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. Pander Bear

    You know who cares about Benghazi? Right wing conservatives who had their behinds whupped in the last election. That's it. And they're attempting to turn this into Iran Contra.

    November 27, 2012 05:16 pm at 5:16 pm |
  2. PaulCat

    Ayotte is just McCain's female puppet. She would say or do whatever that old man tells her. She reminds me of Rep. McMorris-Rogers.

    November 27, 2012 05:19 pm at 5:19 pm |
  3. sick of republican phonies

    She's probably naturally suspicious of any stories coming out of the "government". Who can blame her, considering all the lies foisted on the public by the previous Bush administration.

    November 27, 2012 05:21 pm at 5:21 pm |
  4. demsrule

    The sad part about it all is these guys just don't learn! They will end up embarrassing themselves and costing them their next re-election. They have milked this thing until there is nothing else to squeeze out of it. Two bitter old guys and one misguided female fall gal!

    November 27, 2012 05:27 pm at 5:27 pm |
  5. 2012liberal

    And what? Weather it was a terrorist attack at the moment or a video. Just like any investigation. When u hv a local news story ie- bank robbery, murder. Police go n front of news ppl and state on going investigation and gv limited info 2 not jepordize invst. Get over it already! Like ron rich asked fixed news 'how many iraq contractors had died n iraq.' idk was the responce. Ron proceeded 'hndrds but where's questions there?' they were americans 2 n the middle of a war. There r casualties.

    November 27, 2012 05:28 pm at 5:28 pm |
  6. Anonymous

    How about she was doing what the IC asked her to do... not given up that they were onto the real thing. If they want to rule intel operations out of the Senate offices, they should say so or drop this silly witch hunt. I do not understand why CNN and other "journalist" do not simply ask the question "is it okay for the intell community to limit the amount of information they give to the public." If the answer is yes, drop this stupid story.

    November 27, 2012 05:29 pm at 5:29 pm |
  7. Todd

    Kelly Ayotte is doing more as a first-term senator than any other senator for a long time. Ultimately, she fights for people for New Hampshire, and people here appreciate her hard-work.

    November 27, 2012 05:30 pm at 5:30 pm |
  8. Bruce

    This is a red herring...nothing more...nothing less.

    November 27, 2012 05:36 pm at 5:36 pm |
  9. ddblah

    Todd: She fights against what, whom?

    November 27, 2012 05:36 pm at 5:36 pm |

    Rice said today, "absolutely it was wrong"

    November 27, 2012 05:36 pm at 5:36 pm |
  11. Gregory M. Newbold

    Ms. Ayotte, she DID NO SUCH THING! You would be wise to follow Lynda/Minnesota`s advice in a prior post. You are on shaky ground by aligning yourself to prosecute McCain & Graham`s agenda.

    It is a fairly common tactic to attack a woman/minority with another woman/minority when the attack is wrong factually or unprincipled. [think Steele/Obama]. You shouldn`t have fallen for it.

    Dr. Rice honored the professional guidance of the CIA. If you want to condem her for not revealing operational secrets of the CIA; if you want to impune her for that, I think her stock will and SHOULD rise as a patriotic American.

    November 27, 2012 05:37 pm at 5:37 pm |
  12. Lynda/Minnesota

    "They have milked this thing until there is nothing else to squeeze out of it. Two bitter old guys and one misguided female fall gal!"

    Ain't that the truth. And fall she will. Foolish, foolish woman allowing herself to be Palin's puppet ... then Romney's puppet ... and now McCain's puppet.

    November 27, 2012 05:41 pm at 5:41 pm |
  13. Jim

    General Petraeus said that the CIA knew right away that it was an al-Qaeda attack. Secretary Clinton said the State Department knew in real time that it was not a You Tube video based mob. Given this, the question is who changed the talking points given to Ms Rice? Why is it so hard for the press to ask this question? We need a name so this person can be held accountable. Once we have the name, this person must answer why they did it. Was it to protect President Obama's campaign story that al-Qaeda was defeated? Was it so that he would not look weak right before the election? Does the public care that he would orchestrate a lie like that?

