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Linda Qiu
By Linda Qiu July 21, 2016

Mike Pence's inaccurate claim about Clinton's Benghazi role and response

Indiana Gov. Mike Pence officially accepted the GOP’s nomination for vice president July 21, 2016, in Cleveland, and didn’t miss a beat when it came to assailing Hillary Clinton.

"It was Hillary Clinton who left Americans in harm's way in Benghazi and after four Americans fell said, 'What difference at this point does it make?' " Pence said, eliciting loud boos from the audience.

We’ve heard a version of this attack several times at the Republican National Convention, with some versions more accurate than others.

Both parts of this particular claim are inaccurate. There is no evidence showing Clinton personally "left Americans in harm’s way in Benghazi." And while he’s using Clinton words, he’s misattributing their meaning.

Leaving Americans ‘in harm’s way’

We reached out to the Trump campaign to clarify what Pence meant by Clinton leaving "Americans in harm’s way" but didn’t hear back immediately.

It could refer to her alleged inaction after the attacks in sending troops to the scene. Or, to her allegedly brushing off requests for more security at the Benghazi compound. Or, her "sleeping through" the attacks. No matter, all of these claims are inaccurate -- some more so than others.

Let’s take a look one by one.

Before he officially got the job, Pence knocked Clinton for taking "13 hours to send help to Americans under fire."

We rated that False. Clinton was not responsible for sending help to Benghazi; that fell to military officials. The Defense Department attempted to send help to the scene, but was unable to reach Benghazi before the deaths occurred.

Others have accused Clinton of ignoring requests for more security for the Benghazi consulate. It’s undeniable that officials in Libya repeatedly asked for better security, but there’s no evidence that Clinton herself was aware or that she willfully denied them.

And finally, Pence may have been making his running mate’s point that the Benghazi victims were "left helpless to die as Hillary Clinton soundly slept in her bed."

That’s also False. Clinton was not literally sleeping when the attacks unfolded, as it was mid afternoon in Washington. Emails show she worked late into the night.

Featured Fact-check

Taking Trump’s and Pence’s claim more broadly, was Clinton inattentive as the attacks unfolded?

In its recently released report, the House select committee on Benghazi did conclude that there were State Department and overall administrative failings, but Pence and Trump blamed Clinton specifically.

And neither that probe nor the seven congressional investigations before it have suggested Clinton was personally responsible or could have prevented the attack.

Clinton, for her part, has accepted responsibility for the attack as the head of the State Department at the time.

‘What difference at this point does it make?’

Pence’s claim that she made this oft-repeated comment in response "after four Americans fell" is also inaccurate.

Clinton’s comments, said during a hearing months after the attack, was not an expression of apathy over the deaths.It was an exasperated response to Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., pressing Clinton on why State Department officials in Washington didn’t call their counterparts in Libya to determine the cause of the attack (protests over a video mocking Islam or a planned terrorist attack).

Clinton told Johnson her priority was figuring out how to rescue them, not pressing them for information, and it wasn’t appropriate to talk to the them before FBI interviews. When Johnson continued to press her for a more straightforward answer, Clinton gave her exasperated answer.

"With all due respect, the fact is we had four dead Americans. Was it because of a protest or was it because of guys out for a walk one night who decided that they’d they go kill some Americans? What difference, at this point, does it make?" she said.

(You can read the full six-minute transcript here, courtesy of PolitiFact Wisconsin.)

Our ruling

Pence said, "It was Hillary Clinton who left Americans in harm's way in Benghazi and after four Americans fell said, 'What difference at this point does it make?' "

It’s reasonable to argue that Clinton, as head of the State Department, should shoulder some responsibility for the bureaucratic failures that may have contributed to the tragedy. But there’s no evidence that suggests, as Pence does, that Clinton was personally responsible for or could have prevented the deaths of the four Benghazi victims.

As for Clinton’s comment, it did not come "after four Americans fell," but in a subsequent congressional hearing. She was responding to a senator’s repeated questioning over why she didn’t call department workers in Benghazi to figure out the cause of the attack, not to the fact that four Americans had died.

We rate Pence’s claim Mostly False.

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Mike Pence's inaccurate claim about Clinton's Benghazi role and response

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