Patricia Smith, mother of Sean Smith, one of the four men killed in Benghazi in 2012, said during her Republican National Convention speech last night that she blames Hillary Clinton for the death of her son.
“For all of this loss, for all of this grief, for all of the tragedy Benghazi has wrought upon America, I blame Hillary Clinton,” she said. “I blame Hillary Clinton for the death of my son.”
Expect to see these quotes in a campaign ad near you:
“I blame Hillary Clinton. I blame Hillary Clinton personally for the death of my son — personally.”
“Sean is my son. Hillary Clinton is a woman, a mother and a grandmother of two. I am a woman, a mother and a grandmother of two. How could she do this to me? How could she do this to any American family?”
“If Hillary Clinton can’t give us the truth, why should we give her the presidency? That’s right: Hillary in prison. She deserves to be in stripes.”
None of these comments are surprising from Smith. During occasional interviews on cable news, she has said Clinton lied to her and blamed President Barack Obama for her son, Sean’s, death in Benghazi. She has also said the her son warned her on the eve of his death that security was insufficient at the U.S. compound in Benghazi — an allegation that has been the subject of investigations and congressional hearings.
But this was a whole new stage. And Smith had the audience rapt. Cameras cutting to delegates on the floor found plenty wiping away tears or on the verge of crying.
The decision to start the convention with Smith was clearly a calculated one. At a convention in which the storyline could very much be about how Republicans aren’t united behind Donald Trump; the big early moment was all about Clinton.
Smith hasn’t had that kind of audience before, and some in the media were quick to differ with her account of her son’s death. NBC’s Richard Engel, for instance, offered this:
“To hear this grieving mother — and you could only sympathize with her grief — to lay the blame directly at Hillary Clinton, saying that Hillary was responsible for her son’s death — personally responsible — it doesn’t correspond with the facts as I know them and as I’ve read them in subsequent investigations. And it does seem to be a manipulation of someone’s grief and going to a very dark place.”
As Engel notes, though, Smith is in a unique position to go after Clinton, and the delegates’ reaction to her speech on Monday night showed the potential they have for being used against Clinton and getting Republicans motivated. Engel suggests she’s being manipulated, but questioning her emotional account is a tricky thing to do — both for the media or for the Clinton campaign.