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. Syvia Taylor

    Kelly Ayotte is setting women back 20yrs by allowing MCCain and his puppet Lindsay Graham to help them persecute a woman who has done nothing but her job. She looks as stupid as she is acting and I hope democrats put up a strong candidate to defeat her. She has made such a fool out of herself that democrats will support her challenger like they did Elizabeth Warren. Every time that idiot trio comes out (McCain, Graham & Ayotte) I change my channel. If they think women and minorities are not taking note, they are mistaken.

    November 27, 2012 06:19 pm at 6:19 pm |
  2. Shaw

    Pander Bear be quiet. Americans DIED that day. I'm sure that Obama very much so cares that HIS diplomats were attacked and KILLED. I don't much care about Rice lying to cover up the intel community or whatever BUT don't you Dare say that NO ONE cares that OUR people were killed. It's people Like you that make me wonder why I served in the Military since you don't seem to care about the loss of American lives.

    November 27, 2012 06:22 pm at 6:22 pm |
  3. yasmine

    this witch-hunt by GOP is going to backfire in their face...

    November 27, 2012 06:29 pm at 6:29 pm |
  4. yasmine

    Kelly.. I mean .. Todd... give it a rest

    November 27, 2012 06:30 pm at 6:30 pm |
  5. Ken Mark

    Obama ordered investigation on Libya. Republicans&right wing press owe families not to make political issue.

    November 27, 2012 06:33 pm at 6:33 pm |
  6. Claudia, Houston, Tx

    Republicans just don't get it and never will. Yes, Benghazi was an unfortunate disaster but it's over and the real solution is what can be done to prevent this in the future but they don't really care about that just like John McCain didn't care about crashing three military aircraft.

    November 27, 2012 06:47 pm at 6:47 pm |
  7. Leftcoastrocky

    Sen. Kelly Ayotte should be asking Petraeus these questions, not Rice.

    November 27, 2012 06:50 pm at 6:50 pm |
  8. Leftcoastrocky

    Republicans are making themselves look petty and vindictive.

    November 27, 2012 06:51 pm at 6:51 pm |
  9. Crp

    The Republicans are trying to make this whole issue with Libya into a huge story. The truth is probably a mix of all statements but there has been so much said and so many accusations made the truth will be a little hard to find.

    Where were these Republicans when hundreds of Marines were killed during the Reagan years? During that same time period diplomats were killed as well. Over the years diplomats have lost their lives serving in the United State Foreign Service. Those who work for the service know that this can be dangerous work. We can try our hardest to protect them but the bottom line is that we can never give them complete protection. The more we surround them with guards the more that local populations believes that we do not trust them or even feel safe in their country. This can be misinterpreted particularly if the people do feel safe.

    Ambassador Stevens knew this. It is too bad that the politicians do not. Sen. McCain and Sen. Graham are doing us all a disservice. They never pushed for the truth in Iraq and were just as willing as others to believe the WMD story told by the Bush Administration. Mr. McCain has changed his story so often that I am not sure he remembers what story he told on the Sunday morning shows. Mr. Graham just roars trying to look tough even as stories surround him. Sen.Ayotte is their "protege" and has little foreign policy experience..

    November 27, 2012 06:53 pm at 6:53 pm |

    Ugh. When can she and McOld get a grip? No one excepting the right wing losers cares about. It's an ongoing investigation to say the least. The GOP is dead. Thankfully.

    November 27, 2012 07:08 pm at 7:08 pm |
  11. jwheeler

    It is obvious that Susan Rice and the administration are hiding something. The motive is quite obvious, politics! They got caught trying to save face and now they can't get their stories straight or coordinated. These are the problems you have when you lie, as such this should be investigated further.

    November 27, 2012 07:13 pm at 7:13 pm |
  12. BillSD33

    The Intelligence agencies changed the script to protect assets in Libya. But McCain and company don't care about their protection, they think it is OK to tell everyone everything regardless of who it might hurt. Hey John, we get it, you are pissed because the Barack man beat you again.

