(CNN) – Susan Rice, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, defended her initial comments about the September 11, 2012 attack that resulted in four Americans dead in Benghazi, Libya.
“When discussing the attacks on our facilities in Benghazi, I relied solely and squarely on the information provided to me by the intelligence community. I made clear that the information was preliminary,” Rice, who has come under fire for her early account of the attack, told reporters outside the United Nations on Wednesday.
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While appearing on Sunday talk shows to discuss the attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Rice said preliminary information suggested the attack was spawned from protests over an anti-Muslim film. Rice's comments came under harsh scrutiny as further information suggested the attack was a premeditated assault.
Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, spearheaded the criticism, along with Sens. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire and many Republicans who have said they would block Rice’s nomination if chosen to replace Hillary Clinton as secretary of state. Elevating Rice to a Cabinet position within the administration would require a Senate confirmation.
Rice called some of McCain’s comments “unfounded,” though she said she has “great respect for Sen. McCain and his service to our country. I always have and I always will. I look forward to having the opportunity at the appropriate time to discuss all of this with him.”
President Barack Obama defended Rice and criticized McCain’s attacks in a news conference last week calling Republican criticism of Rice “outrageous" and the White House has said Rice was using the best information she had at the time.
Rice said, “As a senior U.S. diplomat, I agreed to a White House request to appear on the Sunday shows to talk about the full range of national security issues of the day, which at that time were primarily and particularly the protests that were enveloping and threatening many diplomatic facilities, American diplomatic facilities around the world, and Iran’s nuclear program."
Rice also said she knew Ambassador Chris Stevens, who was killed in the attack, and had the privilege of working closely with him.
“He was a valued colleague, and his loss and that of three colleagues is a massive tragedy for all of us who serve in the U.S. government and for all the American people,” she said, adding “none of us will rest, none of us will be satisfied until we have the answers and the terrorists responsible for this are brought to justice.”
CNN’s Gregory Wallace contributed to this report.