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Benghazi: More ‘stand down’ fallout for Fox News

Twenty-first in a marathon series about Fox News’s Oct. 26 story on Benghazi, Libya.

As noted here and here, journalist Gabriel Sherman, the leave-no-stone-unturned biographer of Fox News chief Roger Ailes, has stumbled a touch in proving that his subject has divided the United States, as claimed in the title of his new book, “The Loudest Voice in the Room: How the Brilliant, Bombastic Roger Ailes Built Fox News–and Divided a Country.

Ailes “speaks to that part of America that feels left behind by the culture. You know, it’s the old Nixon silent majority, which is what was his formative experience,” Sherman told “CBS This Morning” last Friday.

To upgrade that answer, Sherman might consider pointing to Fox News’s Benghazi reporting. As discussed in this space millions of times, on Oct. 26, 2012, the network laid out some pretty radical revelations before the American public regarding the Sept. 11, 2012, attacks against U.S. diplomatic interests in Benghazi, Libya. From that report:

Fox News has learned from sources who were on the ground in Benghazi that an urgent request from the CIA annex for military back-up during the attack on the U.S. consulate and subsequent attack several hours later on the annex itself was denied by the CIA chain of command — who also told the CIA operators twice to “stand down” rather than help the ambassador’s team when shots were heard at approximately 9:40 p.m. in Benghazi on Sept. 11.
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.”

The CIA rejected such a notion at virtually the same time it surfaced, and it did so on the record — an unusual move for the agency. Yet a statement from the CIA is no match for Fox News. According to Media Matters for America, Fox News repeated the “stand down” scoop in 85 primetime segments over the 10 months following the attacks.

Meanwhile, it has been debunked and debunked. And debunked, now, again: A just-released Senate Intelligence Committee report takes direct aim at the claim:

The Committee explored claims that there was a “stand down” order given to the security team at the Annex. Although some members of the security team expressed frustration that they were unable to respond more quickly to the Mission compound, 12 the Committee found no evidence of intentional delay or obstruction by the Chief of Base or any other party.The situation on the ground that night was chaotic and unclear: A call to the CIA annex near the under-attack diplomatic compound came in at 9:40 p.m., and it took the security personnel about 25 minutes to move in.

The original Fox News “stand down” story still hangs on the Fox News Web site, unmolested by these factual challenges.

Whatever your opinion about how effectively/ineffectively the Obama administration responded to the Benghazi attacks, the conclusions of the committee regarding the alleged “stand down” orders is a big deal. Yes, the personnel on the ground in Benghazi didn’t move as fast as certain folks would have liked. But no, they weren’t prevented from rendering assistance.

An official report from the Senate Intelligence committee may well pack some authority, though not nearly enough to uproot the impressions among an untold number of Americans who have heard Fox News’s “stand down” theme. Here, for instance, is the headline on one Internet posting: “Former Ambassador: Benghazi ‘Stand Down’ Order Came from Obama.” Or maybe White House aide Valerie Jarrett gave the stand-down order.

So there’s your division — between those who believe that someone in a high government position issued a stand-down order and those who believe that a group of security personnel were scrambling that night to help their countrymen. Gone forever is any hope of a shared and agreed-upon set of facts regarding this episode.

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

Fifteenth: Fox News mangled huge Benghazi story

Sixteenth: State Department report casts doubt on Fox News scoop

Seventeenth: Report from House Republicans challenges Fox News scoop.

Eighteenth: Fox News: What happened to its Benghazi exclusive?

Nineteenth: Fox News, Benghazi and ‘stand down’ orders.

Twentieth: AP Benghazi story challenges Fox News ‘stand down’ scoop