In part five of our ongoing fact checking of Donald Trump’s April 27th foreign policy speech we finally get to Benghazi. There is a lot blame to go around on the handling of the Benghazi attacks, but Trump implied that then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton blamed the attacks on a video trailer for Innocence of Muslims by a Florida pastor.
“Clinton blames it all on a video, an excuse that was a total lie, proven to be absolutely a total lie,” Trump states at the 21:20 mark of the above video. “Our ambassador was murdered and our secretary of state misled the nation… It’s almost as if our country doesn’t even know what’s happening, which could be a fact and could be true.”
A trailer for an inflammatory anti-Muslim film titled Innocence of Muslims came out on September 11, 2012 that sparked attacks and protests of US embassies around the world. That was the same day that the Benghazi attacks happened. There were dozens of violent protests around the world on September 11, 2012 and in the days following. Initially, it was thought and reported that the Benghazi attack was triggered by the video as well.
As more evidence came to light, Hillary Clinton was one of the first people to come out and say that the Benghazi attack was different, that it was a “terror attack.” Before President Obama, in fact. At 10pm on September 11, 2012 Clinton released a statement saying “some have sought to justify this vicious behavior as a response to inflammatory material posted on the Internet.” Not exactly a ringing endorsement of the video theory. Only one hour later in an email to her daughter she said she thought the attacks were committed by an “al Queda-like group.” It was ten days later that she publicly said “[w]hat happened in Benghazi was a terrorist attack.”
It is true that initially Secretary Clinton and the Obama administration assumed that the attacks in Benghazi were part of the international uprising against this anti-Muslim trailer. Trump implies that this was done with intent, that the administration knew this to be false, and ran with it anyway. In reality, Clinton and the administration changed their reaction as more reliable information came in. As it became clear that this was an attack planned in advance they quickly abandoned blaming the video. It is disingenuous to say that Clinton intentionally “misled the nation” when that was the best information they had at the time, and updated that information as better facts came to light.