November 27th, 2012
05:09 PM ET
10 years ago

Ayotte: Rice 'certainly' misled on Benghazi, but unsure of motive

(CNN) - Sen. Kelly Ayotte, one of the Republicans harshly critical of Ambassador Susan Rice, described Rice's initial characterization of the September 11, 2012 attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya as misleading, but stopped short of calling the remarks intentionally so.

"Certainly she misled the American public," Ayotte said in an interview Tuesday on CNN's "Anderson Cooper 360." "I think that she would say that. She'd have to say that because she began our meeting today admitting that the representations about the video and the protests were wrong, and the impression left [for] the American people was misleading."

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To the question of whether the comments were intentionally misleading, Ayotte continued, "I don't know that I am in a position to question [Rice's] motives, but its deeply troubling to me that someone of that important position would go on every major news network knowing that she had obviously previously reviewed other classified reports that left a different impression with the omission of the important reference to Al Qaeda."

The New Hampshire Republican was joined by Sens. John McCain of Arizona and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina in a closed-door meeting Tuesday morning with Rice, who represents the U.S. at the United Nations. Rice was put forward by the Obama administration to speak the weekend after the attacks, which killed U.S. Ambassador to Libya Christopher Stevens and three other Americans.

After the meeting, Ayotte said at a news conference that she is "more troubled today knowing having met with the acting director of the CIA [Michael Morell] and Ambassador Rice because it is certainly clear from the beginning that we knew that those with ties to al Qaeda were involved in the attack on the embassy and clearly the impression that was given, the information given to the American people was wrong.

"In fact, Ambassador Rice said today, absolutely it was wrong," Ayotte said.

Rice said in a statement after the Tuesday meeting with Ayotte, McCain, and Graham that "neither I nor anyone else in the Administration intended to mislead the American people at any stage in this process."

In an appearance on NBC September 16, Rice said the attack involved "a spontaneous reaction to a video" which had led to an earlier protest in Cairo, Egypt. Asked whether the incident was one of terrorism, she said "opportunistic extremist elements came to the consulate as this was unfolding."

On CNN's "State of the Union," Rice described it as a "horrific incident where some mob was hijacked ultimately by a handful of extremists." Rice appeared on other programs and made similar comments.

The de-classified talking points which Rice and others used did not include references to the attacks being organized terrorism. The spokesman for the director of National Intelligence said the talking points were not modified by any agency outside of the intelligence community.

Ayotte, McCain, and Graham have said they would raise objections to Rice's nomination should she be advanced to replace Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, but would consider additional information before casting a vote. Clinton has said she is not interested in serving out a second Obama term, but will stay in office until a successor is ready to be installed.

Rice has not been nominated for the spot but is suspected to top the list of possible candidates.

Ayotte told CNN's Wolf Blitzer in her Tuesday interview that she is "digesting" Rice's comments in the meeting but remains "very concerned." Should Rice be advanced, Ayotte added she would "hold the nomination until we get a full and complete picture of what happened here and some of those questions have been answered today."

President Barack Obama defended Rice at a post-election news conference, calling the senators' criticism of Rice "outrageous," adding that if they "and others want to go after someone they should go after me."

After Ayotte, McCain, and Graham said troubling questions remain, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said, "there are no unanswered questions about Ambassador Rice's appearance on Sunday shows and the talking points that she used for those appearances that were provided by the intelligence community."

"The focus on - some might say obsession on - comments made on Sunday shows seems to me and to many to be misplaced," Carney said to reporters.

Ayotte responded in her CNN interview, "That's actually one of the most troubling things that I've heard, that there are no unanswered questions."

"Let's put this in the bigger picture: there are huge unanswered questions," about the consulate's security and preparation, the U.S. response, and Rice's remarks.

Filed under: Kelly Ayotte • Susan Rice
soundoff (97 Responses)
  1. ronvan

    Just the same old garbage from the repuks! They LOST, can't get over it, so now their missiion is to attack, question every move, embarass, any and all dems.! They are so entreched in their "outdated" beleifs that to say anything other than NO is to make them look stupid. As if they needed any help!

    November 28, 2012 01:48 am at 1:48 am |
  2. GSE2 Navy vet

    Disgusting that Obama sent Rice, a lower level lackey, to lie to the public and conceal a terrorist attack prior to the election.
    Hillary refused.
    Obama was informed almost immediately after the attack started and acted to coverup his administration's incompetence or negligence immediately.
    He KNEW Rice was lying and said nothing. Impeacement is in order; Rice was told to speak publicly for the administration. Either total negligence and incompetence, or an outright coverup (the facts say this is more likely the truth.
    Four dead Americans deserve justice; That's impeachment and or criminal prosecution.

