Any White House edits made to talking points about the terrorist attacks in Benghazi, Libya, were merely “stylistic,” Obama spokesman Jay Carney insisted on Wednesday amid congressional hearings about the Sept. 11 strike that killed four Americans.
“The fact that there are inputs is always the case in a process like this,” Carney said. “Edits made by anyone at the White House were stylistic and not substantive. They corrected the description of the building … from consulate to diplomatic facility. Ultimately, this all has been discussed and reviewed and provided in enormous levels of detail by the administration to congressional investigators. The attempt to politicize the talking points again is part of an effort to chase after what isn’t the substance here.”
The White House has been hammered for initially blaming the violence on a spontaneous protest to an anti-Islam YouTube video and a Sunday show appearance in which former United Nations Ambassador Susan Rice trumpeted that false narrative.
A recent article by The Weekly Standard suggests the edits were more substantial. According to the magazine, senior officials at the White House and State Department were heavily involved in rewriting the talking points. After a meeting with the senior officials, the CIA deleted all references to al Qaeda, the article said. Republicans have long accused administration officials of wanting to downplay a terrorist attack so close to a presidential election.
State Department officials in testimony on Capitol Hill on Wednesday said they knew well before Rice’s Sunday show appearance that terrorists were responsible for the violence.
Much of the hourlong White House briefing Wednesday was devoted to Benghazi, and Carney grew noticeably frustrated with the questioning.
“We’ve been through this so many times,” the press secretary said, adding that nothing uncovered in testimony on Capitol Hill or in The Weekly Standard article “contradicts what we said.”