Media critic

(Andrew Harrer/BLOOMBERG)

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

Today’s news conference with President Obama offered Fox News a prime opportunity. Here was the president, standing before reporters and the entire country, waiting to wrestle with tough questions regarding the Benghazi tragedy.

In the session, he called on Ed Henry, the guy who represents Fox News at the White House. Perfect. Henry’s colleagues in recent weeks have been dredging up some damaging details about the administration’s response to Benghazi, most notably an Oct. 26 bombshell that the CIA told security officials to “stand down” instead of moving quickly to protect embattled U.S. personnel at a Benghazi diplomatic installation on Sept. 11 — not to mention that the CIA turned down requests to get military backup on that tragic night.

So the questions for Henry write themselves: Why did the CIA chain of command fail so miserably in protecting U.S. personnel? Why did the CIA order people to “stand down” instead of running to the defense of our people? Are you satisfied with the military response to the attack?

Instead of springboarding directly from Fox exclusives in his line of questioning, however, Henry asked the president a two-pronged question about Benghazi:

HENRY:...I know you’ve said you grieve for these four Americans, that it’s being investigated. But the families have been waiting for more than two months. So I would like to — for you to address the families, if you can: On 9/11, as commander in chief, did you issue any orders to try to protect their lives?

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Ed, you know, I’ll address the families not through the press. I’ll address the families directly, as I already have. And we will provide all the information that is available about what happened on that day. That’s what the investigation is for. But as I said repeatedly, if people don’t think that we did everything we can to make sure that we saved the lives of folks who I sent there, and who were carrying out missions on behalf of the United States, then you don’t know how our Defense Department thinks or our State Department thinks or our CIA thinks. Their number one priority is obviously to protect American lives. That’s what our job is.... I can tell you that immediately upon finding out that our folks were in danger, that my orders to my National Security team were do whatever we need to do to make sure they’re safe.

The president’s response generally squared with the official Benghazi storyline. Last Friday, senior Defense officials reported that they’d huddled with the president less than 90 minutes after the Benghazi attacks, at 5 p.m. on Sept. 11, as part of an already scheduled meeting. Not long thereafter, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta issued verbal orders for an array of actions designed to assist those under siege in Benghazi.

Henry by no means whiffed on his question. If other reporters had been as aggressive on Benghazi, perhaps the news conference would have produced some honest-to-goodness news on the entire affair. Yet Fox News itself has issued exclusive after exclusive on Benghazi, including the allegation that the CIA was holding prisoners at its annex. Why not stand by those stories and ask the president directly about them? Is Fox losing confidence in its own scoops?

The series so far:

First: Media outlets fail to follow Fox News.

Second: Does Fox story stand up to government timeline?

Third: Geraldo blasts storyline 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?