Pressed at the White House press briefing to explain why the Obama administration initially connected the Libya terrorist attack to an anti-Islam video on YouTube, White House press secretary Jay Carney called the situation a “moving picture” and pointed fingers at the intelligence community.
“President Obama shortly after the attacks told ’60 Minutes’ that regarding [Mitt] Romney’s response to the attack, specifically in Egypt, the president said that Romney has a tendency to shoot first and aim later,” ABC’s Jake Tapper said to Carney on Wednesday at the White House about the attack that led to the death of U.S. Ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens and three other staff members.
“Given the fact that so much was made out of the video that apparently had absolutely nothing to do with the attack on Benghazi, that there wasn’t even a protest outside the Benghazi post, didn’t President Obama shoot first and aim later?”
“First of all, Jake, I think your assessment about what we know now is not complete,” Carney responded.
“There is no question that in the region, including in Cairo, there were demonstrations reacting to the release of that video,” Carney said before Tapper interrupted and asked specifically about Benghazi.
“I will leave it to those who are testifying on the Hill to talk about,” Carney said.
“I’m not disputing that there was a protest. But what we said at the time is our intelligence community assessed that the attack began spontaneously following protests earlier that day at our embassy in Cairo. Okay? Again, this is a moving picture, and people who on the night of an attack or the day after claim they know all the facts without making clear that what we know is based on preliminary information aren’t being straight, and they’re in some cases trying to politicize a situation that should not be politicized.”
Carney said this was the point “the president was getting at” and “many other people felt the same way.”
“This president’s focus has been from day one on going after those who killed four Americans, on protecting the thousands of diplomatic personnel we have around the world and those facilities that they work in, and on making sure that a thorough investigation is conducted to find out what happened and look — that looks into our security posture both in Benghazi and elsewhere,” Carney added.
In his speech before the United Nations on Sept. 25, Obama mentioned the anti-Islam YouTube video.
“That is what we saw play out the last two weeks, as a crude and disgusting video sparked outrage throughout the Muslim world. I have made it clear that the United States government had nothing to do with this video, and I believe its message must be rejected by all who respect our common humanity,” Obama said.
“It is an insult not only to Muslims, but to America as well — for as the city outside these walls makes clear, we are a country that has welcomed people of every race and religion. We are home to Muslims who worship across our country. We not only respect the freedom of religion — we have laws that protect individuals from being harmed because of how they look or what they believe. We understand why people take offense to this video because millions of our citizens are among them.”
Carney also had no comment on the U.S. Embassy in Libya requesting more security on Sept. 11 but being denied.
“Lieutenant Colonel Wood and Eric Nordstrom, the former regional security officer, have both suggested that there were efforts from the U.S. embassy in Libya to have more security, and the State Department officials wouldn’t let it happen,” Tapper said to Carney.
“Why didn’t the State Department listen to these men on the ground in Libya who wanted there to be more security?”
Carney said, “There is no question that the result of what happened in Benghazi is not acceptable. Four Americans killed is not an acceptable situation, and that is why the president moved so quickly to ensure that an investigation was launched to bring the perpetrators to justice, the killers to justice, and a review was launched at the State Department to look at our security posture at the Bengali — I mean, not Bengali — at the Benghazi facility and elsewhere.”