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Opinion Yes, Megyn Kelly, the Erik Wemple Blog is ‘human’

Benghazi (Esam Omran al-Fetori/Reuters)

Megyn Kelly was all over the Erik Wemple Blog’s voicemail last night. Indirectly, of course.

On her program, Kelly criticized the Erik Wemple Blog for a Jan. 5 post we’d written about the love affair of Fox News with the new Michael Bay movie “13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi.” That movie is based on a book of similar title written by Boston University professor Mitchell Zuckoff and a team of security operators who were on the ground on the night of the tragic Benghazi, Libya, attacks of Sept. 11, 2012. The book carried a number of revelations — including the claim of the security contractors that they were told to “stand down” before rushing to assist personnel at the besieged U.S. diplomatic outpost — that made news upon its publication in 2014. Fox News was particularly aggressive in promoting the book.

“13 Hours” the movie is giving the network a do-over opportunity. The network is frequently running clips of the movie, interviewing the security operators — particularly Mark “Oz” Geist, Kris “Tanto” Paronto and John “Tig” Tiegen — and otherwise attempting to elevate the flick as a political watershed. On her Jan. 4 program, Kelly herself led into an interview with this trio by saying, “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.” There was really nothing “breaking” that night — just a rehash of the same news threads that had been aired at the time of the book’s release.

On her program last night, Kelly disagreed with that point of view. “Wemple of the Washington Post seems to have an issue,” said the host in a segment with Fox Newsers Chris Stirewalt and Howard Kurtz. “We did that interview with those three heroes and the feedback we received from the viewers was extraordinary. They wanted to know more. They wanted to know how they could help these guys. They couldn’t wait to see this movie. Wemple has a different reaction, which was, ‘[dismissive sound effect] What did we learn that was new?’ I’ve got news for you, Erik Wemple. You go and you sit through ’13 Hours.’ You sit there, white-knuckled. When you can’t move at the end of it, and a tear comes to your eye, unless you’re not human. And you tell me whether this is going to have no impact on the story of Benghazi, which is relevant in this 2016 presidential campaign.”

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Criticisms so direct from the most talented host in cable news tend to have immediate impact. Into the voicemail of the Erik Wemple Blog jumped this message, from an unidentified woman who was apparently motivated by Kelly’s rip:

I just want you to know that I as an American and a former administration employee and also a 12-year employee of the CIA both here and abroad, that I think you are a real betrayer, a traitor, to this country by providing excuse for Hillary Clinton. I can remember 11 years ago as though it was yesterday because of the things that I went through at the CIA and we don’t forget what happens. And the dagger you have put in those three men who knew that they were not going to have any help and they could not save the ambassador’s life and the ambassador died. That man — Hillary Clinton begged to take that job for her, so he could do a good job that would reflect on her. And here you are, all these years later, being a wimp and attacking Megyn Kelly. You know what, you ought to learn this: If you can’t tell the truth, then keep your mouth shut. How dare you do this to our country; you’re a traitor.

At that point, the voice stopped, but the message didn’t end. Audible on the voicemail tape was the end of the “Kelly File” segment, leading into an ad for the Dodge Ram 1500. Then the caller finished up: “I hope you will think about this message. I hate to be so critical, but I’m really angry at you because you don’t know what you’re talking about or you’re doing a political favor to someone.”

Twitter also took note of Kelly’s sharp words:

As a point of clarification, this blog has repeatedly praised the “13 Hours” book and the unquestioned heroism of the security operators who saved many American lives that night. If nothing else, the Bay movie conveys the grueling nature of the Benghazi trauma. These outnumbered security officials, viewed as meatheads by the CIA base chief, encountered wave after wave of RPGs, small arms fire and mortar fire over an interminable night. Attacks come at the U.S. protectors from every angle — real attacks, not the political or rhetorical kind.

And by Kelly’s standards, yes, the Erik Wemple Blog is human; we teared up over the scenes of former SEAL Tyrone Woods looking at a picture of his infant daughter. He died in a mortar attack on the CIA Benghazi annex before dawn on Sept. 12, 2012.

Now to the heart of Kelly’s criticism. She demands, “And you tell me whether this is going to have no impact on the story of Benghazi, which is relevant in this 2016 presidential campaign.” We have no opinion or projection on whether or not the “13 Hours” movie will have an impact on the ongoing presidential race, nor whether it should have such an impact. Our point is narrower: That Fox News, even after hyping the bona fide revelations in the book version of “13 Hours,” is promoting the Bay movie for its potential to revive Benghazi as a problem for Clinton. In so doing, Fox News isn’t acting as a news organization, which reports events as they arise; it’s acting as an advocacy organization, verily rooting for the movie to tilt the contemporary political debate. If Bay could only produce a Hollywood reenactment of Obamacare’s lowest moments or of the failures of the president’s Islamic State policy, he could surely bank on similar excitement from the country’s No. 1 cable news outfit.