A White House spokeswoman says critics are “politicizing” evidence showing that her colleagues politicized the government’s reaction to the deadly September 2012 jihadi attack on the U.S. compound in Benghazi, Libya.
“Unlike those who insist on politicizing the events in Benghazi, our focus remains on ensuring that a tragedy like this isn’t repeated in Libya or anywhere else in the world,” Bernadette Meehan, a flack for the National Security Council, said April 29.
Meehan’s claim likely presages the White House’s spin of a newly released Sept. 14 White House email chain.
The emails show the White House’s staff sought to downplay evidence that the attack exposed fundamental errors in President Barack Obama’s Libyan policy. Instead, the staff touted the unverified — and quickly debunked — claim that the attack was an unpredictable riot precipitated by a U.S.-made anti-Islam YouTube video.
One of the emails was written by Ben Rhodes, Obama’s chief foreign policy spokesman, and it described the political goals for a top official — U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice — who was scheduled to appear Sept. 16 on five Sunday talk shows.
The goal of the TV appearances, said Rhodes, is “to underscore that these protests are rooted in an Internet video, not a broader failure of policy.”
The attack — and the subsequent cover-up — came two months before the 2012 election.
“In our view, these documents only serve to reinforce what we have long been saying: that in the days after September 11, 2012, we were concerned by unrest occurring across the region and that we provided our best assessment of what was happening at the time,” Meehan told Reuters.
The email contained “general topline talking points,” she claimed.
However, those “general topline talking points” were directions to portray the deadly attack — which initially killed two Americans, and later killed two more at a second U.S. site —- as a spontaneous riot.
As instructed, Rice repeated the “topline talking points” on the five Sunday talk shows.
“Our current best assessment, based on the information that we have at present, is that, in fact, what this began as, it was a spontaneous — not a premeditated — response to what had transpired in Cairo,” she claimed on ABC. “In Cairo, as you know, a few hours earlier, there was a violent protest that was undertaken in reaction to this very offensive video that was disseminated.”
Obama also blamed the video maker, who was subsequently sent to jail for violating the terms of a parole. Obama also used the video to urge worldwide respect for the Islamic religion. “The future must not belong to those who slander the prophet of Islam,” Obama told a U.N. meeting Sept. 25.
White House spokesman Jay Carney was part of the Sept. 14 email chain. He’s expected to hold a White House press conference April 30, where he will likely repeat Meehan’s spin.