Despite a combined eight hours of available air time, NBC's Today, ABC's Good Morning America and CBS This Morning on Friday ignored a bombshell new book claiming that a CIA official delayed a rescue attempt for the 2012 terrorist attack in Benghazi. Instead, the networks devoted 66 minutes to the death of Joan Rivers. Two of the co-authors of 13 Hours, men who were on the ground in Benghazi, appeared on Fox News, Thursday and insisted that the delay was deadly.
Special Report host Bret Baier talked to Kris Paronto and John Tiegen, CIA security operators who told him that a station chief told them to stand down from a rescue attempt for at least 30 minutes. Baier asked point blank: "If I gave you that 30 minutes back, would Ambassador Stevens and Sean Smith be alive today?" Paronto responded, "Yes, they would still be alive." [MP3 audio here.]
Regarding the claim by the Obama administration that an anti-Muslim YouTube video prompted the attack on the compound, the men were dismissive:
BRET BAIER: And I asked about that infamous YouTube video, which was blamed for the violence in Benghazi. And there was no whisper that this video was a major problem in Benghazi.
KRIS PARONTO Didn't know about a video until I got to Germany. No idea about any video, no.
Paronto left no doubt that a delay from higher up was ordered: "It happened that night. That happened. We were told to wait, and stand down. We were delayed three times."
The New York Times, a prominent newspaper that the networks often use as a basis for stories, covered the story on Friday:
In a new book scheduled for release next week and obtained by The New York Times, the commandos say they protested repeatedly as the station chief ordered them to wait in their vehicles, fully armed, for 20 minutes while the attack on the diplomatic mission was unfolding less than a mile away.
“If you guys do not get here, we are going to die!” a diplomatic security agent then shouted to them over the radio, the commandos say in the book, and they left the base in defiance of the chief’s continuing order to “stand down.”
What did the three networks cover instead? Today devoted a whopping 36 minutes and four seconds to the death of Joan Rivers. Good Morning America offered 15 minutes and eight seconds to the comedienne and CBS This Morning featured 15 minutes and three seconds. The grand total is 66 minutes and 25 seconds.
Rivers was famous and her passing is certainly worth comment. But these same shows couldn't spare anytime for the latest on Benghazi.
A transcript of the September 4 Special Report segment is below:
BRET BAIER: Tonight, a dramatic new turn in what the Obama administration and its allies would like to dismiss as an old story, the September 11th, 2012 attacks in Benghazi, Libya, which killed U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans. Speaking out publicly for the first time are three of the men who were on the ground and in the fight that night in Benghazi. They were security operators at the secret CIA annex in Benghazi, in effect the first responders to any attack. This is ahead of their new book 13 hours: The Inside Account of What Really Happened in Benghazi, a book that's out next week. They speak exclusively, and at length to Fox News, about what they saw and how they specifically responded that night. I asked them about one of the most controversial questions arising from Benghazi. Was help delayed?
KRIS PARONTO (co-author of 13 Hours): Five minutes. We're ready. Thumbs up? Thumbs up. We're ready to go.
BAIER: Then what happened?
PARONTO: I said, hey, we're ready to go. Bob looks right through me and looks at the team leader and goes, "you guys need to wait."
BAIER: Bob was the CIA's base chief in Benghazi.
PARONTO: He's on the phone talking to somebody. I assumed they were trying to coordinate us to link up with 17 February which is the local militia.
JOHN TIEGEN (co-author of 13 Hours): It had probably been 15 minutes and I got out of the car with Bob and the team leader was standing on the front porch. I said, "hey, we need to get over there. We're losing the initiative." You know? And Bob just looked straight at me and said stand down, you need to wait.
PARONTO: We're starting to get calls from the State Department saying, "we're taking fire. We need you guys here. We need help."
BAIER: After being repeatedly told to wait, the security team says they defied orders and headed to the besieged consulate on their own. They asked repeatedly for armed air support, which never came. Looking back, the team believes that if they hadn't been delayed for nearly half an hour, things might have turned out differently. If I gave you that 30 minutes back, would Ambassador Stevens and Sean Smith be alive today?
PARONTO: Yes, they would still be alive.
BAIER: You in on that?
TIEGEN: I strongly believe if we would have left immediately, they would still be alive today.
BAIER: And I asked about that infamous YouTube video, which was blamed for the violence in Benghazi. And there was no whisper that this video was a major problem in Benghazi.
PARONTO Didn't know about a video until I got to Germany. No idea about any video, no.
BAIER: in a statement to Fox News, a senior intelligence official insists that, quote, "there were no orders to anybody to stand down in providing support." They used the word stand down. A number of people now, including the House Intelligence Committee, they insist no one was hindered from responding to the situation at the compound. The committee's wording was, quote, "there was no stand down order given to American personnel attempting to offer assistance that evening." So what do you say to that?
TIEGEN: It happened.
PARONTO: It happened, on the ground. I can talk about what happened on the ground that night.
BAIER: To you?
PARONTO: To us, to myself twice, and to Tig once. It happened that night. That happened. We were told to wait, and stand down. We were delayed three times.
BAIER: In a statement to Fox News, however, a senior intelligence official does allow that the security team was in fact delayed from responding, while the CIA's top officer in Benghazi tried to rally local support. The official points to the Senate intelligence committee report that stated the committee found, quote, "No evidence of intentional delay or obstruction by the chief of base or any other party."