UN Ambassador Susan Rice said Thursday night that she did not mislead or misrepresent what happened on Sept. 11 during the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, during interviews in the week after it happened.
Rice also told NBC News that she asked President Barack Obama to remove her name from consideration to replace Hillary Clinton as secretary of state for the good of the country based on the disruption and distraction that debate about those mid-September interviews has already caused.
“I didn’t mislead, I didn’t misrepresent, I did the best with the information the United States government had at the time,” Rice said. “When I went on the Sunday shows on Sept. 16, I was doing just as I’ve always done - providing the best information available to me and to our government at the time. I was very careful to explain that the information was preliminary and it could change, and yet I think it was misconstrued and contorted into something more nefarious. It was never the case, nor my intention.”
Despite several high-ranking officials beliefs that the attack was the work of a terrorist group, Rice stuck to talking points provided by the CIA and White House explaining that the government thought the attack was a reaction to an anti-Muslim documentary. She did not mention that it was suspected to have been an al-Qaeda attack.
“There was one piece of what I said that turned out to be wrong. There was not a demonstration,” Rice said. “But what I said was there were extremists who came to our facility with heavy weapons. I indicated, when asked if they could be al qaeda, or al qaeda affiliates, or libyan-based extremists, and that they then attacked the embassy in a very violent fashion. I indicated, and this still remains our assessment, that this arose on short notice, it wasn’t something that had been pre-planned for weeks or many months.”
Rice said that while she did not know if Obama was definitely going to nominate her to replace Clinton, she knows she was seriously considered for the position and that the president intends to have her remain as part of his administration’s national security team.
Her concern, she explained, is that she has already been a distraction from finding out the rest of what happened on Sept. 11, and the days and weeks leading up to the attack. By removing herself from consideration for secretary of state, she said, the focus of Congress and the country can be put back on what it should be.
“We’re in a sad place, frankly, when national security, national security officials who are sitting in their jobs serving the american people every day, and potential candidates for secretary of state get caught up in a political vortex,” Rice said. “My greatest regret, to be honest, is that ambassador Chris Stevens, who was a valued colleague of mine, and our three other colleagues, what happened to them, and why, got lost in all of this debate over talking points and me.”
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