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’13 Hours’ avoids politics, but sure to stir Benghazi controversy

Michael Bay’s “13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi” does not contain any mention of Hillary Clinton. Also not named is President Obama. At times, the movie even goes out of its way to avoid politics, as the director has said that he has no political agenda.

But any movie about Benghazi is bound to still get caught up in the political fray, particularly one that is being released just weeks before voters caucus in Iowa in the official kickoff of the presidential race.

Conservative media for weeks has been abuzz about how the movie may impact Clinton’s presidential hopes, even as her campaign has so far avoided comment.

Last week, Fox News’ Megyn Kelly previewed the movie on “The Kelly File” and interviewed three of the CIA contractors at the center of the movie. Kelly introduced the segment as the “gripping new film that may pose a threat to Hillary Clinton’s hopes for the White House.” She then showed footage from the film.

Sean Hannity interviewed three of the contractors, Mark “Oz” Geist, Kris “Tanto” Paronto and John “Tig” Tiegen, on his radio show and Fox News program.

The movie focuses on the team of security contractors housed at a secret CIA annex in Benghazi, Libya, and how they put their lives on the line to respond to the Sept. 11, 2012, attack on the nearby consulate.

Four Americans, including U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens, were killed, but the events of that evening almost immediately became a lightning rod in the presidential election that year. That has continued into the most recent campaign, in GOP attacks on Clinton’s tenure as Secretary of State, and on Capitol Hill, where a special Benghazi committee queried her in an October hearing that stretched to almost 11 hours.

In the National Review, Stephen Miller wrote that Bay’s “straightforward portrayal of the attack will be as close as pop culture comes to analyzing the failures of the Obama administration and Hillary Clinton that night. Still, the fact that there is any reminder of Benghazi in our popular culture at all is doubtless giving the Clinton campaign major headaches.”

Media Matters for America, the watchdog group that has been critical of Fox News reporting, already has countered the way that the network has covered the movie.

“Interviewing three of the former CIA contractors about the movie based on their book, Kelly sought to revive long-debunked myths about the Obama administration’s efforts to respond to the attack,” Media Matters said.

Paramount premiered the movie in Dallas on Tuesday night at a benefit for veterans in AT&T Stadium and to honor the contractors and those who died in the attacks. Bay told one reporter that the city was “a great place to show it because it is the heartland of America.”

“It’s a powerful movie, and hopefully this gets the word out,” he said.

Paramount Vice Chairman Rob Moore told Variety that they expected about 12,000 to 15,000 people to show up for the event; as it turned out, 32,000 did.

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