Media critic

Fifteenth in a series about Fox News’s Oct. 26 story on Benghazi, Libya.

Fox News may need a refresher course on how to run a correction. Its signature story on the Benghazi conflict, after all, carries a consequential amendment, though the public wouldn’t know it. The change, too, could call into question one of the network’s high-profile exclusives on the goings-on in Benghazi on the night of Sept. 11.

Jennifer Griffin’s Oct. 26 Fox News story depicts heroic warriors fighting against a Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) leadership hampered by incompetence and indecisiveness. As Griffin tells the story, CIA security officials at a Benghazi annex that night received a call for help from the nearby U.S. diplomatic mission, which had come under siege from hostile Libyans. The security forces at the annex, in the account, agitate to get a move on, the better to deliver immediate assistance to U.S. Ambassador to Libya Christopher Stevens and other Americans.

But they’re instructed to “stand down” in the terminology of the Fox story, one that has gotten ample rotation in the news echosphere in recent weeks. Griffin vests her account of the tension with key details:

Former Navy SEAL Tyrone Woods was part of a small team who was at the CIA annex about a mile from the U.S. consulate where Ambassador Chris Stevens and his team came under attack. When he and others heard the shots fired, they informed their higher-ups at the annex to tell them what they were hearing and requested permission to go to the consulate and help out. They were told to “stand down,” according to sources familiar with the exchange. Soon after, they were again told to “stand down.”

That’s the text of the Griffin report as it stands now on the Fox News website. Yet it’s not the same text that debuted with the story on the morning of Friday, Oct. 26. A source who closely monitors Fox News passed along that text, which reads a touch differently. Bolded text added to highlight difference:

Former Navy SEALs Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty were part of a small team who were at the CIA annex about a mile from the U.S. Consulate where Ambassador Chris Stevens and his team came under attack. When they heard the shots fired, they radioed to inform their higher-ups to tell them what they were hearing. They were told to “stand down,” according to sources familiar with the exchange. An hour later, they called again to headquarters and were again told to “stand down.”

Various web sites that aggregated the Fox report on Oct. 26 bear witness to the difference in the story. The upshot: When Fox originally published its exclusive on Benghazi, it put Glen Doherty, a former Navy SEAL who was assisting with security in Libya, at the CIA annex as part of the team that mounted the initial response to the attack.

Gigantic problem with that assertion: Doherty was nowhere near Benghazi at the time that the attackers first assailed the dipolomatic mission. He was in Tripoli, more than 600 miles away, and would reach the CIA annex many hours later, just in time to participate in the pre-dawn battle that claimed his life.

Fox’s Glen Doherty amendment shows up in its TV work as well. Have a look at the video embedded at the top of this post. It’s from an early broadcast of Griffin’s story on Fox’s air. Here’s a key portion, as articulated by Griffin:

Glen Doherty and Tyrone Woods, the former Navy SEALs, were over at the CIA annex at about 9:40 p.m. when the first shots were heard at the consulate, where the ambassador and his team were taking fire. I’m told that they radioed to their higher headquarters that they wanted permission to go and help the ambassador...At that time they were told by their higher-ups to “stand down.” They waited approximately an hour, they requested again to send Glen Doherty, Tyrone Woods and other members of that team to help out at the consulate. They were again, for a second time, told to stand down...

Now have a look at the Fox News report from later that day (embedded below). The money portion of that segment features Griffin saying this:

Sources on the ground in Benghazi tell Fox News that an urgent request from the CIA annex for military backup during the attack on the consulate and annex was denied by their CIA chain of command. Twice members of a CIA element at the annex one mile from the consulate, that included former SEAL Tyrone Woods, were told to “stand down” when they requested permission, starting at approximately 9:40 p.m., to aid the ambassador’s staff. About one hour after the attack began on the consulate, those operators, including Woods, ignored orders and went anyway.

Text bolded to highlight subtraction: No Doherty in this version.

Unclear is whether Fox News ever issued a correction on its original report that Doherty was front and center at the CIA annex, instead of in Tripoli. In the segments that this blog has reviewed, there is no evidence of one. An inquiry to Fox News’s PR shop on this matter failed to prompt a response, an experience consistent with an ever-growing database of precedents. Last week after a Pentagon briefing, the Erik Wemple Blogger asked a Fox News reporter active in the Benghazi oeuvre for an interview on the stories; he declined and stipulated that his reasons for declining were off the record.

There are a couple of ways to view Fox’s mixup on Glen Doherty’s whereabouts on Sept. 11. The charitable version is that Doherty’s location at the time of the attacks is a detail of small consequence to the sequence of events that Fox News has laid out in its reporting. Less important than who was there at the time of the initial attack, after all, is the behavior of the CIA chain of command, which Fox News depicts as bumbling.

Under the less forgiving interpretation, Fox’s misstep on Doherty is an infection that plagues the entire report. If Fox News cannot nail the proper location for a key player in the conflict, then how can we possibly trust it to nail particulars like “stand down” orders and the like? Consider, too, that from all indications, Fox News published its Oct. 26 showstopper without first seeking official comment from the CIA. Perhaps if it had engaged more with CIA headquarter prior to publication, it could have sidestepped the Doherty problem.

Whatever the case, don’t expect Fox News to start equivocating. On the day the report surfaced, Fox News anchor Bret Baier asked Griffin just how good her sources were. “As good as they get,” she replied.

The series so far:

First: Media outlets fail to follow Fox News.

Second: Does Fox story stand up to government timeline?

Third: Geraldo blasts story line that government didn’t try to protect personnel

Fourth: Fox contributor decries politicization of Benghazi

Fifth: Fox News’s “laser” allegation: For real?

Sixth: CIA no-comments new blast from Fox News

Seventh: Why exclude Fox News from intelligence briefing?

Eighth: Fox News picks fight with State Department

Ninth: Fox getting excluded from briefings?

Tenth: Fox, Hannity and “real-time video

Eleventh: Fox News invited to Benghazi briefing

Twelfth: What about those alleged Benghazi prisoners?

Thirteenth: Why didn’t Fox News ask the president about its own Benghazi reporting?

Fourteenth: Fox News Benghazi report gets some backup