WASHINGTON -- President Obama on Wednesday acknowledged that his administration passed faulty information to the public about last month’s deadly attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, but suggested those reports came in the interest of keeping the public abreast of what they knew at the time.
In an interview with ABC’s Diane Sawyer that aired Wednesday night, Obama said that “as information came in, information was put out,” and that those reports “may not have always been right the first time.”
In a brief set of excerpts aired on the evening news, Obama also said he trusted that “if there’s something to be fixed, it’ll get fixed.”
The admission came as critics questioned early accounts of the attack that killed Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three other diplomats at the consulate on the night of Sept. 11.
At first, the administration said the attack was started by opportunists taking advantage of the chaos surrounding protests over a video critical of Islam -- whether in the region in general or in Benghazi specifically, it wasn’t completely clear.
In an interview on “Meet the Press” on Sept. 16, United Nations Ambassador Susan Rice said what happened in Benghazi was “initially a spontaneous reaction to what had just transpired hours before in Cairo, almost a copycat of the demonstrations against our facility in Cairo, which were prompted, of course, by the video. What we think then transpired in Benghazi is that opportunistic extremist elements came to the consulate as this was unfolding.”
Officials now call it a deliberate act of terrorism, and the State Department this week said there were no protests in Benghazi that night. The level of security at the consulate was the subject of a congressional hearing Wednesday.
Republican Mitt Romney has stepped up his criticism of the Obama administration over the last month. On Wednesday, Romney policy director Lanhee Chen charged the administration with continuing to “offer incomplete and indirect responses to simple and straightforward questions.”
“It is up to President Obama and his administration to ensure that congressional investigators and the American people have a full accounting of the facts, not just from that day, but from the days and months leading up to the attack,” Chen said.
White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said Wednesday that Rice and other officials were working from preliminary information “based on the facts that we knew as they became available and based on assessments by the intelligence community.”
Carney took aim at Republican opponents who have pounced on what they call shifting accounts of the events.
“We're focused on the facts as we get them,” Carney said. “We're not focused on opinions about what happened, and we're certainly not focused on efforts to politicize this matter.”