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Mrs. Collins said the Benghazi attack “in many ways echoes” the terrorist attacks on the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998, when Mrs. Rice was serving as assistant secretary of state for African affairs under President Clinton.

“In both cases, the ambassador begged for additional security,” she said. “Those requests, as in the case of Benghazi, were turned down by the State Department. I asked Ambassador Rice what her role was. She said she would have to refresh her memory and that she was not involved directly in turning down the requests.”

Meanwhile, Democrats, who hold the majority in the Senate, have been spent much of the week rallying support for the U.N. ambassador.

White House press secretary Jay Carney said Wednesday that the “obsessive focus on Ambassador Rice’s appearance on a series of Sunday shows several months ago is misplaced and misguided.”

“It’s a shame to create a sideshow that seems, I think very clearly, to be very political out of something that really has no bearing on what happened in Benghazi,” he said.

What the American people care about, Mr. Carney said, is “what happened, actually, in Benghazi, who was responsible for the deaths of four Americans, what steps we need to take to ensure that something like that doesn’t happen again.”

Such questions likely will be addressed by the Accountability Review Board that is probing the Benghazi attack under a cloak of secrecy at the State Department.

State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland has said the board’s findings could be completed as early as mid-December. It is not known whether they will include an assessment of the comments made by Mrs. Rice days after the attack.

Shaun Waterman, Stephen Dinan and Seth McLaughlin contributed to this report.