Carney: Obama 'Not Particularly Concerned About' What Rice Said on 5 Sunday Shows

November 29, 2012 - 8:26 AM

jay carney

White House spokesman Jay Carney says President Obama "is not particularly concerned about whether the ambassador (Rice) or I went out and talked about the fact that we believe extremists might have been responsible" for the attack in Benghazi. (AP Photo)

(CNSNews.com) - White House spokesman Jay Carney says "the obsession" over what Susan Rice said on five Sunday talk shows on Sept. 16 "is simply nonmaterial to the key question of why four Americans died in Benghazi."

"What the president is worried about...is what happened and why in Benghazi," Carney said on Wednesday.

"He is not particularly concerned about whether the ambassador (Rice) or I went out and talked about the fact that we believe extremists might have been responsible, and whether we named them as al-Qaida or not does not have any...This really doesn't have any bearing on what happened and who was responsible as that investigation was continuing in Benghazi."

Carney said the talking points Rice used originated in the intelligence community.

“We have to get our facts straight when we're talking about this story, OK?” Carney said.

“There was basic information developed by the intelligence community that was provided to Ambassador Rice, to Capitol Hill, to me and others. We used that to describe what we understood to be known at the time in the immediate aftermath in Benghazi. As we learned more information, we made it available. That's the long and short of it.

“What the president cares about, what he believes his responsibility is as commander in chief is to find out who is responsible and bring them to justice and to make sure that we take action to ensure that what happened in Benghazi does not happen again.”

At Wednesday's press briefing, Carney referred White House correspondents to "numerous pieces of reporting by serious journalists in serious publications that demonstrate that there are -- that people who participated in the assault on Benghazi, you know, were aware of what was happening in Cairo, were -- and were partly motivated by what was happening in Cairo."

Five days after the Sept. 11 attack, when it was clear to many people inside and outside the administration that terrorists were involved in the Benghazi attack, Rice went on five Sunday talk shows and insisted that the attack on the U.S. consulate stemmed from a protest over an obscure anti-Muslim video.

In her Sept. 16 appearance on ABC's "This Week," Rice said, “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. 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. We believe that folks in Benghazi, a small number of people came to the embassy to – or to the consulate, rather, to replicate the sort of challenge that was posed in Cairo. And then as that unfolded, it seems to have been hijacked, let us say, by some individual clusters of extremists who came with heavier weapons… And it then evolved from there.”

On Tuesday, after meeting on Capitol Hill with Susan Rice and Acting CIA Director Mike Morell, Republican Sens. John McCain, Lindsey Graham and Kelly Ayotte said Morell told them that the FBI had removed references to al-Qaida in the talking points Rice used as the basis for her comments on the  Sunday shows.

But the three senators said hours after meeting with Rice and Morell, they were contacted by the CIA and told that Morell was wrong -- that the CIA itself had deleted the al-Qaida references.