White House Press Secretary Jay Carney insisted on Wednesday that immediately following the September 11 attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, the Obama administration immediately declared it an act of terror. However, Fox News Ed Henry asked Carney about the September 14 press briefing (below) in which Carney stood before reporters and repeatedly blamed the “violence” “protests” and “unrest around the region” on the obscure anti-Muslim video.
It makes sense why Carney would say on September 14 that the video was to blame for the “violence” and “unrest around the region” on that day when he was being pressed by reporters specifically about the deadly Benghazi attack. Words mean something, after all.
Carney never mentioned terrorism or terror. In fact, when he was asked if the administration thought it was a terrorist attack or if it was premeditated he said:
“Well, I think we wait to hear from administration officials. Again, it’s actively under investigation, both the Benghazi attack and incidents elsewhere. And my point was that we don’t have and did not have concrete evidence to suggest that this was not in reaction to the film. But we’re obviously investigating the matter, and I’ll certainly — I’m sure both the Department of Defense and the White House and other places will have more to say about that as more information becomes available.”
Furthermore, every time ABC’s Jake Tapper, in this case, asked at the September 14 press briefing if the video was the reason the attack in Benghazi happened, Carney always went back to talking about the protests in the “region.” Essentially, reporters only wanted to know if the White House was blaming the video for the Benghazi attack, and Carney was double-speaking to cover for the Obama administration’s failed foreign policies in the Middle East. The result of this double speak, though, comes off as contradictory, and more importantly, looks as if the White House has something to hide.
Compare the two videos and transcripts below:
Transcript (bolding is mine)
Q: Wouldn’t it seem logical that the anniversary of 9/11 would be a time that you would want to have extra security around diplomats and military posts?
MR. CARNEY: Well, as you know, we are very vigilant around anniversaries like 9/11. The President is always briefed and brought up to speed on all the precautions being taken. But let’s be —
MR. CARNEY: Jake, let’s be clear, these protests were in reaction to a video that had spread to the region —
Q: At Benghazi? What happened at Benghazi —
MR. CARNEY: We certainly don’t know. We don’t know otherwise. We have no information to suggest that it was a preplanned attack. The unrest we’ve seen around the region has been in reaction to a video that Muslims, many Muslims find offensive. And while the violence is reprehensible and unjustified, it is not a reaction to the 9/11 anniversary that we know of, or to U.S. policy.
Q: But the group around the Benghazi post was well armed. It was a well-coordinated attack. Do you think it was a spontaneous protest against a movie?
MR. CARNEY: Look, this is obviously under investigation, and I don’t have –
Q: But your operating assumption is that that was in response to the video, in Benghazi? I just want to clear that up. That’s the framework? That’s the operating assumption?
MR. CARNEY: Look, it’s not an assumption —
Q: Because there are administration officials who don’t — who dispute that, who say that it looks like this was something other than a protest.
MR. CARNEY: I think there has been news reports on this, Jake, even in the press, which some of it has been speculative. What I’m telling you is this is under investigation. The unrest around the region has been in response to this video. We do not, at this moment, have information to suggest or to tell you that would indicate that any of this unrest was preplanned.
What is true about Libya is that — well, a couple of things. One, is it’s one of the more pro-American countries in the region. Two, it is a very new government; it is a country that has just come out of a revolution and a lot of turmoil, and there are certainly a lot of armed groups. So the fact that there are weapons in the region and the new government is not — is still building up its capacities in terms of security and its ability to ensure the security of facilities, is not necessarily reflective of anything except for the remarkable transformation that’s been going on in the region.
Q: Jay, my last question. It was said that what happened on 9/11 was a failure of imagination, failure of American policymakers and counterterrorism officials to anticipate the kind of attack that could have taken place. This would seem to be the exact opposite. Was this a failure by the Obama administration? Did the President and his administration mess up in any way?
MR. CARNEY: Jake, again, what we have seen is unrest around the region in response to a video that Muslims find offensive, many Muslims find offensive. We have seen incidents like this in the past, in reaction to other actions — cartoons and other actions that have been taken, that have been — have led to protests and violence in the region. And we have managed those situations, and we are working to ensure that our diplomatic personnel and our diplomatic facilities are secure as we deal with the response to this video, which we believe is offensive and disgusting.
Q: So that’s a no? Entirely the fault of the filmmaker?
MR. CARNEY: Again, I don’t think — I think you have to understand what is happening currently in the region and what it is a response to. This is not — this has been in —
Q: I don’t think I need to understand that. I think the people who protect the embassies need to understand it.
MR. CARNEY: The cause of the unrest was a video, and that continues today, as you know, as we anticipated. And it may continue for some time. We are working with governments around the region to remind them of their responsibilities to provide security to diplomatic personnel and facilities, and we are ensuring that more resources are put in place to protect our embassies and consulates and our personnel in these parts of the world where unrest is occurring.
Q: You’ve mentioned a number of times now that this was in response to a video or a film. Would you not agree, though, that it’s moved beyond that? That some are stirring violence by focusing on U.S. policy, or targeting the U.S. in general? That it’s no longer just about the film?