    November 28, 2012 01:58 am at 1:58 am |
  3. stevetall

    Pathetic Republicans. News flash: You suffered heavy losses this election cycle because you're focusing your energy in the wrong direction. You should move quickly past the part where you're trying to make the president look bad by pointing at Libya. It didn't work, in case you didn't notice. Americans want you to focus on making positive progress on all the things you've ignored for the past 4 years. How about a little bipartisan statesmanship? If not, better get those resumes updated because you'll be looking for work soon enough. Like all Americans, I'm getting sick of your poor performance.

    November 28, 2012 02:27 am at 2:27 am |
  4. Namenovy

    Four people wereneedlesly slaughtered while the administration watched in the comfort of the situation room and people believe there is no purpose pursuing this issue? Typical Democrats. People in the administration lied and covered up the story and now you stupid lambs are ready to swallow this. I feel sorry for those in uniform fighting for you liberal wackos, they deserve better the four killed deserved better.

    November 28, 2012 02:45 am at 2:45 am |
  5. gwillikers

    Fact: Obama knew within 24 hours that it was a terrorist attack.
    Fact: Rice spouted totally untrue garbage on all media outlets; Obama and several key others KNEW she wasn't telling any truth.
    Fact: The Obama administration kept the farce in play for over two weeks; Obama himself rehashing the same points before the UN Assembly.
    Sorry but there is a coverup; Americans were deliberately misled . Rice is either incredibly incompetent or deliberately misled the public.
    Notice that Hillary refused to repeat the faked "talking points" publicly. Rice "shilled" for her Boss.
    The facts say there was a coverup; Rice is neck deep.

    November 28, 2012 02:46 am at 2:46 am |
  6. Man of Steel

    I wonder why these 3 senators have not leveled the same criticism and derogatory comments at the intelligence people that gave the ambassador the unclassified talking points. Why isn't the intelligence community people incompetent and or liers?

    November 28, 2012 03:28 am at 3:28 am |
  7. kmack

    Sodays after knowing the truth the CIA STATE DEPT + THE WHITE HOUSE including their puppet who also knew the truth Susan Rice LIED to America + still won't tell the truth 2 months out? So do so stop the nonsense stop lying man up Mr.President LEAD don't LIE you were given a 2nd term we need you to LEAD US GET ON WITH IT.

    November 28, 2012 04:00 am at 4:00 am |
  8. Name

    It's a question of integrity and government. Stepping down was the right call, but Rice has sights on Secretary of State. Quibbling when American citizens die lead me to question what else you would attribute to 'an expansion of intelligence'. Should have gone with 'we don't know' at the beginning, Ms. Rice. An oversight of this incident sets a new standard for government that is acceptable- one that you must ask if it is acceptable for you and your family in the same situation. 'Oops' is an answer for a child, not the Secratary of the UN, and certainly not S of State.

    November 28, 2012 06:08 am at 6:08 am |
  9. Marie MD

    I didbn't know ayotte could speak. She has been letting the men do all the talking. One thing I know for sure. She's NOT presidential material. you can put a fork in her before she starts cooking.
    I take it petraus didnt explain it well enough? These rethugs are disgusting sour grape human beings. It starts with mcnasty.
    BTW – is it me or does norquist look like Egypt's president twin? Somebody look into this and let's start rumors! That should really help get rid of him once and for all.

    November 28, 2012 06:29 am at 6:29 am |
  10. Ray

    Kelly has hitched her wagon to a falling star (Mcain).It will come back to "bite her."

    November 28, 2012 06:39 am at 6:39 am |
  11. King

    why are these right winged folks not focussing on the cause of this bengazi incident, and tries to fix future problems. its amazing to the american people intelligence, that the only thing they're focus on is what happened after the incident, which was done with national security in mind. do Americans really want to know every thing our government does to keep of safe and being the only super power on the planet? I dont think so, because we cannot handle the truth, and doing so will jeopardise our whole international mission. its a crazy world out there, so you have to act even crazier to keep what you got, and get more, so repubs take a chill pill.

    November 28, 2012 06:44 am at 6:44 am |
  12. Facts don't Lie

    did McCain and Graham realize that it really didn't look too good for two men to go after Rice so they asked Ayotte to come join them on their witch hunt? If the senator is trying to make a name for herself she is going about it the wrong way. These three I believe went into the meeting with their own talking points of sounding "troubled" after it was over.

