President Obama's spokesman said Wednesday that the White House was not avoiding a politically damaging admission when officials resisted describing the attack on the U.S. Consulate in Libya that killed four Americans as the work of terrorists.
"From the beginning, we have provided information based on the facts that we knew," White House press secretary Jay Carney said.
State Department officials acknowledged for the first time Tuesday night that the assault on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, did not involve any anti-American protests over a film disparaging Islam that was produced in the United States. For more than a week after the attack on Sept. 11, Mr. Carney and others in the administration portrayed the violence as a result of the film.
But the government now acknowledges that Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three other Americans were killed as part of a deliberate, planned attack on the U.S. diplomatic post by terrorists using heavy weaponry such as mortars and rocket-propelled grenades.
Mr. Carney said the president described the attack on Sept. 12 as an act of terror, when he said in the White House Rose Garden, "No acts of terror will ever shake the resolve of this great nation."
But the president has refrained in his comments since then from describing the assault in Benghazi as terrorism. Even after some administration officials acknowledged on Sept. 19 that the U.S. had suffered a terrorist attack, Mr. Obama gave a speech to the United Nations on Sept. 25 in which he talked at length about the movie but never mentioned the word "terrorism."
Mr. Carney said the administration was relaying reliable information to the public as quickly as possible, and he denied that there was a political motive in the midst of the president's re-election campaign.
"We're focused on the facts as we get them," he said. "Efforts to rush to a conclusion are not helpful."
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