Benghazi Whistle Blower Demoted for Bad Management, Not Whistle Blowing?

ThinkProgress' Hayes Brown reports that, contrary to his claim that he was demoted for speaking up on the Benghazi attacks, Gregory Hicks was instead demoted for being a bad manager.

ThinkProgress’ Hayes Brown reports that, contrary to his claim that he was demoted for speaking up on the Benghazi attacks, Gregory Hicks was instead demoted for being a bad manager.

ThinkProgress has talked to staffers based in Libya who counter Hicks’ portrayal of both his own performance and the State Department’s alleged response to him speaking out. A meeting between Acting Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Beth Jones and Hicks took place in Tripoli prior to his removal from Libya, but not under the same circumstances Hicks sought to portray. Counter to Hicks’ story of an unwarranted reassignment, the staff was upset with Hicks’ performance since he was first assigned to Tripoli on July 31, and told Jones as much prior to her meeting with Hicks.

“[Jones] and her aide had one-on-one meetings with us to see if [Hicks] could be guided into being a better leader,” a State Department employee posted to Libya told ThinkProgress. “Literally every single one of us begged for him to be removed from post,” said the employee, who spoke to ThinkProgress on the condition of anonymity, as they were not cleared to discuss personnel issues with the press.

A second State Department employee present in Libya before and during the Benghazi attacks confirmed the meetings occurred. Assistant Secretary Jones’ meetings with the staff prior to Oct. 2 were “entirely” focused on Hicks’ performance, according to this second employee, who also believed that Hicks should be removed from his position. “The group of us who were here during the attacks, we sat here two nights ago and watched [the hearing] with our jaws dropped,” the staffer said, referring to Hicks’ claim that he was demoted out of retribution for speaking out.

The word of two anonymous staffers talking to a pro-Democratic Party outlet isn’t necessarily compelling evidence. And, frankly, the notion that people get removed from positions in government because they’re bad managers is almost amusing. But Brown goes on to detail some specific incidents that lead credence to the idea:

During the aftermath of Benghazi, Hicks showed a lack of diplomatic protocol that both staffers found extremely questionable given the tense times. This includes going to a meeting with the Libyan Prime Minister Mohammed Magarief in a t-shirt, cargo pants, and baseball cap. “I’m too upset to wear a suit,” Hicks allegedly told a staffer. “I want the Libyans to know how upset I am about this attack.”

A senior leader punished for failing to follow the dress code? That, I can believe.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. MM says:

    If you want to showing how seriously you take something, aren’t you supposed to dress UP, rather than down? Unless this is some sort of north Aftrican cultural thing I am unaware of. Otherwise I have no earthly idea how looking like 10 miles of bad road is any sort of tribute.

  2. nitpicker says:

    I know you think it’s funny to be snarky about government and, yeah, it can be hard to get rid of bad apples (mostly because of rules designed to prevent political retribution), but being a bad manager is a quick way to get demoted and booted. And the higher you get, the easier it is for a person to lose their job. I have no idea if, as you say, the claims made here are true, but you’re simply wrong to say managers don’t get canned.

  3. Septimius says:

    The notion that ThinkProgress was the best “news” outlet the Dems could get to put this out is almost amusing.

  4. nitpicker says:

    @Septimius: …said a guy who thinks Limbaugh is a pillar of integrity.

  5. Foster Boondoggle says:

    “the notion that people get removed from positions in government because they’re bad managers is almost amusing”

    Huh?!? I guess if you’re a member of a party that believes that government is just there to be staffed with pals like “Heckuva Job Brownie” then this makes sense. But if you’re a member of the party that’s trying to make government function in spite of all the roadblocks thrown up by the opposition (such as refusing to fund a larger budget for security at State Dept. sites), it seems pretty incoherent.

  6. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    There’s a simple way to put this to the test: look at Hicks’ record and reviews. (He’s highly motivated to release these, to bolster his credibility.)

    And yeah, that this is put out by ThinkProgress is NOT a point towards its credibility. After all, ThinkProgress has a history of putting out BS to support Democrats. They were the ones behind the attempted smear of the US Chamber of Commerce last fall, alleging that the USCC was being used to funnel foreign money into influencing the election. They made up a story about McCain allegedly plagiarizing a Navy admiral in a speech back in 2008. And they claimed that David Koch was kicked off the NIH Cancer Board because he pushed for formaldehyde to be unlisted as a carcinogen — a story that was complete BS from start to finish. (Koch didn’t resign, his term expired; Greenpeace was not involved; and the NIH Cancer Board has no say in what is listed as a carcinogen.)

