Monday, January 22, 2018
Politics

PolitiFact: Fact-checking claims about Benghazi attacks

House Republicans held hearings last week on the 2012 attacks on a diplomatic outpost in Benghazi, Libya. That has renewed a war of words between members of Congress and President Barack Obama.

Here's the history: Diplomatic workers staffed a temporary residential outpost in the Libyan city after the death of dictator Moammar Gadhafi. On a night the U.S. ambassador was visiting from the capital in Tripoli, armed Islamic terrorists attacked, setting a toxic diesel-fueled fire that killed the ambassador and a colleague. Americans then drove, chased by attackers, to a nearby annex, where a mortar attack in the morning killed two security contractors. By noon, hasty scrambling by the American and Libyan governments got U.S. workers to safety in Tripoli, along with their four dead comrades.

That "annex" was a compound used by the CIA. So, while we've seen unclassified reports from a State Department accountability review board, a Senate committee and some House Republicans, and watched the testimony before Rep. Darrell Issa's House committee last week, there's a layer of secrecy that daunts diplomats and lawmakers alike.

We've fact-checked several new claims this week.

On May 6, Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, told Fox News that more could have been done that night: "We had people that were getting killed. We had people who are willing to risk their lives to go save them, and somebody told them to stand down." Chaffetz said the order was "as sickening and depressing and disgusting as anything I have seen." But the order to keep special forces in Tripoli came after the deaths in Benghazi had already occurred. The mortar attack was over at that point. We rated his statement False.

On May 10, Obama's press secretary, Jay Carney, defended the administration against renewed charges that United Nations Ambassador Susan Rice had downplayed the possibility that extremists were involved in the attacks soon after they happened.

"Susan Rice, when she went out on the Sunday shows using the very talking points that we're discussing now, talked about the possibility that we knew that, or believed based on the intelligence assessment, that extremists were involved. … Ambassador Rice, in those shows, talked about the possibility that al-Qaida might be involved, or other al-Qaida affiliates might be involved, or non-al-Qaida Libyan extremists (might be involved), which I think demonstrates that there was no effort to play that down."

We pulled Rice's comments and found that Carney's recollection was not accurate. We found that Rice barely mentioned the potential role of al-Qaida or one of its affiliates, and she urged caution about jumping to conclusions on the one occasion in which she did. We rated Carney's comment Mostly False.

Then on Monday, Obama said that the facts behind the attacks had been thoroughly investigated by an independent review board. "Over the last several months, there was a review board headed by two distinguished Americans, Mike Mullen and Tom Pickering, who investigated every element of" the Benghazi incident, he said.

Actually, the review board did not look at every element of the incident. It looked at most of the security matters involved, but it didn't look at who conducted the attacks or at the administration's public comments in the days following. We rated Obama's statement Mostly False.

Finally, we'll look back to a claim made during a debate in last year's presidential campaign. Republican candidate Mitt Romney charged that Obama waited two weeks to call the attack in Libya "terror." We found that Obama did use the word "terror," but that it still took many days for the administration to fully characterize the attack as the work of a terrorist group. We rated the claim Half True.

Comments
Congressman combating harassment used public money on own case

Congressman combating harassment used public money on own case

WASHINGTON — Rep. Patrick Meehan, R-Pa., who has taken a leading role in fighting sexual harassment in Congress, used thousands of dollars in taxpayer money to settle his own misconduct complaint after a former aide accused him last year of making un...
Published: 01/20/18
The longer the shutdown lasts, the further the economic ripples will spread

The longer the shutdown lasts, the further the economic ripples will spread

The early days of the federal government shutdown won’t slow the U.S. economy much. No workers are missing paychecks yet, and because it is a weekend, few businesses expect to feel the effects of lost customers or suppliers.That could change, quickly...
Published: 01/20/18
Romano: If UCF is national champion, then I’m a Hollywood stud

Romano: If UCF is national champion, then I’m a Hollywood stud

Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan famously said people were entitled to their own opinions, but not their own facts.Clearly, Moynihan never dealt with Florida legislators.Because around Tallahassee, facts are fungible. They aren’t just up for debate, they...
Published: 01/19/18
Updated: 01/20/18
U.S. government shuts down; Democrats, GOP blame each other

U.S. government shuts down; Democrats, GOP blame each other

WASHINGTON — The federal government shut down at the stroke of midnight Friday, halting all but the most essential operations and marring the one-year anniversary of President Donald Trump’s inauguration in a striking display of Washington dysfunctio...
Published: 01/19/18
Updated: 01/20/18
Battle lines already forming for Menendez corruption retrial

Battle lines already forming for Menendez corruption retrial

NEWARK, N.J. — U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez might spend 2018 asking voters to re-elect him and jurors to acquit him. Prosecutors from the Department of Justice told a federal judge in New Jersey on Friday that they will seek a retrial of the Democratic sen...
Published: 01/19/18
Congress likely racing toward a government shutdown

Congress likely racing toward a government shutdown

WASHINGTON — A bitterly-divided Congress hurtled toward a government shutdown this weekend in a partisan stare-down over demands by Democrats for a solution on politically fraught legislation to protect about 700,000 younger immigrants from being dep...
Published: 01/19/18
Clearwater City Council candidate John Funk: City needs better planning

Clearwater City Council candidate John Funk: City needs better planning

CLEARWATER — Voters may not be too familiar with the name John Funk.So since launching his campaign for City Council Seat 5 against well-known incumbent Hoyt Hamilton, Funk said he has knocked on 2,000 doors to introduce himself. Before the March 13 ...
Published: 01/19/18
Clearwater City Council candidate Hoyt Hamilton: Experience is key for critical next term

Clearwater City Council candidate Hoyt Hamilton: Experience is key for critical next term

CLEARWATER — By asking voters to elect him into office a fifth time, Hoyt Hamilton knows he’s now considered part of the old-guard. Born and raised in Clearwater, his family roots stretch back here more than 100 years. Hamilton, 59, spent nearly his ...
Published: 01/19/18

Q&A: Government shutdown looms. Here’s what you need to know

Lawmakers have until midnight tonight to pass legislation to avert a government shutdown.Here’s what that means. Why would the government shut down?Every year, Congress has to approve laws, known as appropriations, that provide money for federal agen...
Published: 01/18/18
Redington Shores mayor, commission positions filled with no opponents

Redington Shores mayor, commission positions filled with no opponents

REDINGTON SHORES — There will be no election this year, but the changeout of commission members that began last year will continue. When the new commission is sworn in this March, four of five members, including the mayor, will have changed within th...
Published: 01/18/18