Benghazi Consulate Attack
Within 24 hours of the consulate attack, news agencies began connecting Ansar al-Sharia to the assault. The BBC was one of the first networks to make the connection, stating on September 12, 2012, that Ansar al Sharia “took advantage of a demonstration against a trailer for a controversial American film.”Robin Banerji, “Did Ansar Al-Sharia Carry out Libya Attack?,” BBC News, September 12, 2012, http://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-19575753. This was the first time the militant group received widespread global media attention.
American media coverage focused on the attack resulting from spontaneous protests against the controversial film “Innocence of Muslims.” In a November 2012 study by George Mason University’s Center for Media and Public Affairs, researchers concluded that major U.S. news agencies portrayed the attack as a spontaneous protest four times as often as the attack was framed as a premeditated terrorist attack. The researchers posited that this was due to the Obama administration’s initial characterization of the attack arising from the spontaneous escalation of the protests.Stephen Dinan, “Study: Media Accepted Obama Version of Benghazi Attack,” Washington Times, November 2, 2012, http://www.washingtontimes.com/blog/inside-politics/2012/nov/2/study-media-accepted-obama-version-benghazi-attack/. In a September 2012 article, NPR appeared to adopt this view. In an interview with ASL leader Mohamed al-Zahawi, in which he denies any ASL ties to the consulate attack and al-Qaeda, NPR portrays ASL as an unpopular but an almost necessary force to keep peace and stability in the country following the civil war. The report asserted that it was unlikely that ASL was connected to the consulate attack because, as NPR explained, the group was “not interested in provoking the West right now.” The report ends with the outlet paraphrasing ASL leaders who say that U.S. should not intervene, since any retaliation would backfire and threaten “this fragile transitional nation.”Leila Fadel, “Libyan Group Denies Role In U.S. Consulate Attack,” NPR, September 20, 2012, http://www.npr.org/2012/09/20/161459963/libyan-group-denies-role-in-u-s-consulate-attack.
Fox News was critical of the Obama administration in the aftermath of the attacks. The network focused on what they saw as inaction on the part of the government, both in lack of response and in lack of investigation. Fox was most critical of the U.S. government's hesitation in characterizing the assault on the consulate as a “terrorist attack.”Michael Calderone, “Fox News Aired Nearly 1,100 Benghazi Segments Across 5 Programs, Study Finds,” Huffington Post, September 16, 2014, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/09/16/fox-news-benghazi-media-matters-study_n_5824878.html.