    November 28, 2012 07:13 am at 7:13 am |
  13. Anonymous

    Obviously the people that think this is just a red herring and to let it die, don't care about 4 peple that died. Oh, yea I know people died during the Bush years and no one is disputing that. But this event, was watched real time (get it ), they were watching from the White House as it went on and did nothing to stop it. Should I explain it in more simple terms for the posters that have no education on this site...While the terriosts were attacking there were People in the White House situation room that watched the event take place. Do you understand now? Is that simple enough for you to understand?

    November 28, 2012 07:17 am at 7:17 am |
  14. Bob/Laguna Beach

    Condoleeza Rice said there were WMD's in Iraq and supported going to war (resulting in dead American.) When she was nominated for Secy of State, John McCain claimed she was a great American and no one should question her.
    Now that Ambassador Rice is under consideration, he takes issue with her statements – which have not prompted actions resulting in American deaths. Boy, there IS a difference between a politician and a statesman! When are the Democrats going to remind McCain of his comments?

    November 28, 2012 07:24 am at 7:24 am |
  15. Lance D.

    Do everyone need to have a "hidden motive" for everything they do? What inspired Susan Rice to get up, take a shower, get dressed for success then appear at the Capitol yesterday and this morning? What motivated Obama to get up, take a shower, put on his flight jacket then board the Air Force One to try and sell his "taxation without entitlement cut" 2013 Fiscal Plan? What motivates biased CNN commentators to get up, take a shower, get dressed, sit in their CNN offices behind the keyboard and write manipulative trivial trash? Things will happen as they were meant to be. The ridicule and devaluation of traditional core values - the amusing lack of media attention to cost of doing business within individual states (like New York State) in the federal budget debate - the free pass given corruptive political practices like use of non-authorized advisors ("czars") with liberal access to sensitive W.H. information - no doubt provide sufficient reason to motivate arousal of common curiousity.

    November 28, 2012 07:40 am at 7:40 am |
  16. Cory

    This is tiring abd boring. They keep saying "the american people want answers", well guess what im one of the many american people and this has been run though long enough. 4 times you guys get alone time (just for u) to ask any and all question u would like and u guys still arent happy. You guys report (oh I have more question). Really? You're in a meeting for u for over 2hrs and u could not ask all your questions? Give me a break. The american people no longer cares. Get to work on things that matter aka fiscal cliff, dream act, more jobs. The world will not stop spinning just because they want answers. Oh and americabs die over seas almost everyday. Where are the probing for those deaths?

    November 28, 2012 07:42 am at 7:42 am |
  17. jkane sfl gop mascots the blubbering slobs allen west rover nitwitquest rick scott ,carl rove and donald dump ??????

    This hick gop stooge from new Hampshire needs to go back to her camp site and doesn't even know the gop has no credibility on any issue and even backed the four time loser romney the tax cheat and lier in chief !!!!

    November 28, 2012 07:49 am at 7:49 am |
  18. got brains in NY

    When a political party has absolutely nothing to offer other than failed policies and antiquated ideas and values, that party resorts to false conspiracies to muster support. This is today's Republican party. So sad to watch the self destruction of what was once a strong political party, but not surprising. As a moderate, I feel it's important to have many views in our government to represent our country, but the Republicans are assuring that the Democrats will continue to regain power, and for that I am grateful, because the Democrats represent the future of our divers nation. Keep it up Ayotte, McCain, et al, the more you pursue this ridiculous tact, the more you will lose.

    November 28, 2012 07:49 am at 7:49 am |
  19. Lance D.

    CNN has minimized vital deep issues of Democrat corruption down to Susan Rice versus "Three Angry White Republicans" despite a vast archived storage of data supporting the opposite. One may question the motivation of the media during the past four years. The glorification of signs that clearly demonstrate rapid decline of western civilization. The media is a mere reflection of what is - and what shall never again be.

    November 28, 2012 07:50 am at 7:50 am |
  20. BigD

    Why don't they ask Rubio and the five other GOP members that approved the version they gave Rice? Are they abusing their power to create a scandal?

    November 28, 2012 07:54 am at 7:54 am |
  21. Greg in Arkansas

    McCain & Graham, along with the rest of the GOP have a reason to be suspicious of the intel community......remembering that this is the same intel community that protected us prior to 9/11/01 and told us of the WMD's in Iraq......but let's go after the spokes-woman when it fits our political agenda.....

    November 28, 2012 07:54 am at 7:54 am |
  22. ll

    Kelly Ayotte is either grandstanding or attempting to blow-smoke to deflect from the fact that she, herself, was a long-term Grover Norquist supporter and pledge signer.

    Why did you sell out the American electorate for the whims of an unelected, unknown guy, Kelly?

    November 28, 2012 07:56 am at 7:56 am |
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