The father of a former Navy SEAL killed in the Sept. 11 terrorist attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, says he learned the details of his son’s bravery not from the Obama administration, but in an email from an American whose life was saved by his son.
Tyrone Woods, 41, was found “slumped over his machine gun, which was caked with blood,” Charles Woods, the former SEAL’s father, said during a telephone interview from his home in Hawaii.
“He had continued to fire until he had no blood left and was unable to fire anymore,” Mr. Woods said.
He did not identify the email’s sender but said he later spoke with the person who “told me how Ty died.”
Washington politics has largely shifted attention from what actually happened nearly three months ago in the Benghazi attack, in which U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens, former SEAL Glen Doherty and State Department officer Sean Smith also were slain.
Republicans have accused the Obama administration of attributing the attack to spontaneous protests over a U.S.-made anti-Islam video, and not terrorists, in order to maintain the president’s foreign policy image before Election Day.
The White House and congressional Democrats have accused Republicans of exploiting the situation for political gain.
For family members such as Mr. Woods, the need to know what occurred in Benghazi is as real today as it was the moment they learned that their loved ones had perished.
Some are angry at the Obama administration, and even the most politically neutral among them say they are dispirited by the way the incident has been spun by Democrats, Republicans and news media.
‘Deserve far better’
“The frustration is that all of the energy is focused on who to blame within our own government,” said Kate Quigley, sister of Glen Doherty, who was 42 when he died in Benghazi.
“There’s been so much finger-pointing back and forth, and somebody like Glen was completely bipartisan in his job. What he did was try to save American lives, whether he was protecting Republicans or Democrats, that did not matter,” Mrs. Quigley said in a telephone interview from her home in Marblehead, Mass.
“As a family, we decided early on not to get involved in the politics of it,” Mrs. Quigley said. “We’re not looking to lay blame at the hands of the U.S. government. When it comes to blame, in our eyes, we’re fully putting that on the shoulders of the terrorists who planned and executed the attack.
“If Glen were here, he’d be the first one to reach across party lines and redirect the attention to where it needs to go, which is stopping these individuals and making sure all of our consulates and embassies are safe,” she said.
Mrs. Quigley said her family is frustrated with how “the press continues to refer to the individuals of the attack as four dead Americans, without really looking at who these individuals are.”
“My brother gave 17 years of service, with 10 as a Navy SEAL. He and the others deserve far better than to be referred to that way,” she said, adding that if the public and the media really want to know who her brother was, they should visit, www.glendohertyfoundation.org, the website of a foundation that the family established in his name.
Her comments echo those of Stevens’ father, who spoke to a reporter in mid-October as the Benghazi incident was becoming an increasingly heated political battle between President Obama and Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney.
“It would really be abhorrent to make this into a campaign issue,” Jan Stevens, 77, told Bloomberg News, adding that politicians should await the findings of a formal investigation before making accusations or judgments.
A detailed account
Other family members have been far less tempered in their remarks.
Some have voiced anger toward the Obama administration, accusing the White House of not taking their losses seriously, hiding information from them and even attempting to steer media attention from the details of the attack to dim the spotlight on any administration wrongdoing.
Appearing on CNN’s “Anderson Cooper 360” on Oct. 10, Pat Smith, the mother of Sean Smith, who was 35 when he died in Benghazi, said top administration officials paid her a lot of lip service but never revealed to her the details of her son’s last hours.
“I told them, ‘Please, don’t give me any baloney that comes through with this political stuff. I don’t want political stuff. You can keep your political. Just tell me the truth, what happened?’” Mrs. Smith said during the broadcast, adding that at that time — a month after the attack — she still did not know how her son was killed.
“Today, I just heard something more that he died of smoke inhalation,” she said. “I don’t even know if that’s true or not.”
Mrs. Smith also said Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta “actually took my face in his hands and he said, ‘Trust me, I will tell you what happened.’ And so far, he’s told me nothing. Nothing at all. And I want to know.”
Attempts to reach Mrs. Smith were unsuccessful.
Mr. Woods, meanwhile, has gone perhaps furthest in raising questions about how the administration responded to the Benghazi attack.
He told The Washington Times that the person who contacted him about the attack explained in detail how his son’s death was preceded by a series of mortar rounds.
“The first one was well short of the building, the second and third landed in front of the building, and the fourth one went up and landed on the roof,” Mr. Woods said. “That’s what killed Ty.”
The round slammed into the roof where the former SEAL was positioned, and “I was told that if it had been a heavier round, it would have gone through the roof and exploded inside the building where 30 or so Americans were being protected by Ty and by Glen,” he said.
Noting that Tyrone Woods left behind “a newborn baby and a beautiful wife,” Mr. Woods said his son was “a hero who was willing to sacrifice his life.”
Mr. Woods repeated assertions that he has made to other news organizations during recent weeks — that the White House is involved in a “100 percent cover-up” because “no effort whatsoever was made to rescue” his son and the other Americans who were killed.