    Finally, ThinkProgress is the media arm of the Center for American Progress, yet another Soros creature, and he who takes the King’s gold, plays the King’s tune.

  7. James Joyner says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13: I know Hayes quite a bit through Twitter and don’t have any reason to doubt his integrity. He’s smart and fair. But, yes, there are incentives for Obama supporters to lie here and it can’t be hard to find two people who have a beef with any manager.

  8. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @James Joyner: I happen to be very fond of quite a few people named Hayes. I hold a great amount of esteem for a certain gentleman and his family named Hayes, along with Stephen Hayes, Robert Hayes, and Purple Hayes, just to name a few.

    But the group he works for… I think anything they publish should be taken with considerable salt.

  9. mantis says:

    Considering Jay Tea/Jenos spends all of his time here spreading demonstrable lies in thread after thread, he has no place speaking about anyone’s credibility.

  10. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @mantis: I don’t recall asking you — or anyone — to take what I say at face value. That’s why I cited specific incidents, that anyone who isn’t inclined to take my word can do their own homework on them.

    I’m not saying Politico is lying here. I’m saying that, based on their record, I’m not willing to take their word on it — I’d like to see some verification first.

    Or, on the other hand, I could take the mantis route and say that because they’ve been caught repeatedly in the past lying about stories, we should just dismiss anything and everything they say. But I’m not quite the asshat mantis is, so I won’t go that far.

  11. mantis says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13:

    I don’t recall asking you — or anyone — to take what I say at face value.

    Yet you constantly make unsourced assertions. Funny, that.

    But I’m not quite the asshat mantis is, so I won’t go that far.

    Don’t sell yourself short. You are a far, far bigger asshat.

  12. JKB says:

    This is amusing. Everyone pretending to be dumb, including the author of the piece. Any reporter of any competence would know that a convenient appearance of two people willing to spin the narrative on a whistleblower is suspect. And not something to report without some kind of corroboration. If he was to be removed for being a “bad manager” there would be a trail. A history of counseling on the matter. Performance appraisals and improvement plans. Without that, the “bad manager theme means he fell afoul someone, perhaps due to his questions, perhaps for other reasons.

    Instead I suspect we’ll see another “bad manager” with spotless performance appraisals. You can remove people from government, you just have to do the paperwork, do it over time and, of course, hope they don’t have a friend higher up who’ll come after you.

  13. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @mantis: You really are a bitter little insect.

  14. anjin-san says:


    I have to give Fox credit for this, it has really caught on. Anyone who says something about Benghazi that fits the GOP narrative is a “whistleblower.”

    And who are whistleblowers? Why, they are courageous folks who stand up to the powerful and call them on their maleficence. So, if “whistleblowers” are attacking the administrations actions, well, there just must be wrongdoing. A really hot chick in a short skirt on TV said so!

    As a marketer, I am impressed. Of course good marketing and good reporting are not the same thing…

  15. dennis says:

    There are very specific criteria that have to be met to qualify as “whistleblower.” Many who circumvent their chain of command and subvert order and discipline hide behind the status. I’m not saying that is the case here. I’m just making an objective point.

    It is possible that Hicks was demoted for bad management; indeed, I received a day suspension once for “failing to carry out [my] supervisory duties in a timely manner.” When you get to the level Hicks achieved, you can be reassigned or let go at will. They can always find something to legitimately hang on you.

  16. Groty says:

    The story stinks from every angle. How did Hicks get to be the number 2 guy at Benghazi if he was such a horrible manager? Who signed off on his performance evaluations to give the impression he was qualified if he in fact he was so horrible? Was Secretary Clinton involved in naming him to his position? If so, why doesn’t it reflect poorly on her judgment?

    Yes, Think Progress as the source is problematic. Think Progress is a blog run by the Center for American Progress, which in turn was founded by John Podesta, President Bill Clinton’s Chief of Staff. Hillary Clinton bragged at the 2007 Yearly Kos Convention about the “institutions that I helped to start and support like Media Matters and Center for American Progress.” The relevant quote is made about the 2:40 mark or so.

    Clinton helped found Think Progress. It is not a disinterested party.