The opening night of the Republican National Convention had a heavy law-and-order theme, with a particular focus on the 2012 attacks in Benghazi, Libya. Here’s a roundup of some of the most noteworthy claims that were made. As is our practice, we do not award Pinocchios for a roundup of claims made in convention events.
“We were ready to go. But on three separate occasions, we were told to wait, and the chief of base told us to stand down!”
— John Tiegen, Benghazi survivor
“Opportunities taken when we defied stand down orders and opportunities squandered when Hillary Clinton failed to protect her people on the ground. Had she done her job, we would not have had to compromise the annex.”
— Mark Geist, Benghazi survivor
These two members of the Benghazi annex security team repeated claims that have been questioned by various investigative committees about the terrorist attacks in the Libyan city on Sept. 11, 2012.
Despite repeated claims of a stand down order, various investigations have found that at best it amounted to tactical disagreements. As the House Intelligence Committee put it in 2014:
“The evidence from eyewitness testimony, ISR video footage, closed-circuit television recordings, and other sources provides no support for the allegation that there was any stand-down order. Rather, there were mere tactical disagreements about the speed with which the team should depart prior to securing additional security assets.”
The Senate Committee on Intelligence concluded in 2014: “Although some members of the security team expressed frustration that they were unable to respond more quickly to the Mission compound, the Committee found no evidence of intentional delay or obstruction by the Chief of Base or any other party.”
The Republican majority of the House Armed Services Committee also concluded: “There was no ‘stand down’ order issued to U.S. military personnel in Tripoli who sought to join the fight in Benghazi.”
The Select Committee on Benghazi, in a report issued in June, also delved into the matter. It quotes the chief of base as denying he issued a stand-down order as he tried to line up more support. The testimony of others is mixed, with one saying they heard “wait” and others saying they heard “stand down, you need to wait” while a plan is developed. Ultimately, the team left on their own.
Investigative bodies have faulted the State Department for failing to provide the diplomatic facility in Benghazi with sufficient security, including responding to specific requests from officials on the ground. But the security decisions were made well below Clinton’s level and no evidence has emerged that Clinton was aware of the requests or decided not to provide the requisite level of security.
In a recent interview with the New Yorker, the sister of slain U.S. ambassador Chris Stevens said: “I do not blame Hillary Clinton or [Defense Secretary] Leon Panetta. They were balancing security efforts at embassies and missions around the world. And their staffs were doing their best to provide what they could with the resources they had. The Benghazi Mission was understaffed. We know that now. But, again, Chris knew that. It wasn’t a secret to him. He decided to take the risk to go there. It is not something they did to him. It is something he took on himself.”
“I blame Hillary Clinton personally for the death of my son. Personally. In an email to her daughter shortly after the attack Hillary Clinton blamed it on terrorism. But when I saw Hillary Clinton … she lied to me and then called me a liar. When I saw Hillary Clinton … she looked me squarely in the eye and told me a video was responsible.”
— Patricia Smith, mother of a State Department official killed in Benghazi
The Fact Checker examined closely the various accounts of family members concerning their conversations with Clinton after the attacks. Smith, mother of State Department information specialist Sean Smith, has been one of the most outspoken, blaming not only Clinton, but Obama and other senior officials. At one point, she said, “I believe that Obama murdered my son,” citing coverage of the incident by Fox News.
Smith’s account of the conversations has evolved over time. She originally said then-U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta blamed Muslim outrage over a YouTube video, which at time resulted in protests in 40 countries in the world. But then her account changed to include also Clinton, Obama and Vice President Biden making similar statements. As she put it in 2013 congressional testimony: “Obama and Hillary and Panetta and Biden and Susan all came up to me at the casket ceremony. Every one of them came up to me, gave me a big hug and I asked them what happened, please tell me. And every one of them said, it was the video.”
All but one of the family members interviewed by The Fact Checker disagreed with this account. For instance, Barbara Doherty, the mother of Navy SEAL Glen Doherty, recalled that Clinton “was very sincere, I remember her crying.” Cheryl Croft Bennett, mother of SEAL Tyrone Woods, recounted how administration officials were “extremely compassionate and genuinely sad for my loss, as I fought back tears and tried to project an image of strength to honor my SEAL son.”
Smith’s reference to an email concerns Clinton’s email to her daughter on the night of the attack that “an al-Qaeda-like group” was responsible for the attacks. (Clinton later said the comment reflected “the fog of war” since the group later withdrew responsibility.)
The final report by the Select Committee on Benghazi has a detailed look at the public and private exchanges among U.S. officials concerning whether the video played a role in the attacks, with officials on the ground in Benghazi quickly discounting the role of the video. Washington-based officials appeared influenced by news media coverage (including in The Washington Post) that tended to conflate the protests in Cairo over the video with the attacks in Benghazi.
