The video begins by claiming Gregory Hicks, the deputy ambassador to Libya, told Secretary of State Clinton on the night of the attack that al Qaeda-linked terrorists were responsible for the violence. The transcript:
VOICEOVER: September 11. Benghazi, Libya. Terrorists linked to al Qaeda kill four Americans, including Ambassador Chris Stevens. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is briefed at 2:00 AM by the Ambassador's deputy that it was, in fact, terrorism.For the moment, let's set aside the question of what the implications of this would be if it were an accurate rendition of the facts—because it's not. The reality is that the focus of the 2:00 AM conversation wasn't whether or not the attackers were terrorists, it was about finding Ambassador Stevens and protecting the Americans still in Benghazi. We now know Stevens was already dead, but at the time, Hicks and his State Department colleagues were still searching for him, a fact that Hicks made clear in the rest of his statement:
HICKS: I briefed her on the developments.
HICKS: I briefed her on developments. Most of the conversation was about the search for Ambassador Stevens. It was also about what we were going to do with our personnel in Benghazi, and I told her that we would need to evacuate, and that was -- she said that was the right thing to do.So while Rove's video claims that Hicks was informing Clinton that that al Qaeda was behind the deaths of Ambassador Stevens and three other Americans, the reality is that neither Hicks nor Clinton yet knew that Stevens was dead. Instead, they were trying to find him—and protect other American personnel.
As you might guess, Rove's first distortion was designed to establish the basis for a second distortion: The claim that Clinton personally blamed Benghazi on an internet video despite knowing that it was actually the work of religious extremists. Follow the below fold to continue exploring Rove's attempted sleight-of-hand.
As with the video's first claim, its second claim depends on an apparently damning quote that turns out not to mean what the video says it means.
VOICEOVER: Yet two days later, Secretary Clinton and others blamed protesters and ...The video editing is seamless between the voiceover and Clinton, making it appear as though she was finishing his sentence, putting an exclamation point on the claim that she blamed a YouTube video for what happened in Benghazi. But, as with the video's first clip, it turns out that this is just another slice and dice editing job, because as the transcript makes clear, Clinton wasn't talking about Benghazi—she was talking about protests out our embassies in Cairo and other places around the world.
CLINTON (9/14/12): ... an awful internet video that we had nothing to do with.
CLINTON (9/14/12): This has been a difficult week for the State Department and for our country. We’ve seen the heavy assault on our post in Benghazi that took the lives of those brave men. We’ve seen rage and violence directed at American embassies over an awful internet video that we had nothing to do with. It is hard for the American people to make sense of that because it is senseless, and it is totally unacceptable.Clinton's comments about the video were clearly referring to protests and violence at our embassies. Not only was Benghazi not an embassy, Clinton referred to the attack there separately, in the preceding sentence.
At this point in the video, Rove has now told two big whoppers. His goal is to convince viewers that Hillary Clinton was blaming America for what happened in Benghazi and that she refused to stand up to religious extremists simply because they were Muslims. But immediately after the attack, Clinton did exactly that, saying:
Violence like this is no way to honor religion or faith. And as long as there are those who would take innocent life in the name of God, the world will never know a true and lasting peace.What could Rove possibly find objectionable in that statement? The answer is obvious—nothing, because he didn't include it in his video. Instead, he took a statement Clinton had made linking the protest in Cairo to an internet video and falsely claimed she was talking about Benghazi.
It is especially difficult that this happened on September 11th. It’s an anniversary that means a great deal to all Americans. Every year on that day, we are reminded that our work is not yet finished, that the job of putting an end to violent extremism and building a safe and stable world continues. But September 11th means even more than that. It is a day on which we remember thousands of American heroes, the bonds that connect all Americans, wherever we are on this Earth, and the values that see us through every storm.
Rove wasn't done with his deceptions, however. After the Clinton clip, his video claimed that Hicks was shocked and angered by what Clinton had said:
VOICEOVER: Deputy Hicks was shocked.Just one problem: Hicks wasn't talking about his reaction to Hillary Clinton. He was describing his reaction to Susan Rice's Sunday talk show comments. This isn't a surprise: After all, Clinton didn't say what Rove claims she said, so how could he have been?
HICKS: I was stunned. My jaw dropped. I was embarrassed.
Rove's video continues:
VOICEOVER: But when Hicks dared to question why Secretary Clinton and others were contradicting the facts he told her, Clinton's Chief of Staff ordered him not to talk to Congress.Again, this is not true. Hicks says he was told not to talk with Congress without a State Department lawyer present—not that he was told he couldn't talk to Congress. After overlooking that crucial piece of information, the video then makes its closing argument:
A 22-year diplomatic veteran, intimidated for daring to blow the whistle—all under Hillary Clinton's watch. How could this happen? Why did she blame a video? Was she part of a cover up?The best thing I can say about the closing argument is that by framing its points as rhetorical questions rather than asserting falsehoods as truth, it falls closer to the category of "bull" than "lie."
Really, the one and only question that is potentially troubling is the question of whether Hicks did face any political repercussions for meeting with Jason Chaffetz without a State Department employee. He says he believes he's been effectively demoted, but the State Department says he hasn't and promised that he won't be. The State Department notes that Hicks asked to end his Libya assignment early and hasn't had his pay reduced by one dime. Hicks, meanwhile, says he still hasn't been reassigned.
It's important to make sure that Hicks is not intimidated for speaking his mind. The fact that he hasn't said anything particularly new or damaging is beside the point. The good news is that he's still employed by the State Department and his salary hasn't been cut one dime. In that respect, he's gotten much better treatment than Shirley Sherrod got after she became the target of a maliciously edited Andrew Breitbart video. But while the administration might not be as trigger happy with Hicks as they were with Sherrod, one thing is clear: If a right-winger puts out a video that's hard to believe, it's pretty damn good bet the video is nothing but lies.