WASHINGTON — Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Wednesday that the misinformation that came out about the Benghazi attacks in their immediate aftermath no longer mattered, saying that the important thing was to find the persons responsible.
Clinton had a heated exchange with Sen. Ron Johnson during a hearing of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee when he questioned her about the initial reports on the motives behind the attacks on the U.S. Embassy that left four Americans dead. Initially, UN Ambassador Susan Rice blamed the attacks on protests over an anti-Muslim video when she appeared on the Sunday shows, apparently speaking off of talking points prepared by the intelligence community.
On Wednesday, Johnson accused her of “purposefully misleading the American people” by blaming nonexistent protests.
“With all due respect, the fact is we had four dead Americans. If it was because of a protest or if it was because guys out for a walk decided to go kill some Americans. What difference at this point does it make?” Clinton shot back in a raised voice.
“It is our job to figure out what happened and do everything we can to prevent it from ever happening again, Senator. Now, honestly, I will do my best to answer my questions about this but the fact is that people were trying in real time to get the best information … but you know, to be clear, it is from my perspective, less important today looking backward as to why these militants decided to do it, as to find them and bring them to justice, and then maybe we’ll figure out what was going on in the meantime.”
Asked why a phone call was not made to clarify the facts before Amb. Rice went on the Sunday shows, Clinton said that those concerns took a backseat to taking care of the injured.
“I would say that once the assault happened, and once we got our people rescued and out, our most immediate concern was number one, taking care of their injuries…the FBI went over immediately to start talking to them. We did not think it was appropriate for us to speak to them before the FBI conducted their interview, and we did not, I think this is accurate, sir, I certainly did not know of any reports that contradicted the IC talking points at the time that Ambassador Rice went on the TV shows,” Clinton said.
“And you know, I just want to say that when people have accused Amb. Rice and the administration of misleading Americans, I can say trying to be in the middle of this and understanding what was going on, nothing could be further from the truth,” she said.