Fox News host Bill O’Reilly really wants to know precisely how then-Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta described the Benghazi, Libya, attacks to President Obama on the day they happened, Sept. 11, 2012. On his program last night, O’Reilly called on Congress to haul Panetta before a committee and have him testify on just that precise matter so that the country can better understand how the Obama administration initially viewed the attacks, which killed four U.S. personnel at the U.S. diplomatic installation in Benghazi.
Nomenclature matters here, argues O’Reilly, because of the allegations that the Obama political team, in a reelection campaign, declined to classify the attacks as terrorism for fear of looking weak on national security. That’s why Panetta, who met with the president after the assault began, is key. O’Reilly: “Incredibly, Leon Panetta has not been directly asked that question under oath, and the House of Representatives should do so,” said the host. “Panetta is the key to knowing if the Obama reelection campaign and perhaps the president himself used deception in the murder of our Libyan ambassador. Every patriotic American should want to know what happened there.”
This matter worked its way back into the media over the weekend, when Susan Rice told David Gregory on “Meet the Press” that the talking points that she provided on the Sunday morning talk shows of Sept. 16, 2012, stemmed from the information available at that point from the intelligence community. “That information turned out to be, in some respects, not 100 percent correct,” said Rice, who blamed an anti-Islam video for the violence. “But the notion that somehow I or anybody else in the administration misled the American people is patently false,” said Rice, who was U.S. ambassador to the United Nations at the time.
As for O’Reilly’s call for fresh Panetta testimony, the former defense secretary sat for an extended grilling one year ago before the Senate Armed Services committee. In an interview on Super Bowl Sunday, O’Reilly pushed President Obama to tell him how Panetta had described the attack. A long and contentious exchange ensued, ending this way:
OBAMA: . . . people don’t know at the very moment exactly why something like this happens. And when you look at the videotape of this whole thing unfolding, this is not some systematic, well organized process. You see . . .
O’REILLY: Well, it was heavy weapons used . . .
OBAMA: you . . .
O’REILLY: and that . . .
OBAMA: what you . . .
O’REILLY: that’s the thing . . .
OBAMA: what you see — Bill . . .
O’REILLY: heavy weapons coming in.
OBAMA: Bill, listen, I — I — I’ve gone through this and we have had multiple hearings on it. What happens is you have an attack like this taking place and you have a mix of folks who are just troublemakers. You have folks who have an ideological agenda.
O’Reilly insists he wants to know more about Benghazi “as an American, not a broadcaster.” And as an American, not a broadcaster, O’Reilly wants America to never forget that he interviewed President Obama.