National Security Adviser Susan Rice insisted Sunday she used “the best information we had at the time” when she described the deadly Benghazi attack as a spontaneous protest in 2012 — but Sen. John McCain wasn’t buying it.
The Arizona Republican said he was “almost speechless” after learning of Ms. Rice’s comments on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” which marked her first interview on a Sunday talk show since her disastrous September 2012 appearances to discuss Benghazi.
“I’m almost speechless, because it’s patently obvious, first of all, that Susan Rice had no reason to be on the program, she had no involvement in it [Benghazi],” said Mr. McCain on CBS’s “Face the Nation.”
Ms. Rice was U.S. ambassador to the United Nations when she told several news outlets in September 2012 that the attack was a “spontaneous reaction” to an anti-Muslim video on YouTube, an account that has since been widely discredited.
“Second of all, she read talking points that we are now beginning to believe came from the White House which were absolutely false,” Mr. McCain said. “We now know that the CIA station chief on the ground sent a message immediately saying, ‘Not-slash-not spontaneous demonstration,’ and of course the information was totally misleading, totally false.”
Four Americans, including U.S. Ambassador to Libya Christopher Stevens, were killed in the raid on Sept. 11, 2012, the anniversary of the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center and Pentagon. The other victims were former Navy SEALs Glen Doherty and Tyrone Woods, and State Department information management officer Sean Smith.
“For Susan Rice to say such a thing, it’s a little embarrassing to tell you the truth,” Mr. McCain said.
Ms. Rice appeared on NBC primarily to discuss the Ukraine protests, but when asked about Benghazi, she denied intentionally misleading Americans. She also admitted that her information wasn’t “100 percent correct.”
“The information I provided … I commented that this was what we knew on that morning, was provided to me and my colleagues and indeed to Congress, by the intelligence community, and that’s been well validated in many different ways since,” Ms. Rice told NBC’s David Gregory. “And that information turned out in some respects not to be 100 percent correct, but the notion that I or anybody else in the administration misled the American people is patently false, and I think that that’s been amply demonstrated.”
At the same time, she said she had no regrets about her disastrous post-Benghazi appearances, which may have cost her the job as secretary of state.
“What I said to you that morning and what I did everywhere since was to share the best information that we had at the time,” said Ms. Rice.
She also insisted that President Obama is determined to capture those who killed the American in the attack.
“The investigation is ongoing and it has indeed made progress, but the point is we will get the perpetrators,” said Ms. Rice. “We will stay on it until it gets done.”
Before her Benghazi comments, Ms. Rice had been regarded as the favorite to succeed former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. But in December 2012, Ms. Rice pulled her name from contention in the ensuing uproar over her Benghazi statements.
She was sworn in seven months later as national security advisor, a position that does not require Senate confirmation.
Asked if she could have been secretary of state but for her Benghazi comments, she declined to speculate, adding, “What I do know is that I have a great job … I couldn’t ask for anything more.”
The “Meet the Press” interview was her only Sunday appearance, even though Chris Wallace of “Fox News Sunday” said he had also asked the Obama administration to send an official to comment on the Ukraine protests.
“I wanted to ask the Obama administration about the crisis in Ukraine, but they decided to put National Security Adviser Susan Rice on only one show today,” Mr. Wallace said. “Of course Fox has led the way in questioning how the administration handled Benghazi. Perhaps Susan Rice didn’t want to answer the tough questions we would have asked.”