Rep. Darrell Issa disputes his Four-Pinocchio ratings


(Lauren Victoria Burke/Associated Press)

CHRIS WALLACE: That brings up my final question for you, because you have come under fire both in the IRS and Benghazi and other investigations of your committee for political witch hunts. They point specifically to a speech you gave to GOP fundraiser in New Hampshire in February about the Benghazi terror attack. Here’s a clip.

VIDEO CLIP: Why there was not one order given to turn on one Department of Defense asset? I have my suspicions, which is Secretary Clinton told them to stand down. 

WALLACE: But the Washington Post Fact Checker cited that bipartisan report you mentioned, the Senate Intelligence Committee, that there were no stand-down orders, and there is also no evidence that Clinton ever spoke to Leon Panetta, then defense secretary, that night. And for the second time, they gave you four Pinocchios, which is their highest level of falsehood. How do you respond to that, sir?

REP. DARRELL ISSA: Well, first of all, the first one was for quoting something that was in somebody else’s report, believing that it was true, which is an unusual way to get four Pinocchios. But in this case, the secretary of state was responsible for this normalization policy that existed in Benghazi. Witnesses have told us that they asked for help. The president himself implied that he told Leon Panetta, then secretary of defense, to use what efforts they could and what we know for a fact is not one aircraft, not one rescue of DOD was launched to get there in that 8 1/2 hours. 

WALLACE: But to be honest, do you not have any evidence that Secretary Clinton told Leon Panetta to stand down?

ISSA: Well, the use in answering questions in a political fundraiser, that was in response to a question, the term “stand down” is not used in some sort of an explicit way, but rather the failure to react, the fact that only State Department assets and only assets inside the country were ever used, that members of the armed forces, gun carrying, trained people were not allowed to get on the aircraft to go and attempt to rescue. Those kinds of things through State Department resources represent a stand-down. Not maybe on the technical terms of “stand down, soldier,” but on what the American people believe is a failure to respond what they could have. 

 — Exchange on “Fox News Sunday,” March 2

Politicians are never happy to receive Pinocchios from the Fact Checker. We understand that, and of course offer them a chance to dispute our reasoning.

On “Fox News Sunday,” host Chris Wallace brought up two Four-Pinocchio ratings given to Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, for remarks concerning the 2012 attack on a U.S. compound in Benghazi, Libya. He offered two rationales in arguing that our rating was wrong, so let’s review the issues again.

The Facts

The first Four-Pinocchio rating concerned this statement by Issa on “Fox and Friends” on April 24, 2013:

“The secretary of state was just wrong. She said she did not participate in this, and yet only a few months before the attack, she outright denied security in her signature in a cable, April 2012.”

The Fact Checker awarded Four Pinocchios because every single cable from Washington — hundreds of thousands of them a year, even the most mundane — automatically receives the secretary of state’s signature, per State Department protocol. Very few cables are ever shown to the secretary before being sent, and there is no evidence that Clinton ever saw this particular cable.

Speaking to Wallace, Issa explained, “The first one was for quoting something that was in somebody else’s report, believing that it was true, which is an unusual way to get four Pinocchios.”

Hmm, someone else’s report? He’s apparently referring to 43-page “Interim Progress Report” issued on April 23, 2013, by five committee chairmen in the House: Reps. Howard “Buck” McKeon (Armed Services), Ed Royce (Foreign Affairs), Bob Goodlatte (Judiciary), Mike Rogers (Intelligence), and Issa.

Perhaps Issa has forgotten he signed the report? He certainly didn’t when he appeared on “Fox and Friends,” as this is the question that prompted his Pinocchio-worthy comment:  “Chairman Issa, you’ve been on this from day one; you released a 43-page report. And in it, it says what about what the former secretary of state knew?” Later in the interview, Issa referred to “our report” and “our investigation.”

As we noted at the time, the report “veered close to the edge” with its phrasing but its language was not as objectionable as Issa’s comments. He also did not contradict the television host, who all but accused Clinton of committing perjury in her testimony before Congress.

In any case, politicians have an obligation to check the facts in reports before citing them. It’s not enough to blame someone else’s report — especially when it is your own.

As Wallace noted, the second Four-Pinocchio rating concerned Issa’s recent assertion that he suspected that Clinton ordered Defense Secretary Leon Panetta to “stand down” troops during the effort to rescue Americans under attack. As Issa put it on Feb. 17:

Why [was] there not one order given to turn on one Department of Defense asset?

In his response to Wallace, Issa moves the goal posts. “We know for a fact is not one aircraft, not one rescue of DOD was launched to get there in that 8 1/2 hours,” he said. Here, he confirms our reporting that Panetta did issue a series of orders, but because of the location of assets, they didn’t arrive until the next day.

(Issa does not mention that, separately, six U.S. security personnel left the U.S. Embassy in Tripoli for Benghazi, landed by 7:30 p.m. and “performed heroically,” according to a report issued by Republicans on the House Armed Services Committee. A bipartisan Senate Intelligence Committee report describes the group as a seven-person team: “A seven-person security team (consisting of two DoD personnel, four CIA personnel, and a linguist) flew from the U.S. Embassy in Tripoli to Benghazi and successfully helped evacuate the Americans from the Annex to the airport.”)

Issa then tries to redefine the term “stand down” as “the failure to react,” when in fact Panetta and DOD did react. He also claims that “members of the Armed Forces — gun carrying, trained people — were not allowed to get on the aircraft to go and attempt to rescue.”  He does not mention that the Special Operations commander in question later told investigators that the decision was correct in hindsight because his team otherwise would not have been in Tripoli to deal with the wounded arriving from Benghazi.

We will also note that he does not deny to Wallace that he has no evidence showing that Clinton gave Panetta a stand-down order. That lack of evidence was the key reason he earned Four Pinocchios.

The Pinocchio Test

Issa’s new explanations do not pass scrutiny. It is especially strange that he would refer to a report he signed — and touted at the time as his own — as “someone else’s report.” We reaffirm our awarding of Four Pinocchios in both cases.

Four Pinocchios


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Glenn Kessler has reported on domestic and foreign policy for more than three decades. He would like your help in keeping an eye on public figures. Send him statements to fact check by emailing him, tweeting at him, or sending him a message on Facebook.



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Glenn Kessler · February 28, 2014

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