    November 27, 2012 07:29 pm at 7:29 pm |
  13. Ann Marie

    These are witch-hunts. If they were truly earnest in their desire to find out what happened, they would be wanting to know why their wasn't enough security and perhaps asking their buddies in Congress why they voted no on funding for security for consulates. All the fingers are pointing back at them in their ever present quest to find a scandal to pin on Obama. Rice said what she said because that was the non-classified information she was told to say. She was even gracious enough to meet with them and they come out of the meeting trashing her more than ever. They make me sick. They should get to work and quit wasting taxpayer time and money

    November 27, 2012 07:30 pm at 7:30 pm |
  14. Lisa P

    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.
    A fool can always find more questions that are unanswered, the more so when she is unable or unwilling to understand the answers or the questions.

    November 27, 2012 07:47 pm at 7:47 pm |
  15. Mike Morales

    What I found is the people complaining are all white. Not to get racial, but,,,, that Is what I'm seeing. Being led by John McCain, someone that Obama thrashed the first time.

    November 27, 2012 07:49 pm at 7:49 pm |
  16. Thomas

    The header should read , Sen. Kelly Ayotte certainly misled over Mitt Romney !

    "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.

    you right about that !
    "hell hath no fury like a woman scorned"

    November 27, 2012 08:02 pm at 8:02 pm |
  17. mike t

    How sad that American citizens do not want to seek truth by only believe what the government wants to tell them?

    November 27, 2012 08:03 pm at 8:03 pm |
  18. Randy, San Francisco

    Where were all the angry GOP/Tea Party white men when Bush officials peddled phony intelligence on Iraq WMD? This shameful treatment of Dr. Rice will not be ignored or forgotten by minority and women voters in the next election.

    November 27, 2012 08:15 pm at 8:15 pm |
  19. Kingsley

    Ayotte & her group of white racists, I want to know whether you were members of the same house & Senate when BBush,Cheney, Condolizza Rice & Donald Ramsfield,the war mongers misled the good people of this country killing about 4,000 men & women. Were you people then real or imaginary? .Why do you hate this lady so much? .What do you need from her?.You people will lose your seats in the next election.

    November 27, 2012 08:22 pm at 8:22 pm |
  20. Martha in CF

    I'm am so sick of watching the witch hunt of Dr. Rice. All the redumblicans want is their mug shots on tv. Enough already....The redumblicans have become a NOTHING party.....

    November 27, 2012 08:22 pm at 8:22 pm |
  21. Reggie from LA

    Gee ziss!! Is the GOP and J McCain still trying to make political hay on the Benghazi thing? National security agencies are not tabloid rags. They are paid a lot of money to trick people. So Ayotte doesn't like being tricked? Doesn't like the American people being deceived when it's none of our business what the CIA is up too? They're not clandestine when they mouth off everything they are up to. Please. Please stop it!! 1) it gives the appearance of being intellectually lightweight and political. We're not fooled anymore. 2) there are more critical issues demanding her time and 3) She still feels as if she's VP material. Needs to maintain visibility. No reason to be whiny about Rice except seeking publicity.

    November 27, 2012 08:25 pm at 8:25 pm |
  22. Tony in Maine

    Ayotte was not in the Senate when Republicans looked at the ceiling andconfirmed Condi Rice even after she spun the WH talking points about Saddam Hussein's WMD.

    She is doing what she is told by the old white guys, hoping that when they throw a net over mcCain and drag him off to a VA hospital she'll be able to fill his spot.

    November 27, 2012 08:28 pm at 8:28 pm |
  23. Anonymous

    Wait did she not say was act of violence from a protest . Do you not relize if they told the truth before the election it would make your leader obama look bad but lying to us americans to cover there actions is wrong and will be delt with soon then you all will relize who is telling the truth

    November 27, 2012 08:39 pm at 8:39 pm |
  24. NameNC_Right

    We need a FULL scale investigation all the way up.....just like bush...."who knew what when"

    November 27, 2012 08:42 pm at 8:42 pm |
  25. virginia girl

    What a trio of toads you are. that video sure was involved in this and if truth be told I bet it could be traced directly to the GOP! You lying,pathetic,war mongering sore losers make me want to puke. Please Americans, vote these idiots out!

    November 27, 2012 08:53 pm at 8:53 pm |
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