WASHINGTON - National Security Adviser Susan Rice on Sunday defended statements she made during a round of 2012 TV appearances about the attack on a U.S. mission in Benghazi, saying there was never an attempt to mislead the public.
Her appearance on NBC’s “Meet the Press” was Rice’s first appearance on a network Sunday show since September 2012, days after the attack in Libya that killed Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans.
Her adherence to administration talking points at the time — that the attack appeared to be a “spontaneous” response to protests in Egypt over an offensive YouTube video — were later cast into doubt and continue to be a source of debate. Some accused the administration of attempting to downplay the terrorist involvement in the attack.
At the time, President Obama and other administration officials defended Rice, who was then the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. But blowback from her appearances probably cost her an appointment as secretary of state in Obama’s second term.
Rice on Sunday defended her remarks, saying she shared “the best information that we had at the time.”
“The information I provided — which I explained to you was what we had at the moment, it could change, I commented that this was based on what we knew on that morning — was provided to me and my colleagues and indeed to Congress by the intelligence community,” she said. “That’s been well-validated in many different ways since. And that information turned out in some respects not to be 100 percent correct. But the notion that somehow I or anybody else in the administration misled the American people is patently false, and I think that’s been amply demonstrated.”
Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., one of the leading critics of the administration’s handling of Benghazi, laughed when shown Rice’s comments during his appearance on CBS’ “Face The Nation.”
“I’m almost speechless,” he said. “The information was totally misleading, totally false. And for Susan Rice to say such a thing, I think, is a little embarrassing, to tell you the truth.”
Meanwhile, speaking about the turmoil in Ukraine, Rice rejected the idea that Washington and Moscow were nearing a return to Cold War-style tensions, with the violence in Kiev the latest flash point between the nations.
She said Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin agree that Ukraine should remain “unified, whole, independent.”