For more on Benghazi, read our 20 fact checks on subject.
“You see them [Black Lives Matter protesters] marching and you see them on occasion, at least — I’ve seen it — where they’re essentially calling, ‘Death to police.’ And that’s not acceptable.”
—Donald Trump, interview on Fox News during the convention
Trump appeared on Fox News on Monday night, saying he saw Black Lives Matter protesters “essentially calling, ‘Death to police.’ ” This was in response to a question about the recent shootings of police officers, and what Trump would do about Black Lives Matter protests. Trump made a similar claim last week, saying Black Lives Matter protesters held a moment of silence for the gunman who shot and killed five police officers in Dallas.
There have been isolated instances over the past two years of groups of protesters apparently supporting violence against police. So it is unclear whether Trump is referring to these instances, or saying he saw them after the Dallas shootings (which is not supported, based on protest coverage in the news or on social media), or something else. His campaign has not provided information to back them up.
Snopes.com, which does an excellent job debunking online memes and myths, found a July 10, 2016, video explaining Black Lives Matter myths. One of them was about 2014 video footage showing a group of protesters apparently chanting, “What do we want? Dead cops!” The narrator in the video noted that the clip “captured a small group of protesters who hung around after the end of the Millions March in December 2014 and were disavowed by the organizers of that event, while video of the official Millions March event shows that it was a peaceful protest.”
The clip has been misrepresented since then, Snopes.com found, even though the clip is unrelated to Black Lives Matter protests occurring in July 2016.
“After living and working in Milan and Paris, I arrived in New York City 20 years ago, and I saw both the joys and the hardships of daily life. On July 28th, 2006, I was very proud to become a citizen of the United States — the greatest privilege on planet Earth.”
— Melania Trump
Melania Trump told the story of her immigrant experience during her speech. Some interesting context: She has cited her experience to explain her support for her husband’s strong stance against illegal immigration. In an interview on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” earlier this year, she said of her experience:
“I follow the law. I follow a law the way it’s supposed to be. I never thought to stay here without papers. I had visa, traveled every few months back to the country to Slovenia to stamp the visa. I came back. I applied for the green card. I applied for the citizenship later on after many years of green card. So I went by system. I went by the law. And you should do that.”
This is not an uncommon view among immigrants who obtained their citizen or permanent resident status through the legal channel. Interestingly, models like Melania Trump have an easier route to obtain work visas thanks to a visa program for skilled foreign workers. She entered the United States with a work visa while she was still employed as model, meaning she may have obtained her work visa through the very program that her husband once used to hire foreign workers, but now opposes.
The H-1B program grants temporary work visas for skilled workers. It’s most commonly used by the tech industry, but it also includes a certain number of visas per year for international models seeking to work in the United States. Employers can sponsor H-1B workers for green cards.
Donald Trump has had an inconsistent stance on the H-1B visa. Since declaring his candidacy, he has supported and opposed the program, flip-flopping several times.
“According to the FBI, ISIS is present in all 50 states. Think about that for a moment. Terrorists from ISIS are in every one of our 50 states.”
— Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa)
This evocative image is indeed based on a statement by FBI Director James B. Comey, made in early 2015: “Those people exist in every state. I have homegrown violent extremist investigations in every single state. Until a few weeks ago there was 49 states. Alaska had none which I couldn’t quite figure out. But Alaska has now joined the group so we have investigations of people in various stages of radicalizing in all 50 states.”
Comey, however, did not say how many people suspected of being radicalized by the Islamic State were under investigation, making it difficult to evaluate the extent of radicalization. Update: a video of Comey’s full remarks shows that he refers to “a siren song” put out by ISIS that appeals to “troubled souls” who are “seeking meaning” in their lives and are at risk of being radicalized. But, unlike the implication of Ernst’s statement, Comey did not say that the ISIS terror group was present in each state or that these troubled souls had already become terrorists.
“Hillary Clinton is for open borders.”
— Former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani
Trump has made the same claim about Clinton recently, but Giuliani repeating it doesn’t make it any more correct. Giuliani exaggerates Clinton’s stance on border security and immigration enforcement.
Clinton has said she would expand Obama’s executive actions on immigration, and has advocated comprehensive immigration reform including a pathway to citizenship. But she also has supported enhanced border security. And her immigration proposal includes “humane, targeted and effective” enforcement and focusing immigration resources on detaining and deporting those “who pose a threat to public safety.”
