ELYRIA — A man who fought terrorists who attacked the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, in 2012 which left four Americans dead visited Lorain County Community College on Thursday, and he said failures in leadership led to the attacks.
Kris “Tanto” Paranto is a former Army Ranger and private security contractor who was part of the U.S. government’s Global Response Staff that responded to the Sept. 11, 2012, attack in which U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three security contractors died.
Paranto spoke to a large crowd Thursday evening and detailed the 13 hours he and five other security contractors spent in a firefight while defending the consulate. Before the lecture, Paranto spoke to the media about the events, which he said briefly caused him to despise the United States because of the way the attacks were portrayed.
The attack in Benghazi has been a rallying cry for the Republican Party which has criticized the handling of the attack and subsequent explanation of what happened by Democratic presidential candidate and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
Thursday’s event was sponsored by the Lorain County Republican Party, but David Arredondo, vice chairman of the Lorain County Republican Party, said Paranto’s visit wasn’t political in nature.
“This is current news, it is not a political event,” Arredondo said. “This is American history and something that needs to be known by all Americans who are interested in the security and safety of our nation.”
During the press briefing prior to the Thursday lecture, Paranto said what happened in Benghazi, and the lack of leadership that was displayed is a story that needs to be told.
Paranto said numerous requests for additional security leading up to the attacks in Benghazi fell on deaf ears. He said the State Department also contracted with a terrorist organization to act as a protective force and the consulate was about 200 meters away from a terrorist safe house.
Paranto made it clear he has no respect for Clinton. He said Republicans and Democrats alike are waking up to the lies she’s told about the 2012 attack.
Paranto said he won’t endorse Donald Trump for president even though the campaign has asked for his endorsement, but he said he does support Trump as a presidential candidate because Republicans support the military and law enforcement.
“I support Trump over Clinton,” Paranto said. “As far as leadership goes Hillary is not a good person let alone a leader.”
Paranto said that when Stevens arrived in Benghazi, he had very little security. Paranto said he warned those at the consulate that if they got attacked they would die, and he said he repeatedly asked for help during the attack that never arrived.
Paranto scoffed at the idea that a video mocking the prophet Muhammad had anything to do with the attack in Benghazi, an explanation initially given as a motivation for the attack.
There was absolutely no protest activity in Benghazi that day, Paranto said, and it was quiet right up until the consulate was attacked.
“It was a very well-coordinated attack,” Paranto said.
The fight in Benghazi was depicted in the film “13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi” released this year based on the book “13 Hours.”
The movie premiered in January, and it tells the story of how the six American security contractors fought to repel the attackers and protect the Americans stationed there.
Paranto said he served as a consultant on the film, which he described as extremely accurate. However, portions of the film’s accuracy have been questioned by a CIA chief who was in Benghazi, and who Paranto said gave orders to stand down, which caused the six men to lose time in getting to the consulate to defend it.
The chief, known as “Bob” told the Washington Post he never gave orders to stand down.
Paranto said he doesn’t hold the chief accountable for what happened in Benghazi because he was under a lot of stress that night and panicked.
Parnato said the chief, a former Army medic who spent 32 years in the CIA, said what he needed to in order to play ball with the CIA and get rewarded with a better job after retirement.
“There is a reason pride is a deadly sin,” Paranto said. “When you work in the agency and you’re around those people, they have a hard time admitting they’re wrong.”
The headline has been edited to reflect the following correction: Kris Paranto’s criticism of Hillary Clinton came before his speech, in remarks to the media.
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