When Washington Post fact-checker Glen Kessler awarded Marco Rubio 'Two Pinocchios' for his CNBC debate assessment that the recent Benghazi hearings had exposed Hillary Clinton as a liar, he rooted his conclusion --partially, at least -- in two factors. First, he argued that although it's legitimate to point out Hillary's conflicting statements about the attacks, jumping to "lie" requires a higher standard of proof. Given the alleged "fog of war" that hung over the deadly event, Kessler said, it's unfair and uncharitable to accuse Clinton of outright lying. Second, he cited a statement from Clinton's campaign flat-out denying that the former Secretary of State had ever fingered the irrelevant online film as the cause of the attack: "Josh Schwerin, a Clinton spokesman, said, 'Rubio’s statement that she ever said the video was the cause is false,'" Kessler wrote, after acknowledging that family members of the victims have accused Clinton of doing precisely that, several days after the raid. The families' assertions "give us pause," he conceded, before determining that they did not amount to sufficient proof of a Clinton lie. Let's set aside for a moment the larger question of whether Hillary deliberately lied about the nature of the Benghazi attacks. Let's focus instead on her campaign's assertion that she never blamed the video for causing the attack. Family members of three different Americans murdered on that hellish night have strikingly similar recollections of what Mrs. Clinton told them at Andrews Air Force Base on September 14, 2012 (via Leigh Wolf, Townhall's new video guru):
Tyrone Woods' father (who took notes about their meeting): "I gave Hillary a hug and shook her hand. And she said we are going to have the film maker arrested who was responsible for the death of my son...'She said -- the filmmaker who was responsible for the death of your son'..."
Sean Smith's mother: "She's absolutely lying. She told me something entirely different at the casket ceremony. She said it was because of the video."
Sean Smith's uncle: "Mrs. Clinton really has a problem embracing the truth."
Glen Doherty's sister: "When I think back now to that day and what she knew, it shows me a lot about her character that she would choose in that moment to basically perpetuate what she knew was untrue."
Also keep in mind that Clinton invoked the video in her public remarks that day, though she didn't link it directly to Benghazi. "We’ve seen rage and violence directed at American embassies over an awful Internet video that we had nothing to do with," she said. Questions: Would Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign have us believe that all of these people are lying? And for what reason were these remarkably consistent memories deemed less compelling or convincing than a rote denial issued by a notably scandal-plagued candidate for public office? Clinton's potential motive for seeking to mold the historical record is plainly obvious. What motive do the four people quoted above share that would compel them to concoct an untrue story? Perhaps they loathe Mrs. Clinton so much that they're willing to coordinate a slander -- connected to their loved ones' deaths, mind you -- that paints her in a negative light. Or perhaps the Clinton campaign is engaged in politically-motivated distortions. Which explanation sounds more plausible? As Mark Hemingway writes in his detailed response to Kessler's analysis, the gap between the relatives' public comments and the campaign's denial, "seems like a pretty good indicator that Clinton and her campaign aren't inclined to be honest here." Indeed. As for the broader issue of whether Hillary Clinton intentionally lied about Benghazi, the recent hearings revealed two messages she sent on September 11th and 12th, several days before family members of the deceased say she attributed the attack to the video. The first was an email sent to her daughter, informing her that Americans had been killed in a terrorist attack perpetrated "by Al Queda-like group.” The second, a message sent to a high-ranking Egyptian official, was very specific on several crucial points:
Stood in front of 4 flag draped coffins and blamed YouTube pic.twitter.com/NoUZhytQTN— Stephen Miller (@redsteeze) October 22, 2015
"We know that the lack in Libya had nothing to do with the film. It was a planned attack -- not a protest." Emphasis mine. This is neither ambiguous nor colored by the "fog of war." It was a real-time conclusion bolstered by multiple American officials' subsequent statements and sworn testimony: "The former acting CIA chief said the video protest fable did not originate from the intelligence community. David Petraeus testified that the US government knew Benghazi was a premeditated attack 'almost immediately.' State Department documents confirm this. And Amb. Chris Stevens' second-in-command testified that the obscure online film was a 'non event' on the ground in Libya." Yet on September 14, a top White House aide circulated a messaging memo underscoring the political importance of casting the violent events as "rooted in an Internet video, and not a broader failure of policy." That same day, Hillary blamed that very "non event" video for the bloodshed, according to multiple grieving family members present at the time. And on September 15, Susan Rice also directly tied the "non event" video to the Benghazi attacks on national television -- all against the backdrop of a heated presidential campaign in which Clinton and Rice's boss was running for re-election, striking a triumphal tone on terrorism. Apply Occam's Razor. What happened here?