The Fox News-Tom Ricks saga has reached new heights after the network claimed the veteran reporter apologized for saying Fox is “operating as a wing of the Republican Party.”
Ricks, a former Wall Street Journal and Washington Post reporter, told the Hollywood Reporter that he never apologized to Fox News over his Monday appearance, during which he accused the network of hyping the Benghazi attack and called Fox a “wing of the Republican party.”
"Please ask [Fox News executive Michael] Clemente what the words of my supposed apology were. I'd be interested to know," Ricks said in an email to the Reporter. "Frankly, I don't remember any such apology."
Clemente then sent a statement to the news outlet saying he was shocked that Ricks publicly claimed he didn’t offer an apology for his on-air behavior.
"I'm surprised by the General’s utter dishonesty. I'll refresh his memory -- what he said following the segment was 'Sorry ... I’m tired from a nonstop book tour.' Perhaps now he can finally get some rest,” Clemente told the Reporter.
Ricks’ response came after Clemente said the reporter and author of “The Generals: American Military Command From World War II to Today” made a private mea culpa.
"He apologized in our offices afterward but doesn’t have the strength of character to do that publicly,” Clemente said.
The hubbub started after Ricks appeared on Fox News for a segment on the Sept. 11 attack on the American consulate in Benghazi, Libya, that killed U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens.
Ricks, who wrote “Fiasco,” which was critical of the second Iraq War, was interviewed by Fox News on Monday. He was asked what he thought of U.S. Sen. John McCain backing away from saying he would block the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Susan Rice, from being nominated for secretary of state.
Rice has been scrutinized by conservatives over her handling of the aftermath of the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi. Rice has been accused of stating talking points on the Sunday morning talk shows that immediately followed the attack that indicated it was spurred by spontaneous protests against the anti-Islam film “Innocence of Muslims.” Intelligence later showed that the movie was not the cause of the attack and that it was not spontaneous, and some Republicans claim Rice had been deliberately misinforming the American people.
Ricks, 57, said Fox News participated in hyping the controversy.
“I think that Benghazi generally was hyped by this network officially,” Ricks told Fox News anchor Jon Scott. “And now that the election is over, I think [McCain is] backing off of it. They’re not going to stop Susan Rice from being secretary of state.
The Fox News anchors challenged Ricks’ assertion that the Benghazi attack was overhyped.
“How many security contractors died in Iraq. Do you know?” Ricks countered, and the anchor said he didn’t. “No, nobody knows, because nobody cared.”
“So when I see this focus on what was essentially a small firefight ... I’ve covered a lot of firefights. It’s impossible to figure out what happens in them sometimes,” Ricks continued.
The former Wall Street Journal and Washington Post reporter then ripped into Fox News.
“I think that the emphasis on Benghazi has been extremely political, probably because Fox was operating as a wing of the Republican Party.”
Scott then quickly thanked Ricks for appearing on the network and quickly turned the segment over to a co-anchor.