Fox News contributor John Bolton delivered a devastating blow to the right-wing scandal mongering over Benghazi when he acknowledged that it was impossible to know at the exact moment of the September 2012 terrorist attack whether it was appropriate to shift security resources away from the U.S. Embassy in Tripoli.
A key aspect of the right's conspiracy theory posits that an Obama administration official refused to send reinforcements to the Benghazi diplomatic outpost to defend Americans under sustained attack by terrorists. It's been amply established at this point that a team of reinforcements was dispatched from Tripoli, where the main embassy is located, to Benghazi, some 400 miles away, after the attacks began. That security team arrived after a first attack ended, the attack that ended in the death of the U.S. ambassador to Libya, but before a second attack began.
Bolton, appearing on the May 8 edition of Fox News' Happening Now, took issue with the decision not to send a second reinforcement team to Benghazi -- a central component of hyper-partisan congressional hearings underway this week. Critics of the administration have pointed to that decision as evidence that it abandoned Americans who were under attack. But the additional reinforcements would not have been able to get to the Benghazi compound before the second attack was concluded. Here's Bolton's response:
"When the attack began, no one could know when it would end. No one could know what the geographical limitation was. Was it simply an attack in Benghazi? Could terrorists be poised to attack the embassy in Tripoli? Were other posts around the Middle East in jeopardy? So the notion that you're just going to sit and wait for this to work itself out left a lot of other people at risk."
But it's precisely the fact that it was unclear that the embassy in Tripoli was safe that informed the decision over whether to send a second reinforcement team away from the embassy. NBC News reported that Department of Defense officials confirmed that a second unit was denied authorization to leave Tripoli for Benghazi during the night of the attack, in part because the security situation in Libya remained unclear:
"U.S. military officials confirmed late Monday that a four-man Special Operations Forces team was denied permission to leave the US Embassy in Tripoli following reports that the consulate in Benghazi had been attacked.
"The officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the team was reviewing security at U.S. embassies throughout the Middle East and was not prepared for a combat assault mission, being armed with only 9mm sidearms.
"They also noted that the situation at Benghazi remained unclear and there were concerns the Embassy in Tripoli also could become a target."
Bolton's seemingly accidental acknowledgement should put an end to the campaign -- enabled and encouraged at every step by Fox News -- to drum up a scandal of Watergate-sized proportions.
*Jeremy Holden is Director of Research at Media Matters.