Hillary Clinton sent an email to her daughter, Chelsea, on Sept. 11, 2012 in which she asserted that an al-Qaida-like group was responsible for the terrorist attacks in Benghazi, it was revealed on Thursday during the former secretary of state’s testimony to the House Select Committee on Benghazi.
The email, which was revealed by Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan, indicates that Clinton knew early on that the attacks which left four Americans dead was carried out by terrorists. But as Jordan pointed out, Clinton and others in the Obama administration had already begun crafting the narrative that the attack was spontaneous and that the attackers were motivated by a YouTube video many Muslims found offensive.
In the email cited by Jordan, Clinton responded to daughter Chelsea, who emailed under the pseudonym Diane Reynolds.
“Two of our officers were killed in Benghazi by an Al Queda-like [sic] group,” Clinton wrote.
But shortly before the email, after it was revealed that Ambassador Chris Stevens had been murdered in the onslaught, Clinton implied that the YouTube video had served as a motive.
“Some have sought to justify this vicious behavior as a response to inflammatory material posted to the Internet,” Clinton said in a statement shortly after Stevens’ death.
The Obama administration continued for days after the attack to claim that the YouTube video — entitled “Innocence of Muslims” — had sparked protests which turned violent. Critics of the administration’s handling of the response to the attack assert that the YouTube video was used as political cover to protect Obama ahead of his re-election bid. Obama had been on the campaign trail insisting that he had destroyed al-Qaida.
Jordan compared Clinton’s disparate positions, asserting that she “knew the truth” but insisted on casting some blame on the video.
“You tell the American people one thing, you tell your family an entirely different story,” Jordan said.
He also cited a call Clinton made the night of the attack to Mohammed Magariaf, who was then the president of Libya. According to a transcript of the call, Clinton acknowledged that the al-Qaida affiliated group Ansar al-Sharia was “claiming responsibility” for the attack.
And in a phone call with Egyptian Prime Minister Hisham Kandil the next day, Clinton said “we know the attack in Libya had nothing to do with the film. It was a planned attack, not a protest.”
The administration’s claim that the YouTube video played a part in the Benghazi attack reached its pinnacle on Sept. 16, 2012, when then-U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice asserted as much on several Sunday morning talk shows.
And emails show that Clinton’s aides at the State Department showed no disagreement with Rice’s statements, in which she called the video “very offensive.”
Clinton’s State Department aide, Jake Sullivan, sent his boss an email that same day indicating that Rice’s comments were in line with Clinton’s views.
“She did make clear our view that this started spontaneously and then evolved,” Sullivan wrote.
He backtracked off of that position the next week, however. In a Sept. 24, 2012 email, he assured Clinton: “You never said spontaneous or characterized the motives.”
“State Department experts knew the truth, you knew the truth, but that’s not what the American people got,” Jordan said Thursday, during his tense exchange with Clinton.
“There was a lot of conflicting information that we were trying to make sense of,” Clinton said, defending her conflicting positions.