New York Times reporter David Kirkpatrick called accusations
"preposterous" that his controversial story on Benghazi was written to boost Hillary Clinton's presidential hopes.
The story does not reflect well on the administration of President Barack Obama, Kirkpatrick said Monday on CNN's "Anderson Cooper 360."
Though Kirkpatrick concludes that the Sept. 11, 2012, attack that killed U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans was caused by an anti-Muslim video produced in the United States, he says he doesn't think the attack started spontaneously from a street protest, as then-U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice asserted
on all five Sunday morning news shows days after the incident.
"Her statements clearly were misleading," Kirkpatrick told CNN. A lot of the confusion and misinformation that have proliferated since were a result of Rice's initial misstatements, he said.
"It was not a street protest. It was clearly an attack that began very deliberately and very suddenly. There was certainly some planning," Kirkpatrick said. "There is evidence there was surveillance earlier that morning, he said.
But Rice's initial misstatements set up a "false dichotomy" that either it was a spontaneous street protest or it was a planned al-Qaida attack, he said. Neither of those extremes is true, he says.
"In fact, it was an attack, in response to this movie, by local militants," he said.
It's pretty easy to find out who was involved, Kirkpatrick said. "This is not like someone secretly planted a car bomb under a car." It was a "mob attack" that happened "in broad daylight" with a large crowd of people watching.
It also isn't difficult to find out that Ahmed Abu Khattala, a local militia leader for the group Ansar al-Sharia, was a significant and central player, as was his group, Kirkpatrick said.
"They're well known. They're local people with friends and neighbors and histories," he said.
But Abu Khattala isn't a member of al-Qaida, he said. "He's an anti-Western, anti-democratic, Islamic militant."
One could stretch the term and call Abu Khattala part of al-Qaida, but he's not part of the al-Qaida organization founded by Osama bin Laden, Kirkpatrick said.
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