    November 27, 2012 05:49 pm at 5:49 pm |

    Great. Now the Senate, that can't do its own job, wants to take over the intelligence role. And, their first blunder would have been to tell the bag guys "We know who you are"! What a bunch of misfit clowns. Pretend you're important and work out a tax deal! I guess we'll see how die-hard those GOP folks earning 50K a year really are. Are they will to pay an additional 3K a year in taxes so that the millionaires/billionaires don't get taxed on investment income!!! LOL

    November 27, 2012 05:52 pm at 5:52 pm |
  15. Bing

    Rice out and out lied and everyone knows it. An election was close and that was not a narrative they wanted out there so they through out the nut job with the hate video about 10 people had seen before all the free advertising. There is no way Clinton would go out and sell that propoganda so they threw out an administration puppet. No way she should get nominated or confirmed for Sec. of State.

    November 27, 2012 05:54 pm at 5:54 pm |
  16. Monomachos

    Who cares? The families of four people killed in the attacks. Anyone who serves our government in dangerous places cares. Anyone who expects an open and honest government cares. This is not a political issue; it is an issue about how our government defends its people and how transparent it is to its citizens.

    November 27, 2012 05:55 pm at 5:55 pm |
  17. heathergirl1234

    Yeah no one cares. I am sure the liberals posting here would care if the President in the Whitehouse WASN"T a Democrat.........

    Look at how important it was to get to the bottom of who outed Valerie Plame. Now that was important to liberal left. Odd no one died during that, but we had to make sure every stone was unturned in investigating that.

    But now, with four dead Americans in Libya, the liberals tell us "no one cares"..........

    I think this statement is partially true. None of them care.

    November 27, 2012 05:55 pm at 5:55 pm |
  18. Q

    Who is this Kelly Ayotte person? And what has she accomplished that is worth any significance?

    November 27, 2012 06:03 pm at 6:03 pm |
  19. B

    Kelly Ayotte the future of the republican party...scary!

    November 27, 2012 06:06 pm at 6:06 pm |
  20. Gregory M. Newbold

    Was it just me, or did others of you get the sense that McCain, Ayotte & Graham had settled on their "TALKING POINTS" before they took the meeting with Dr. Rice. I find it curious that each essentially used the same words so quickly after the meeting without any co-ordination.

    The bottom line is that Dr. Rice started her comments that Sunday with the caveat that the situation was dynamic and still unfolding . . . . and then she proceeded to give the intelligence community`s assessment. Today`s comments by Graham, Ayotte & McCain ring hollow. They determined what they wanted to say about this meeting BEFORE she & the CIA acting Director opened their mouths.

    November 27, 2012 06:10 pm at 6:10 pm |
  21. JustAO

    Keep digging for theories without ever wanting evidence to support your claims GOP.

    Keep digging all you want, McCain is still gonna lose his post as high-ranking GOP member on the SENATE ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE come January and there is nothing political you can do about it.

    So by all means, keep digging to keep him relevant to the conversation.

    November 27, 2012 06:11 pm at 6:11 pm |
  22. Erik

    Ayotte fights for the people of New Hampshire. As a citizen of the state, I know that she is dedicated to her job. Her values reflect those expressed by the people in NH. I think that she is simply doing her job in this situation. In my honest opinion, I cannot think of another senator that is more dedicated to his/her job than senator Ayotte. There are people that have been in office for decades that have not been as involved as Sen. Ayotte.

    November 27, 2012 06:11 pm at 6:11 pm |
  23. Jacqui

    To readily admit that they, the senators were wrong about Ambassador Rice would be the gracious thing to do. However, these senators and their party are the "No apology party" and even if it is the Godly thing to do, this party, which aligns itself with Christians, behaves in the most un-Christlike manner. They all need help.

    November 27, 2012 06:14 pm at 6:14 pm |
  24. Name

    The media is promoting these bigots grand standing. Where were this people during Iraq war.

    November 27, 2012 06:18 pm at 6:18 pm |
  25. plain&simple

    So she spoke the talking points cleaned by intelligence and not altered by anyone or other agency....sounds simple enough. She did her job and put out there what was allowed. This must be what agenda driven politicians can't stand.....someone doing their job as intended!!!

    November 27, 2012 06:19 pm at 6:19 pm |
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