The situation quickly got heated on the set of “Fox & Friends” this morning when Geraldo Rivera clashed with the show’s hosts over details surrounding the Benghazi terror attack. At the center of the debate was Rivera’s contention that the government was not watching the attack on the U.S. consulate in real time.
Rivera argued that drones didn’t arrive at the scene until two and a half hours after the attack commenced, and suggested that the attack couldn’t have been viewed in real-time. (The attack, though, was seven hours long, potentially giving plenty of time for the drones to catch the attack).
“This is preposterous — this notion that the Pentagon was monitoring this in real time,” Rivera said, with “Fox & Friends” host Steve Doocy countering that the State Department was, indeed, monitoring as the situation unfolded.
“People, stop. Stop this right now with this whole notion of live TV, and why didn’t we respond. It is not what happened,” Rivera continued.
“I think we have to stop this politicizing,” he said. “We’re getting away from the real issue. Why wasn’t there security before this happened?”
The television personality argued that there is no definitive evidence for the “reckless allegations” that drones observed violence occurring as it unfolded. He also said that there are other more pertinent issues to explore, including whether, prior to the attack, Congress was willing to give funds to bolster security in Libya.
“We should know that drones weren’t overheard in watching this in real time,” Rivera again proclaimed later on in the discussion.
Watch the clash, below:
While the reporter dismissed the notion that the battle was being viewed live by officials as it progressed, an October 20 report from CBS News claims that a portion of it was, indeed, seen by officials. In fact, according to the network, “hours after the attack began, an unmanned Predator drone was sent over the U.S. mission in Benghazi, and that the drone and other reconnaissance aircraft apparently observed the final hours of the protracted battle.”
Rivera’s contention that the attack wasn’t viewed live, at least when juxtaposed against CBS’s claims, is questionable. That said, both Rivera and CBS seem to corroborate the notion that drones didn’t arrive until hours after the militant attack began. Another report from the outlet published on Thursday provided additional details on the drone operations over Benghazi on September 11:
Two and a half hours after the attack began, an unarmed predator drone was diverted from a surveillance mission over another part of Libya to the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi.
That, plus a second unarmed drone dispatched four hours and 15 minutes later, were the only U.S. military forces sent to the scene of the attack. Commandos were dispatched from Europe to an air field in Sigonella, Sicily, but by the time they got there the attack in Benghazi was over.
While some, like Rivera, view the continued focus on drones and other related issues as merely political, others — particularly Republican lawmakers — believe it is essential that all of the details surrounding the attack are explored.
In terms of the military response, there are many questions still worth asking. In the October 20 report, CBS continued, providing more on the military response:
The State Department, White House and Pentagon declined to say what military options were available. A White House official told CBS News that, at the start of the attack, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Martin Dempsey and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta “looked at available options, and the ones we exercised had our military forces arrive in less than 24 hours, well ahead of timelines laid out in established policies.”
But it was too late to help the Americans in Benghazi. The ambassador and three others were dead.
A White House official told CBS News that a “small group of reinforcements” was sent from Tripoli to Benghazi, but declined to say how many or what time they arrived.
As for Rivera’s view, not everyone agrees. Retired CIA officer Gary Berntsen said that he believes help could have arrived sooner — and he also accused the government of needlessly standing by and watching the atrocities unfold.
“You find a way to make this happen. There isn’t a plan for every single engagement. Sometimes you have to be able to make adjustments,” he said. “They made zero adjustments in this. They stood and they watched and our people died.”
Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, though, has defended the military and claimed that taking direct ground action would have been too confusing at the time. Because of the convoluted nature of the situation on the ground, he said that deploying troops there without having real-time information would have been too hazardous.