Back when Benghazi, Libya, was big news, Fox News played a big role in making it so. An analysis by Media Matters found that in the 20 months following the attacks, the leading cable news network ran nearly 1,100 news segments on the topic. Four American personnel, including U.S. Ambassador to Libya Christopher Stevens, lost their lives after militants in the Libyan city launched surprise attacks against a U.S. diplomatic post.
The obsession has accomplished a number of things, including the spreading of false information about Benghazi and the fierce politicization of a terrorist attack. Tack on at least one other externality — the extensive, free-of-charge promotion of the “13 Hours” franchise.
“13 Hours: The Inside Account of What Really Happened in Benghazi” is a 2014 book by Boston University Professor Mitchell Zuckoff and five members of the security team that protected U.S. interests on that night. As we’ve written before, the book is very, very good. Gripping good. It takes on-the-record testimony from security operators who were actually on the ground that night — notably Mark “Oz” Geist, Kris “Tanto” Paronto, John “Tig” Tiegen — and whips it into a format that explains a great deal, like how vulnerable Stevens and other State Department were at their Benghazi outpost and how CIA and State Department bureaucracy inhibited crisis decision-making.
Consistent with the compelling content of “13 Hours,” Fox News plastered its airtime with coverage of the book. A special report anchored by Fox News’s Bret Baier featured interviews with the security operators/authors and dug into the events with slow, indulgent granularity. “The O’Reilly Factor” brought two of the authors on board for a follow-up discussion. “Hannity,” too, brought two of the authors on board for a follow-up discussion. Other shows boosted the book as well.
Fox News had powerful editorial reasons to bolster “13 Hours,” considering its own history in reporting on this tragic night. Back in October 2012, Fox News reported that security operators at a CIA annex not far from the under-siege diplomatic facility were told to “stand down” rather than provide security assistance to Stevens & Co. The CIA denied the report, touching off a several-years-long dispute. Congressional investigations knocked down the “stand down” claim, though the security operators in “13 Hours” — who were actually there, mind you — insist that, indeed, they were ordered by the CIA base chief to, indeed, “stand down.” Such hesitancy appeared consistent with the base chief’s Benghazi MO, as outlined in “13 Hours.”
The page-turner of a book birthed a movie directed by action specialist Michael Bay: “13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi” (Paramount). When the movie’s trailer surfaced, so did Fox News’s Benghazi machine. “This movie, if it’s really popular, is going to force [Hillary Clinton] to answer some questions,” said Steve Doocy on “Fox & Friends.” And Fox News’s Dana Perino appeared on Megyn Kelly’s show to say, “We know that the left and the liberals are so concerned about this movie that they have already put resources behind trying to tear it down.”
Now the movie is ready. Last night, Kelly set aside a 17-minute segment to preview the flick and interview Geist, Paronto and Tiegen. Interview them about what, exactly? What new and topical information was on the agenda here? Please watch the segment, and report back if you find anything along those lines. Kelly did ask these courageous men how they’d reacted to seeing the movie (one of them hadn’t seen it) and went over the particulars of the evening, including the whole issue of the “stand down” order. One screen chyron read, “HEROES FROM BENGHAZI REVEAL HOW THEY FELT WATCHING BIG SCREEN PORTRAYAL.” But the presentation did little to advance the previous umpteen Fox News segments with these men.
Ho-hum content notwithstanding, Kelly introduced the whole thing with this line: “Breaking tonight: A ‘Kelly File’ exclusive on the gripping new film that may pose a threat to Hillary Clinton’s hopes for the White House.” Right — if Fox News can drum up enough of an audience for it!