Washington Post fact checker Glenn Kessler has a terrific list of statements made after the Benghazi attack by administration officials and President Obama. Interestingly, despite the fact that yesterday it was reported that U.S. officials knew as early as September 12 that the attack was orchestrated by al-Qaeda, no official used the term “terrorism” until September 19th, when National Counterterrorism Center director Matthew Olsen said in a congressional testimony, “I would say yes, they were killed in the course of a terrorist attack on our embassy.”
The next day at the Univision Town hall, Obama is asked this: “We have reports that the White House said today that the attacks in Libya were a terrorist attack. Do you have information indicating that it was Iran, or al-Qaeda was behind organizing the protests?”
But in his response, Obama suggests it remains unclear whether the attack was an act of terror. “Well, we’re still doing an investigation, and there are going to be different circumstances in different countries,” Obama said. “And so I don’t want to speak to something until we have all the information. What we do know is that the natural protests that arose because of the outrage over the video were used as an excuse by extremists to see if they can also directly harm U.S. interests.”
And then again, several days after Olsen has told Congress that the attack in Benghazi was a “a terrorist attack,” Obama refuses to call it terrorism when appearing on The View in an episode that aired September 25. In response to this question, “I heard Hillary Clinton say it was an act of terrorism. Is it? What do you say?”, Obama said, “We are still doing an investigation. There is no doubt that the kind of weapons that were used, the ongoing assault, that it wasn’t just a mob action. Now, we don’t have all the information yet so we are still gathering.” Once again, there is no mention of the word “terrorism.”
In fact, to the best of my knowledge, Obama has yet to describe the attack as “terrorism” in any public forum.
Romney senior adviser Eric Fehrnstrom criticized the Obama administration’s handling of the matter today. “I think President Obama needs to be held accountable for his administration’s attempts to mislead the American people about what happened in Benghazi,” Fehrnstrom said on Fox News Channel’s America’s Newsroom. “We were initially told that this was a spontaneous demonstration in response to a video that was on You Tube. The administration sent their ambassador to the U.N., Susan Rice, on the Sunday shows to defend that position. Now we’re learning that it was a pre-planned terrorist attack, conduct on the anniversary of 9/11 and that it involved elements of Al Qaida.”