Fox News’s Hannity: Was Obama AWOL on Benghazi night?

February 8, 2013

(ESAM OMRAN AL-FETORI / Reuters)

Sean Hannity reports that he was “stunned” upon hearing that President Obama had minimal interaction with his top defense official on the night of the Sept. 11 attack against the U.S. compound in Benghazi, Libya. That revelation stemmed from an exchange in a Senate hearing between Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta regarding the president’s communications that night. Panetta and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey met with Obama about an hour after the attack began but didn’t have direct communication with him after that. Here’s how the exchange unfolded:

AYOTTE: Did you have any other further communications? Did he ever call you that night to say how are things going, what’s going on, where is the consulate?

PANETTA: No.

AYOTTE: Did you communicate with anyone else at the White House that night?

PANETTA: No.

AYOTTE: No one else called you to say, what, how are things going?

PANETTA: No.

As predicted, Hannity seized on the exchange. “Now the most alarming news that came out of that testimony is that President Obama was virtually absent on the night that four Americans died, and according to Panetta, he and General Dempsey only spoke once that night to the commander-in-chief.”

On came Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) to assist with the accountabilitizing:

Well, Mr. President, what did you do for eight hours? Who did you talk to? What kind of leadership did you exhibit? They made two movies about the Bin Laden raid and you deserve credit for that, but you’ve had no accounting for the Benghazi attack and you’re going to have an accounting.
I’m not going to stop until the American people know what their commander-in-chief did for eight hours and thus far, all we know is he had a 15-minute conversation.

The revelations from Panetta weren’t the most-watched developments on Capitol Hill. That distinction belonged to a hearing in which John O. Brennan, the White House counterterrorism adviser, was enduring a confirmation grilling for his appointment as CIA director.

Yet Ayotte & Co. managed to do with Panetta and Dempsey what a House and Senate panel had failed to do in January with then-Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, and that’s to produce some telling and consequential tidbits about Benghazi. Graham told Hannity that the White House has “delayed, denied, deceived and stonewalled” regarding the ordeal. Whether or not you agree with that assessment, it has taken a good five months for this level of detail to emerge on contact among the key players. Hannity is right to jump on the revelations.

Erik Wemple writes the Erik Wemple blog, where he reports and opines on media organizations of all sorts.
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Erik Wemple | February 7, 2013