Charles Krauthammer asserted Monday that the New York Times was driven to conduct a months-long investigation into the deadly attack in Benghazi, Libya solely to give political cover to Hillary Clinton and her fellow Democrats -- a year after the influential conservative bemoaned the lack of media coverage on the attack. Krauthammer was backing a baseless claim floated by Reps. Mike Rogers (R-MI) and Lynn Westmoreland (R-GA). Westmoreland accused the Times of "laying the groundwork" for a Clinton presidential bid, while Rogers said he found the timing of the report "odd."
The New York Times published a comprehensive report over the weekend on last year's attack in Benghazi, and it's arguably the most detailed account any major news organization has completed on what transpired in Libya in September 2012.
The report also appears to have driven some Republicans bonkers.
GOP conspiracy theories surrounding Benghazi have long been something of a sideshow -- after multiple, independent investigations, none of the far-right allegations have been substantiated in the slightest. But the NYT's account discredited the far-right theories even more thoroughly, effectively ending the debate, such as it was.
That said, watching the concerted effort to defend the conspiracy theory with an even more elaborate conspiracy theory is rather alarming.
The Republican pundit believes it's "quite obvious" that the New York Times "invested all the effort and time in this and put it on the front page is precisely a way to protect the Democrats, to deflect the issue, to protect Hillary, who was exposed on this issue as almost no issue in her tenure in the administration. It is obviously a political move."
Noting that Times editorial page editor Andrew Rosenthal explained how baseless the allegations against the paper really are, Krauthammer added that Rosenthal "being defensive" only bolsters the new conspiracy further.
(One has to admire the logic on display. According to Charles Krauthammer, ostensibly one of the sharper minds in Republican media, because Rosenthal said the conspiracy theory isn't true, it must be proof that the conspiracy theory is true, otherwise Rosenthal wouldn't deny it. Brilliant.)
It's one thing for conservative activists to desperately search for new ways to keep their rallying cry alive, but for high-profile Republican lawmakers and pundits to embrace loony-tunes ideas without shame or embarrassment is unsettling.
As we discussed yesterday, when a conspiracy theory is debunked, its proponents have a few options to consider. They can look for additional evidence to bolster their argument; they can reevaluate their theory in light of the new information; they can even accept reality and move on to something else.
But Krauthammer has joined a small cadre of GOP voices choosing instead to expand the delusion, raising the specter of an even grander conspiracy involving a more elaborate set of players.
For the record, there's literally no evidence to substantiate this new conspiracy theory, and if you're going to accuse one of the world's preeminent news organizations of lying to the public as part of a broader scheme to influence a presidential election three years in advance, you should probably think of some way to back it up before taking the theory to national airwaves.
What's more, the conspiracy doesn't make sense on its face since the NYT's report doesn't cast Clinton's State Department in an especially flattering light anyway.
The right really needs to get a grip on this.