Republican senators on Tuesday demanded answers from U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice on whether her public statements on the deadly consulate attack in Libya mirrored what she knew about the attack.
The senators, in a letter to Rice, specifically asked if she knew about a video and other intelligence that appeared to foretell the fatal attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, but still told the American public the attacks appeared to be a “spontaneous reaction” to an early attack in Egypt.
The letter by Sens. John McCain, Arizona; Lindsey Graham, South Carolina; and Kelly Ayotte, New Hampshire, noted that Rice appeared Sept. 16 on “Fox News Sunday” and four other morning talk shows to say the attacks were spontaneous and not pre-planned, when “it was already clear” the strike five days earlier on the consulate was a terrorist attack.
They argue similar attacks by a “significant network of Al Qaeda-affiliated groups” in the region, that the protestors in the Sept. 11 attack were heavily alarmed and existence of a video “calling for terrorist attacks” indicated the attack was related to terrorism.
U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans were killed in the attack.
“We look forward to a timely response that explains how the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations could characterize an attack on a U.S. consulate so inaccurately five days after a terrorist attack that killed four Americans,” the senators said in the letter.
The video is purportedly of Al Qaeda leader Ayman al Zawahiri eulogizing the death of Abu Yahya al Libi – a Libyan and Al Qaeda officer killed in a U.S. drone strike this summer.
“You were surely aware of these facts on Sept. 11 when you made your remarks,” the senators two-page letter also states. “Yet these facts, including the unlikely coincidence that the attack was conducted on the anniversary of the Sept. 11 (2001) terrorist attacks did not prevent you from making a confident and counter-intuitive assertion.”
Rice said on the Sunday talk shows the violence that started Sept. 10 at the U.S. embassy in Cairo, Egypt, was sparked by an anti-Islamic video.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and White House Press Secretary Jay Carney have since acknowledged the strikes were terror attacks but say the FBI investigation so far has shown no evidence that they were pre-planned.
The senators also issued a statement Tuesday criticizing President Obama for attending the United Nations General Assembly in New York but going home without holding a single one-on-one meeting with a foreign leader.
The criticism is among the latest to question the president’s priorities and comments following the recent, deadly violence in the Middle East.
“President Obama recently said the broader Middle East has been experiencing some ‘bumps in the road,'" they said in a joint statement. “If the president had taken some time to hold even one meeting with his foreign colleagues during his visit perhaps they would have told him what has really happened in the Middle East on his watch.”
Obama arrived in New York on Monday, the day before his speech, and went with first lady Michelle Obama to a taping for the ABC’s “The View.”
That the president would choose to appear on TV before millions instead of talking with other world leaders prompted Republicans to suggest he was more concerned about re-election that the violence in the Middle East, which over several days spread to 20 countries across the region and North Africa. Forty people reportedly have died in the violence.
Obama also declined to meet face-to-face with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, though White House officials have said the two leaders recently talked extensively by phone.