MR. CARNEY: Well, the reason why there is unrest is because of the film; this is in response to the film. I don’t doubt —
Q: Well, that’s what sparked it. You think that’s what sparked it.
MR. CARNEY: We do think that’s what sparked it.
Q: Right. But it’s moved beyond that, hasn’t it?
MR. CARNEY: Well, I don’t — we obviously are not polling protesters to find out what their motivations are. There is no question that there’s anti-American sentiment in various countries around the Middle East; that’s not a discovery I think we’ve made today. What is the case is that the protesters in these countries are not representative of the broader sentiment in those countries, at least in the sense that — sentiment that would say that the reaction, the proper reaction to a film that is offensive is violence. As I said yesterday, that’s not in keeping with Islam, and it’s certainly something that we do not accept. And we have made clear to leaders in the region that they need to make clear that it is not an acceptable reaction to a film, however offensive it might be.
Again, this is not a film that the United States government had anything to do with. We reject its message and its contents. We find it both disgusting and reprehensible. America has a history of religious tolerance and respect for religious beliefs, and that history goes back to our nation’s founding. But there is absolutely — as I’ve said, absolutely no justification at all for responding to this movie with violence, and we are making — we are working, rather, to make sure that Muslims around the globe hear that message.
Q: It’s my understanding that at least four people have been arrested in the death of the Americans. Does the President think that whoever is arrested for this violence should be tried here in the U.S.?
MR. CARNEY: This is an ongoing investigation. We’re obviously working with our — with the Libyan government on this matter. The President has made clear that he wants the assailants, the attackers to be brought to justice. But I am not going to prejudge outcomes or courses of action as this investigation is underway.
Transcript via Atlanta Journal Constitution (bolding is mine)
Q: Jay, you’ve been citing Under Secretary Kennedy and what he’s saying in public today. Congressional sources have said that on September 12th, the day after the attacks, Under Secretary Kennedy did a conference call with congressional staffers and others, a day after the attacks and said then, this was not a protest, this was not a spontaneous reaction to the anti-Muslim video, that this was a coordinated attack. And so my question is — that was four days before Ambassador Rice went out on television, five shows, and said that we believe that it is a reaction. Did she, did you and others mislead the public because you didn’t want to admit there was a terror attack?
MR. CARNEY: Absolutely not. The President of the United States referred to it as an act of terror immediately after it occurred, Ed, as you know. Two, Pat Kennedy, the Under Secretary of State for Management, is testifying in public today. So I would look to what he says before your cameras and the American people, rather than what congressional sources, whoever they may be, may be telling you. What he is saying is that --
Q: But hold on for one second. You’re saying that on September 12th the President called it terrorism — he used a phrase like act of terror —
MR. CARNEY: Act of terror.
Q: — act of terror will — then why were you at this podium for several days after that saying, we don’t know if it’s terrorism? If you’re now saying that —
MR. CARNEY: I never said that. I never said we don’t know if it’s terrorism. There was an issue about the definition of terrorism. This is by definition an act of terror, as the President made clear. What we were talking about is what —
Q: So you’re saying now, just to be clear, on September 12th, the President believed it was terrorism?
MR. CARNEY: He said it was an act of terror, Ed. It was clearly, definitionally, if you look at the definition of terrorism, an assault with arms on a diplomatic —
Q But we asked you several days after that, is it terrorism, and you kept saying, we don’t know. How can you revise that?
MR. CARNEY: Ed, first of all, I would check the transcript. The issue was, what led to the attack. And that has been an issue that we have provided assessments of based on the information that we have gleaned through the intelligence community, preliminary information. And we have made clear all along — as Ambassador Rice has made clear — parts of these clips that I’m sure don’t always appear on some air, where she makes clear on Sunday, September 16th, that these were preliminary assessments based on preliminary information.
Q: Several days after the President had said it was terror.
MR. CARNEY: You’re making a distinction between an act of terror and what led to the attack. An assault with violence and force and weapons against a diplomatic facility is by definition an act of terror.
Q: So let me ask you then, since it’s been noted that tomorrow will be the one-month anniversary of this terror attack — why hasn’t the President given a speech or a news conference laying out to the American people sort of the aftermath of what was a terror attack, four Americans killed? Instead, the Republicans have been hitting him for talking about Big Bird several days out on the campaign trail. He doesn’t talk about this act of terror when he goes out and talks with voters. Why won’t he talk about it?
MR. CARNEY: Actually, Ed, I believe he has spoken on a number of occasions about this, both in interviews and when he went to Andrews to receive, with Secretary of State Clinton and the families of the four fallen Americans, those caskets from Libya. And he spoke very clearly and poignantly about the sacrifice that they made, the risks that they took on behalf of the American people, and the interests that we have abroad in places like Libya, and of his absolute commitment to ensure that those who were responsible be brought to justice; his absolute commitment that we do whatever we can to ensure that what happened in Benghazi does not happen again.
So I do not agree with your assessment that he hasn’t been talking about this. It is also the case that there is a campaign going on and he is out there just like his opponent talking about a variety of issues that are of interest to the American people. But he has spoken about the events in Benghazi on a number of occasions and you can be sure he’ll be speaking about them in the future.