20 months – would arguably have been higher, but Media Matters didn’t include Megyn Kelly’s program, which wasn’t on the air for part of the study.
Ed Kilgore noted in response to the numbers, “Short of gavel-to-gavel coverage of the Watergate hearings, I’m not sure we’ve seen anything quite like it in modern electronic media.”
I think that’s right, though there are a couple of ways to look at this. The first takeaway is simple: “Good lord, that’s a lot of coverage for one network on one story.” At a certain point, phrases like “unhealthy obsession” probably have to enter into the conversation.
But that’s not the only takeaway. Indeed, I might even offer a tepid defense of sorts.
In theory, there’s nothing wrong with a news organization really sinking its teeth into a story and sticking with it. Journalists – genuine media professionals – chase after a story all the time, day after day, considering different angles, shining a spotlight on developments, etc. A dogmatic commitment to a story can be admirable and worthwhile.
And I suppose that’s ultimately what I found so shocking about Media Matters’ tally: the total number is astounding, sure, but more important is the fact that one network devoted nearly 1,100 segments over 20 months and somehow managed not to advance the story in any meaningful way at all. After 1,098 segments, Fox produced no scoops. It aired no new revelations of import. It didn’t increase the public’s understanding of the Benghazi attack in any meaningful or substantive way.
On the contrary, many of the segments arguably did the exact opposite: the network aired 100 segments – including 43 just from Sean Hannity – “promoting the lie that the administration issued a ‘stand-down order.’”
If a network is going to air 1,100 segments, shouldn’t they at least be good segments?
In related news, the House Republicans’ new Benghazi committee – the eighth congressional committee to investigate the 2012 attack – is getting to work this week, and its first task may actually have some value. At the behest of Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), the panel is starting with a review of how the State Department is responding to recommendations from the Accountability Review Board (the first independent panel to investigate the attack).
The panel will get to the conspiracy theories later.
Also note, Democrats on the new Select Committee have created a website helping the public understand frequently asked questions about what happened in Benghazi two years ago. There are probably some Fox hosts who’d benefit from taking a look.
Postscript: There’s apparently some new conspiracy theory about a State Department cover up being pushed by the far-right Heritage Foundation. It’s kind of bizarre and hard to take seriously, though it’s a safe bet it’ll be the subject of several hundred segments on a certain cable news network.