Accuracy in Media

When I posted an article on how the news media were blaming Ambassador Chris Stevens for his own death in the Benghazi, Libya scandal early Wednesday morning (January 22), I was basing it on the public record. Liberals like Piers Morgan and MSNBC’s Katty Kay were among a number of journalists who basically blamed Stevens for his own death because AFRICOM General Carter Ham had testified that he offered military support in the form of a security team, twice, and the ambassador refused this help both times.

I cited what two whistleblowers had said to date about this incident. Although details were few, it seemed apparent that the State Department had somehow “leaned” on the ambassador and convinced him to refuse the help. After all, he had been consistent in asking for security support—even from the military.

Now, Deputy Chief of Mission Gregory Hicks has filled in a lot of detail that wasn’t previously available. “Because [Under Secretary Patrick] Kennedy had refused to extend the special forces security mission, State Department protocol required Chris to decline Gen. Ham’s two offers to do so, which were made after Aug. 6,” writes Hicks for The Wall Street Journal (emphasis added). Kennedy’s rationale, according to Hicks, was that “Libyan guards would be hired to take over this responsibility.”

“I have found the reporting of these so-called offers strange, since my recollection of events is that after the Aug. 6 incident, Gen. Ham wanted to withdraw the entire special forces team from Tripoli until they had Libyan government approval of their new mission and the diplomatic immunity necessary to perform their mission safely,” he writes. “However, Chris convinced Gen. Ham to leave six members of the team in Tripoli.” In other words, there could have been no one there to help out at all.

“Because of Mr. Kennedy’s refusal, Chris had to use diplomatic language at the [August 1] video conference [with AFRICOM], such as expressing ‘reservations’ about the transfer of authority,” writes Hicks. Transfer of authority would strip special forces of their diplomatic immunity.

Hicks brings this to its bottom line: “The blame lies entirely with Washington,” not with Stevens. Ambassador Stevens’ hands were tied.

And the fact that Hicks informed the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, but his testimony didn’t make it into the final report, is a blemish on that report. “I explained this sequence of events [to the committee],” he writes. “For some reason, my explanation did not make it into the Senate report.”

Now that it is known why Chris Stevens turned down General Ham’s offers for additional security, will the media report on it? Piers, Katty, do you want to withdraw your blaming-the-victim narrative?

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