Two Fox News Sunday panelists suggested that Susan Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, did not properly emphasize the fact that there is an ongoing investigation into the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya. In fact, in the interview that they were referring to, and throughout her appearances on the Sunday talk shows, Rice repeatedly noted that the investigation was ongoing and that its results would ultimately reveal what happened.
This suggestion feeds into the right-wing conspiracy theory that the Obama administration has been purposefully deceptive in its public statements about the investigation.
Today on Fox News Sunday, Christian Science Monitor reporter Liz Marlantes questioned why Rice, during a September 16 appearance on Fox News Sunday, didn't simply say, “We're investigating, we don't really know very much yet.” Later, Fox News contributor Laura Ingraham similarly asked why Rice didn't say, “We have an ongoing investigation, and I'm really not going to say anything more. We're going to learn more.”
But in her September 16 appearance, Rice stressed the fact that it was important not to jump to conclusions before the investigation was completed, but shared the administration's “best current assessment” (emphasis added):
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.
In her appearances throughout September 16, Rice repeatedly emphasized that the investigation was ongoing and would provide the definitive answer to what happened. Her statements mirrored those of other administration officials.
On September 28, the office of the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) released a statement on the Benghazi attack saying that the intelligence community's initial assessment was that the attack “began spontaneously” and that it had provided this assessment to the executive branch and members of Congress. The DNI's office said that new information has led it to determine that the attack was “a deliberate and organized terrorist attack carried out by extremists.”
Indeed, on the September 16 edition of Fox News Sunday, the Republican chairman of the House intelligence committee, Rep. Mike Rogers, acknowledged that, although he came to a different conclusion, the intelligence community's assessment of the attack at the time was that the Benghazi attack was a spontaneous event.