Since 60 Minutes aired its erroneous and now-retracted report on Benghazi more than two weeks ago, conspiracy theorists have taken the opportunity to revive old myths and misinformation in an effort to discredit President Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. The events that happened on September 11, 2012, at the American embassy in Benghazi were indeed a tragedy, yet the right-wing media and their allies in Congress have done everything they can to turn it into a political scandal.
But members of Congress should know better. We should be held to a higher standard. We should operate based on facts, not partisan political agendas. We dishonor the men and women who keep us safe when we use the discredited "facts" presented in the 60 Minutes story to justify holding up presidential nominations and holding Potemkin-like hearings on the incident, which are only designed to embarrass, not to illuminate the facts that were already long-established.
Let's review the facts:
60 Minutes' Benghazi report featured the supposed "eyewitness" account of the attacks from British security contractor Dylan Davies, who appeared on the show under the pseudonym "Morgan Jones."
Davies claimed to have scaled a 12-foot wall at the diplomatic compound and bludgeoned a terrorist with his rifle. In addition, he claimed he saw Ambassador Chris Stevens' dead body in a local hospital later that evening.
The next day, it was disclosed that Davies' previous interactions with Fox News had broken down prior to the 60 Minutes report when he asked for money to tell his story. Then, the Washington Post reported that Davies' account in his book and on CBS differed greatly from an incident report he had filed three days after the attack with his security contractor employer, Blue Mountain, stating that he "could not get anywhere near" the compound on the night of the attack. He claimed to have only found out about Ambassador Stevens' death from a Libyan colleague -- not from finding him in a local hospital.
It's also worth noting that Davies' book was being published by CBS-owned Simon & Schuster, a fact that had not been disclosed, and then, there was the revelation that Davies' account as told to the FBI also contradicted the version of events he told to 60 Minutes and wrote in his book.
In presenting this fictionalized version of events, the 60 Minutes report also revisited the supposed "lingering question" about why U.S. military forces from outside the country were unable to help the embattled diplomatic facilities the night of the attacks.
But we know that military assets were on their way. Shortly after the attack, a Marine anti-terrorist team that was in Spain and special operations teams that were in Croatia and the United States were deployed. Regrettably, the Marines arrived in Libya and the additional special operations teams reached a staging base in Italy after the last Americans had been successfully evacuated from Benghazi. There just wasn't enough time.
Given all this, it's remarkable that even after these explosive revelations about the veracity of the 60 Minutes report, some wish to continue to waste time, energy, and taxpayer dollars to continue this misguided crusade. Just look at the numbers. There have been eight House and Senate committees that have looked into the attack. There have been 18 hearings, including the testimony of former Secretary Clinton. The Obama administration has briefed Members of Congress at least 40 times and conducted a thorough review led by two of our most distinguished public servants: Admiral Mike Mullen and Ambassador Thomas Pickering. And none of this has uncovered a single instance of wrongdoing except by the terrorists who attacked the Benghazi consulate.
It's time for members of Congress to stop exploiting this tragedy for purely partisan political gain. There's no "there" there. We should be focused on honoring the brave Americans who gave their lives in service to their country that night in Benghazi -- not dragging their memories through the political mud in order to score cheap points against the president or his secretary of state in advance of the next election.
Follow Rep. Gerry Connolly on Twitter: www.twitter.com/GerryConnolly