[Update: Hacked emails released on Oct. 7 showed Clinton apparently said in a paid closed-door speech to a Brazilian bank: “My dream is a hemispheric common market, with open trade and open borders,” through green energy.
The Clinton campaign has refused to authenticate the hacked emails, but campaign manager Robby Mook said in an Oct. 9 CBS “Face the Nation” interview that Clinton was “talking about integrating green energy between North and South America. … If the question is, ‘Does Hillary Clinton support throwing open our borders?’ Absolutely not. And she is going to do everything she can to fight to protect the interests of workers in this country.”]
“There are about 350,000 people who succeed in crossing our borders illegally each year.”
— Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.)
It’s unclear what data Sessions is using here. He may be referring to 2006 Pew Research Center findings that about 250,000 to 350,000 people were added to the unauthorized immigrant population in the United States due to visa overstays. But visa overstays do not describe people who “succeed in crossing our borders illegally each year.”
Recent data show the unauthorized immigrant population has leveled off, which does not support Sessions’s claim.
Moreover, apprehensions along the Southwestern border of attempted crossings in 2015 were at the lowest levels since 1972, except for in 2011. These were unsuccessful crossings, but this graph shows that overall illegal immigration flows have been declining since 2000.
“Only Trump will stand against terrorists and end illegal immigration. Build the wall. Only Trump mentions Americans killed by illegals.”
— Jamiel Shaw Sr., father of teen who was killed by undocumented immigrant
One of Trump’s go-to anecdotes about the dangers of illegal immigration is that of Jamiel Shaw Jr., a 17-year-old football star who was killed in 2008 by a gang member who was in the country illegally. Shaw’s father has appeared in an ad for Trump, and supports Trump’s proposal to deport all “criminal aliens,” who are noncitizens convicted of a crime.
Clearly, stories like these exist. Trump has used anecdotes as evidence to connect illegal immigration and violent crimes, and Shaw’s father also made this point on Monday night. Yet the vast majority of unauthorized immigrants do not fit the description of aggravated felons, whose crimes include murder.
For example, homicides are a small percentage of the crimes committed by noncitizens, whether they are in the United States illegally or not. The U.S. Sentencing Commission tracks citizenship of offenders in federal prisons by primary offense, which is the offense with the longest maximum sentence when a person is convicted of multiple offenses. Of the 74,911 primary offenses in fiscal 2014, 31,432 (42 percent) were by noncitizens. The majority of their cases (66.2 percent) were immigration offenses. There were 11 out of 75 murder offenses attributed to noncitizens. This is only a snapshot, as federal prisoners made up 9.5 percent of the total incarcerated population in 2014.
As we wrote above, illegal immigration flows across the Southern border in 2015 were at their second-lowest levels since 1972. But in late 2015, the number of unaccompanied minors crossing the Southwest border started growing again, which has prompted concerns.
We dug deeper into this issue here.
“The fact that this is a president from Chicago, Illinois, and he has been largely silent to the slaughter — and it’s slaughter going on in Chicago. And it has been primarily a slaughter of minority citizens. It is appalling.”
— New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R), remarks to Michigan delegates
A reader spotted a tweet by Detroit News reporter Chad Livengood that sparked our interest:
— Chad Livengood (@ChadLivengood) July 18, 2016
The actual quote, as shown above, had a small caveat — President Obama was “largely silent” on Chicago shootings. But even so, Christie appears to not have been listening to Obama speak about the issue. He’s simply wrong that Obama has been silent on violence in Chicago.
The White House provided 11 examples of Obama specifically referencing gang violence, guns and murders in his home town, including in such high-profile settings at the 2013 State of the Union. Here are a few examples:
Remarks at Hyde Park Academy High School in Chicago, Feb. 15, 2013: “Last year, there were 443 murders with a firearm on the streets of this city, and 65 of those victims were 18 and under. So that’s the equivalent of a Newtown every four months.”
Remarks at the conference of the International Association of Chiefs of Police, Oct. 27, 2015: “If you go to the South Side of Chicago or the West Side of Chicago, and you walk around neighborhoods that now have big problems with violent crime and homicide, and you talk to the folks who have lived there for a long time and they ask you what’s changed … a lot of what they’ll say is, you know, it used to be if a kid or a group of kids was misbehaving, adults could say something to them. And now folks don’t because you don’t know if they’re armed. You don’t know if they’re armed.”
Interview on CNN, Jan. 7, 2016: “I couldn’t be prouder of my city, but where every week there’s a story about a young person getting shot. Some are gang members and it’s turf battles. Sometimes it’s innocent victims. … Sometimes it’s happened just a few blocks from my house, and I live in a reasonably good neighborhood on the South Side of Chicago.”
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