Texas’ lieutenant governor on Monday called for President Barack Obama to be impeached over last year’s tragedy in Benghazi, citing debunked theories about just what happened that night.
Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst (R) is currently running for reelection, faced with three conservative challengers in the pending GOP primary. At a Tea Party candidates forum on Monday, Dewhurst sought to surpass his challengers, stating that he believes that President Obama should be served with articles of impeachment. Part of the reason that Dewhurst thinks that Obama is no longer fit to serve in office? The deaths of four American citizens, including Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens, in Benghazi, Libya last year and what he sees as White House inaction during the night of the attack.
“This election is about protecting you and your freedoms, which are given to you by God, but which are being trampled on by Barack Obama right now. I don’t know about you, but Barack Obama ought to be impeached,” Dewhurst told the crowd, according to the Texas Observer. “Not only for trampling on our liberties, but what he did in Benghazi is just a crime.”
Dewhurst, holder of the second-highest office in the state, expanded on his comments to the Observer after the forum ended. “I am very concerned about Benghazi, in which all of the national news reporting indicated that live video was streaming into the White House situation room,” Dewhurst said. “Which means there was a(n) overhead platform, probably a drone in the area. At least that’s what it tells me.”
The idea that Obama and members of his national security team were watching a live video the night of the attack has some small elements of truth at its core. In the weeks after the attack, media reports spoke of an unarmed drone being rerouted to fly over Benghazi to survey the area. State Department official Charlene Lamb also noted while testifying before Congress that Foggy Bottom was getting updates ”almost in real time.” This was referring to speaking with people on the ground via telephone, however, not watching a video feed.
That in turn mutated and has taken on life of its own as a conservative meme, one that says that the White House was watching a live video of the attack as it happened. The administration has denied this on the record multiple times. “No one at the White House watched live footage of the Benghazi attacks from the situation room or anywhere else in the White House,” then-White House spokesperson Tommy Vietor told Washington Post’s Erik Wemple in November. The State Department likewise confirmed to Wemple that nobody from their offices was watching live footage either.
That’s not the only debunked Benghazi claim that Dewhurst believes should get Obama kicked out of the White House. “And for not mobilizing some response to protect the ambassador and those three Americans is just outrageous to me.” he continued. “Just outrageous.”
Obama or someone in the chain of command purposefully denying permission for the armed forces to rescue Stevens and the other Benghazi victims is a conspiracy theory that has proven its longevity. Former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey have both testified to Congress that military assets were not within range to make a difference during the Benghazi attacks. Forces were mobilized from within Europe, but did not arrive to Libya until after the attacks had concluded.
Dewhurst contended that his statements were not meant to be taken as the views of his office, but of himself personally. “I’m a private citizen, and that happens to be my view,” he said. “The man has committed crimes that do not warrant his staying in office.” Whether public or privately held views, Dewhurst’s belief that Benghazi is the subject of a massive cover-up or crime on the part of the Obama administration is one that has fizzled among the public in the year since the attack. Even a rally in DC that was meant to draw thousands in protest on the one-year anniversary was instead only sparsely attended by a few dozen conspiracy theorists.
Dewhurst ran as a moderate Republican last year in the primary to succeed Kay Bailey Hutchinson, a race that he lost to current senatorial gadfly Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX). The Houston Chronicle endorsed Cruz over the lieutenant governor, but in revoking their endorsement on Wednesday, they noted that Dewhurst did not take his loss well. “Since the defeat, the lieutenant governor has attempted a full-blown political makeover designed to make him the darling of the conservative wing of the Texas party,” the paper notes. “Faced with the impossible task of outflanking three strong conservative challengers, the traditional moderate Dewhurst does not seem like a man comfortable in his own skin. It’s painful to watch.”