"This is an effort to accuse the administration of hiding something we did not hide," White House Press Secretary Jay Carney told reporters Friday at the daily briefing. "All of this is a distraction from key issues."
As ABC News reported early Friday, the White House and State Department edited CIA Benghazi talking points 12 different times and eliminated all references to terrorism and al Qaeda in the process. When questioned, Carney said this was simply a "stylistic" edit and blamed the CIA.
"These were intelligence community talking points," Carney said.
The initial version of unedited talking points were from the CIA and included warnings about terrorism, al Qaeda and a lack of security at the consulate in Benghazi. The best assessment sent from the intelligence community included multiple warnings about the deteriorating security situation in Benghazi. The final talking points with scrubbed references to terrorism and al Qaeda were edited by the State Department after communication and a meeting in the White House. Carney claimed the only editing the White House did of the talking points was replacing the word "consulate" with "facility."
Carney tried to argue that the administration told the public about a demonstration as a result of YouTube video in the "immediate aftermath" of the attacks and then corrected the information once it changed. Carney argued the White House didn't want to "speculate" about what happened and said information about what the administration "knew" was given to the public. These statements are demonstrably false for many reasons.
(1) Carney's claim that the administration only pushed information about a YouTube video sparking a protest that led to the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi until new information was given, is false. Jay Carney himself specifically said on September 14, 2012 "this was a response to a YouTube video," three days after the attack. The same day, Hillary Clinton stood in front of the flag draped caskets of dead Americans arriving home from Benghazi and blamed a YouTube video. Five days after the Benghazi attack (and five five days after Hillary Clinton was told by Hicks from Libya that this was an attack), UN Ambassador Susan Rice went on five different Sunday shows and claimed this was a situation of a protest raging out of control over a YouTube video. On September 25, 2012, 15 days after the attack, President Obama went to the United Nations and blamed the YouTube video. On January 23, 2013, four months after the attack, Hillary Clinton said, "The fact is we had four dead Americans. Was it because of a protest? Or was it because a group of guys decided to go for a walk one night and kill some Americans. What difference at this point does it make?" The Obama administration has never directly admitted there was no protest.
(2) Whistleblower and deputy chief of mission at the U.S. Embassy in Libya Greg Hicks said in sworn testimony Wednesday that he received a phone call in Benghazi from Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at 2 a.m. on September 11, 2012. During this phone call he said "we are under attack." He did not mention a protest nor did he mention a YouTube video. Further, before he was killed and dragged through the streets of Benghazi, Ambassador Chris Stevens called Hicks and said, "We are under attack." Again, no mention of a protest outside of the consulate and no mention of a video. What the administration "knew" was that this was a terrorist attack as it was happening yet told the public for months the incident was a result of a protest getting out of control.
(3) Carney claimed the White House didn't want to speculate about what happened yet immediately blamed a YouTube video, "The Innocence of Muslims," for the attack while armed guards stormed the home of the video's maker in the middle of the night and hauled him off to jail. He's still in jail, by the way.
Throughout the briefing, Carney tried to down play the change in talking points as "just talking points" and not policy. Carney repeatedly blamed Republicans for politicizing the Benghazi tragedy, blamed President Bush and even blamed former GOP President nominee Mitt Romney for releasing a statement about the attack when it happened last year.
When asked whether the Obama administration should have handled Benghazi differently, Carney said, "No."
I'll leave you with this from Greg Hicks: