Jay Carney tried to fend off questions from an insistent Jonathan Karl of ABC News about the administration’s misleading approach in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks in Benghazi.
Karl, one of a handful of reporters who has continued to press the White House on Susan Rice’s preparation and the talking points, challenged Carney for nearly ten minutes following recent revelations that top Obama aide Ben Rhodes urged Rice to use her Sunday show appearances to deflect blame to a YouTube video as well as tout President Obama’s leadership. He also cited former CIA deputy director Michael Morell’s recent testimony saying he was surprised to hear Rice blame the attacks on the video.
“You stood there at the podium time after time and said she was referring to talking points created by the CIA,” Karl said. “Now we see a document that comes from the White House — not from the CIA — attributing the protests to the video.”
Carney largely dodged the question, and instead repeatedly argued that the White House was working with what it thought was the best information at the time, in which several protests were taking place.
“The implication is we were somehow holding back information, when in fact we were saying what we thought was right,” the press secretary responded. “It was based on what we knew at the time.”
When pressed about why these recent e-mails regarding Rice’s Sunday show preparation on the attacks were withheld and required legal action to turn over, Carney argued that it was because the e-mail was “not explicitly” about Benghazi, but rather included other attacks in the region.
Ali Weinberg, one of Karl’s colleagues at ABC News, noted on Twitter that there was an entire section devoted to Benghazi in the e-mails, which the White House deputy press secretary Eric Schultz quickly tried to deflect by pointing to Sunday show promos calling the attacks “ongoing,” a tactic Carney also used on Karl.
.@PressSec’s argument on new Benghazi emails is that they were about Mideast writ large. But there’s a whole section titled “BENGHAZI”— Ali Weinberg (@AliABCNews) April 30, 2014
.@Schultz44 I’m not sure what an online promo has to do w/ what WH was planning to say. But sure, protests were part of convo at that time.— Ali Weinberg (@AliABCNews) April 30, 2014
.@Schultz44 but my point was that Jay is saying the emails were about the overall Mideast, not Benghazi specifically. That’s just not true.— Ali Weinberg (@AliABCNews) April 30, 2014