Fox News commentators have reimagined U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice's statements about the consulate attack in Benghazi, saying Rice was "so definitive" in Sunday show interviews about what had happened there. In fact, Rice repeatedly made clear during her interviews that definitive conclusions would only follow from an administration investigation, which she stressed was under way.
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Fox Asks: Why Did Rice "Not Say ... We Are Doing An Investigation"?
Mara Liasson: "Susan Rice Was So Definitive" In Her Statements On Benghazi Attack. On Fox News' Special Report, contributor and NPR national political correspondent Mara Liasson claimed that Ambassador Susan Rice "was so definitive" about what had happened in Benghazi:
LIASSON: I think the most, kind of mystifying part of this is that Susan Rice was so definitive, and was so kind of out over the tips of her skis as they say, on the Sunday talk shows. Why not say then we are doing an investigation to find out what happened, instead of saying definitively this was a spontaneous protest that in some cases got hijacked? I mean that's caused more trouble for them than the attack itself I believe. [Fox News, Special Report with Bret Baier, 10/10/12]
Fox's Krauthammer: Everything Susan Rice Said "Was A Confection," An "Invention." On the October 10 edition of Fox News' Special Report, Fox contributor Charles Krauthammer claimed everything Rice had said in relation to the Libya attack "was a confection" and an "invention."
KRAUTHAMMER: So everything that Susan Rice said was a confection, it was an invention. And as you showed, it was repeated again and again. You had Hillary Clinton speaking about the video as the body of the ambassador was lying next to her. Then you had Susan Rice spinning the tails. You had the president of the United States addressing the General Assembly more than two weeks later talking about the video, the insult to Islam, et cetera. You have this entire story going all along.
They're trying to sell the video, they're trying to sell extremism and they're trying to sell all of this at the time when they know it isn't true. So that's number one. And that's a scandal and I think it has to do with the fact that they were spiking the football over the death of bin Laden and al-Qaeda a week earlier in Charlotte and this was acontradiction of it. [Fox News, Special Report with Bret Baier, 10/10/12, via Fox Nation]
In Fact, Rice Repeatedly Stressed Ongoing Investigation
ABC's THIS WEEK
Rice: "There's An FBI Investigation That Has Begun ... That Will Tell Us With Certainty What Transpired." On the September 16 edition of ABC's This Week, Rice told guest host Jake Tapper that an FBI investigation was under way and relayed the administration's "current best assessment" based on information available at the time:
RICE: Well, Jake, first of all, it's important to know that there's an FBI investigation that has begun and will take some time to be completed. That will tell us with certainty what transpired.
But 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, weapons that as you know in -- in the wake of the revolution in Libya are -- are quite common and accessible. And it then evolved from there.
We'll wait to see exactly what the investigation finally confirms, but that's the best information we have at present. [ABC News, This Week with George Stephanopoulos, 9/16/12]
CBS' Face The Nation
Rice: "We'll Want To See The Results Of That Investigation To Draw Any Definitive Conclusions." On the September 16 edition of CBS' Face the Nation, Rice repeatedly stressed to host Bob Schieffer that the United States was conducting an investigation and that "we'll want to see the results of that investigation to draw any definitive conclusions":
RICE: Bob, let me tell you what we understand to be the assessment at present. First of all, very importantly, as you discussed with the President, there is an investigation that the United States government will launch led by the FBI, that has begun and --
SCHIEFFER: But they are not there.
RICE: They are not on the ground yet, but they have already begun looking at all sorts of evidence of -- of various sorts already available to them and to us. And they will get on the ground and continue the investigation. So we'll want to see the results of that investigation to draw any definitive conclusions. But based on the best information we have to date, what our assessment is as of the present is in fact what began spontaneously in Benghazi as a reaction to what had transpired some hours earlier in Cairo where, of course, as you know, there was a violent protest outside of our embassy--
RICE: -- sparked by this hateful video. But soon after that spontaneous protest began outside of our consulate in Benghazi, we believe that it looks like extremist elements, individuals, joined in that -- in that effort with heavy weapons of the sort that are, unfortunately, readily now available in Libya post-revolution. And that it spun from there into something much, much more violent.
SCHIEFFER: But you do not agree with him that this was something that had been plotted out several months ago?
RICE: We do not -- we do not have information at present that leads us to conclude that this was premeditated or preplanned.
SCHIEFFER: Do you agree or disagree with him that al Qaeda had some part in this?
SUSAN RICE: Well, we'll have to find out that out. I mean I think it's clear that there were extremist elements that joined in and escalated the violence. Whether they were al Qaeda affiliates, whether they were Libyan-based extremists or al Qaeda itself I think is one of the things we'll have to determine. [CBS News, Face the Nation, 9/16/12]
NBC's Meet The Press
Rice: "Investigation, Which Is Ongoing," Will "Give Us The Definitive Word As To What Transpired." On the September 16 edition of NBC's Meet the Press, Rice reiterated that an investigation into the Benghazi attack was ongoing and that the administration would "look to that investigation to give us the definitive word as to what transpired":
GREGORY: Well, let's talk -- talk about-- well, you talked about this as spontaneous. Can you say definitively that the attacks on-- on our consulate in Libya that killed ambassador Stevens and others there security personnel, that was spontaneous, was it a planned attack? Was there a terrorist element to it?
