McClatchy’s has analyzed the range of statements made by Obama-administration officials over the days following the Benghazi attack, and argue that have identified the following line: Officials first offered vague comments implying it was a pre-planned terrorist attack; then, infamously in Ambassador Rice’s Sunday-show comments, retreated to blaming the YouTube video; before finally admitting that it was complex, premeditated terrorist attack. The report explains:
In the first 48 hours after the deadly Sept. 11 attacks on U.S. diplomatic outposts in Libya, senior Obama administration officials strongly alluded to a terrorist assault and repeatedly declined to link it to an anti-Muslim video that drew protests elsewhere in the region, transcripts of briefings show.
The administration’s initial accounts, however, changed dramatically in the following days, according to a review of briefing transcripts and administration statements, with a new narrative emerging Sept. 16 when U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice asserted in a series of TV appearances that the best information available indicated that the attack had spun off from a protest over the video. . . .
On the day after the attack, transcripts show, senior administration officials, briefing reporters, declined in response to three direct questions to link the Benghazi assaults to protests over the video. One senior official told reporters during the briefing that “unidentified Libyan extremists” launched what was “clearly a complex attack.” . . . At campaign stops in Colorado and Nevada the next day, Sept. 13, Obama referred to the Benghazi assault as “an act of terror.” . . .
Then, they argue, the story changed:
With images of besieged U.S. missions in the Middle East still leading the evening news, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney became the first official to back away from the earlier declaration that the Benghazi assault was a “complex attack” by extremists. Instead, Carney told reporters, authorities “have no information to suggest that it was a preplanned attack.” He added that there was no reason to think that the Benghazi attack wasn’t related to the video, given that the clip had sparked protests in many Muslim cities.
“The unrest that we’ve seen around the region has been in reaction to a video that Muslims, many Muslims, find offensive,” Carney said.
When pressed by reporters who pointed out evidence that the violence in Benghazi was preplanned, Carney said that “news reports” had speculated about the motive. He noted again that “the unrest around the region has been in response to this video.” . . . By that Sunday, Sept. 16, the evolution of the narrative was complete when Rice, the U.N. ambassador, showed up on all five major morning talk shows to make the most direct public connection yet between the Benghazi assault and the incendiary video. While she couched her remarks in caveats – “based on the information we have at present,” for example – Rice clearly intended to make the link before a large American audience. . . .
Under intense pressure from Republican critics over the handling of the Benghazi aftermath, the Obama administration finally came full circle on Sept. 20, returning to what Libyan and U.S. officials had said at the very beginning: the attack on the Benghazi consulate was separate from the region’s video protests and bore the hallmarks of a terrorist attack.