MS. RICE: Well, let us-- let me tell you the-- the best information we have at present. First of all, there's an FBI investigation which is ongoing. And we look to that investigation to give us the definitive word as to what transpired. But putting together the best information that we have available to us today our current assessment is that what happened in Benghazi was in fact initially a spontaneous reaction to what had just transpired hours before in Cairo, almost a copycat of-- of the demonstrations against our facility in Cairo, which were prompted, of course, by the video. What we think then transpired in Benghazi is that opportunistic extremist elements came to the consulate as this was unfolding. They came with heavy weapons which unfortunately are readily available in post revolutionary Libya. And it escalated into a much more violent episode. Obviously, that's-- that's our best judgment now. We'll await the results of the investigation. And the president has been very clear--we'll work with the Libyan authorities to bring those responsible to justice. [MSNBC, Meet the Press, 9/16/12]
Fox Broadcasting Co.'s Fox News Sunday
Rice: "Obviously, We Will Wait For The Results Of The Investigation And We Don't Want To Jump To Conclusions Before Then." On the September 16 edition of Fox Broadcasting Co.'s Fox News Sunday, Rice noted that the FBI was investigating the attacks "closely" and stated that "we don't want to jump to conclusions before then":
WALLACE: Let's talk about the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi this week that killed four Americans, including Ambassador Chris Stevens.
The top Libyan official says that the attack on Tuesday was, quote, his words "preplanned". Al Qaeda says the operation was revenge for our killing a top Al Qaeda leader.
What do we know?
RICE: Well, first of all, Chris, we are obviously investigating this very closely. The FBI has a lead in this investigation. The information, the best information and the best assessment we have today is that in fact this was not a preplanned, premeditated attack. That what happened initially was that it was a spontaneous reaction to what had just transpired in Cairo as a consequence of the video. People gathered outside the embassy and then it grew very violent and those with extremist ties joined the fray and came with heavy weapons, which unfortunately are quite common in post-revolutionary Libya and that then spun out of control.
But we don't see at this point signs this was a coordinated plan, premeditated attack. Obviously, we will wait for the results of the investigation and we don't want to jump to conclusions before then. But I do think it's important for the American people to know our best current assessment. [Fox News, Fox News Sunday, 9/16/12]
Rice's Statements Were In Line With State Department's Consistent Message
Under Secretary Patrick Kennedy: "Any Administration Official" Would Have Said What Ambassador Rice Said. The Atlantic Wire reported that Under Secretary of State for Management Patrick Kennedy defended Rice's September 16 comments, saying that "any administration official, including any career official" would "have said what Ambassador Rice said":
If any administration official, including any career official, were on television on Sunday, September 16th, they would have said what Ambassador Rice said. The information she had at that point from the intelligence community is the same that I had at that point. As time went on, additional information became available. Clearly, we know more today than we did on the Sunday after the attack. But as the process moves forward and more information becomes available, we will be sure to continue consulting with you. [The Atlantic Wire, 10/10/12]
State Dept. Spokesperson Victoria Nuland: Rice "Made Clear ... That There Is An Ongoing FBI Investigation." Commenting on Ambassador Rice's comments at a State Department press briefing, spokesperson Victoria Nuland noted that Rice was "very clear" about "what our initial assessment of what happened is" and that Rice "also made clear, as I had on Friday, that there is an ongoing FBI investigation." [State Department, 9/17/12]
Nuland: FBI And Libyan Government "Are Going To Have A Full Investigation" Into Whether Libya Attack Was Terror Act. Nuland explained in a separate interview that the FBI and Libyan government have launched an investigation to determine whether the consulate attack was terrorism:
Four Americans, including the US Ambassador to Libya, were killed during the attack on its Consulate in Benghazi.
Washington so far has said that the protest was a result of an anti-Islam video made in the US, while some US lawmakers have said that the attack has the hallmark of that of al-Qaeda.
"I don't think we know enough. We are going to continue to assess. She (Susan Rice, US Ambassador to the UN) gave our preliminary assessment. We are going to have a full investigation now, and then we will be in a better position to put labels on things," said State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland yesterday.
She said the FBI and the Libyan government, besides carrying out independent investigations, are also mutually "cooperating" over the case.
"The investigation is obviously going to lead us to the appropriate conclusions about precisely what happened and how it happened," Nuland said, pointing out that the US was "working well" with Libya in probing the attack. [Deccan Herald, 9/18/12]
AP: "The Obama Administration ... Is Investigating Whether The Assault On The U.S. Consulate In Libya Was A Planned Terrorist Strike." The Associated Press reported on September 13 that the FBI is investigating whether the attack was a terrorist attack or not:
The Obama administration, roiled by the first killing of a U.S. ambassador in more than 30 years, is investigating whether the assault on the U.S. Consulate in Libya was a planned terrorist strike to mark the anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and not a spontaneous mob enraged over an anti-Islam YouTube video. [Associated Press, 9/13/12]
Fox News Figures Have Previously Tried To Obscure Rice's Actual Statements
Fox Regular Liz Marlantes: "It Would Have Been Pretty Easy For Them To Come And Out Say We're Investigating." On Fox News Sunday, Christian Science Monitor reporter Liz Marlantes questioned why Rice had not simply said "we're investigating, we don't really know very much yet." [Fox Broadcasting Co., Fox News Sunday, 9/30/12, via Media Matters]
Fox's Laura Ingraham: Why Didn't Rice Just Say "We Have An Ongoing Investigation, And I'm Really Not Going To Say Anything More." On the September 16 edition of Fox News Sunday, Fox contributor Laura Ingraham asked why Rice had not just said we "have an ongoing investigation, and I'm really not going to say anything more. We're going to learn more." [Fox Broadcasting Co., Fox News Sunday, 9/30/12, via Media Matters]