Last Updated:November 26 @ 07:29 am

Aronoff: Susan Rice’s Effort to Defuse Talking-Points Issue Backfires

By Roger Aronoff

Once again, CBS’s Sharyl Attkisson is leading the way among mainstream journalists. The winner of this year’s Reed Irvine Award for Investigative Reporting is making the obvious point—that the Obama administration can’t seem to get its story straight about many aspects of Benghazi-Gate.

The issue on the table this week is why UN Ambassador Susan Rice was sent out to five Sunday talk shows on September 16th to explain what happened the previous Tuesday, September 11, in Benghazi, Libya, with talking points that proved to be false. Who asked her to be the administration spokesperson on the issue, and who changed the talking points to remove references to al Qaeda and terrorism that were in the original version from the CIA? This week, Rice was sent out, presumably to help rehabilitate her reputation before her expected nomination for Secretary of State, to replace Hillary Clinton in President Obama’s second term.

Attkisson pointed out, in an article titled “Who changed the Benghazi talking points?,” that “the question was first raised 12 days ago when former CIA Director General David Petraeus told members of Congress that his original talking points cleared for public dissemination included the likely involvement by terrorists and an al-Qaeda affiliate. Petraeus said somebody removed the references before they were used to inform the public.”

It turns out that Petraeus’ version of events changed from when he spoke to the Senate Intelligence Committee on September 13. At that time, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) was asked by Wolf Blitzer, shortly after hearing Petraeus’ explanation, “Does it look like this was a carefully planned operation that was in the works for a while? What’s the latest assessment on that?” Sen. Feinstein replied, “I can say that I’ve seen no evidence or no assessment that indicates it was. I can certainly say that. There was a protest. And it could well be that quickly some two dozen people took that as an opportunity to attack.”

Other reports had James Clapper, the Director of National Intelligence, making the changes himself. But later it turned out, as reported by The Cable, that they were said to be made by the Office of the DNI, but not by the DNI himself.

According to President Obama, speaking at his November 14th press conference, Rice made a “presentation based on intelligence that she had received,” and it was done “at the request of the White House.” Does that mean the White House cleared what she said?

When Ambassador Rice met on Tuesday of this week with three Republican senators who had expressed serious doubts about her ability and qualifications to become Secretary of State in light of her actions, she was accompanied by the Acting CIA Director, Mike Morrell, who told the senators that it was the FBI who had removed the references “to prevent compromising an ongoing criminal investigation.”

Then the story changed again. “But it was just a matter of hours before there was yet another revision,” wrote Attkisson. “A CIA official contacted [Sen. Lindsey] Graham and stated that Morell ‘misspoke’ in the earlier meeting and that it was, in fact, the CIA, not the FBI, that deleted the al Qaeda references. ‘They were unable to give a reason as to why,’ stated Graham.”

It is incredible that at this late date, more than two-and-a-half months after the Benghazi terrorist attack, the administration is so caught up in a web of lies that they could still be making errors like this. The Acting Director of the CIA cited the FBI as the party that made the changes, and even gave a rationale for it, and then later that day another CIA official claimed that Director Morrell “misspoke,” and it was in fact the CIA. This is “The gang that couldn’t shoot straight.”

To much of the rest of the media, this is still being treated as a partisan issue. Those questioning the administration’s line are painted as sore-loser Republicans, who are sexist and racist, picking on Ambassador Rice over a minor bit of miscommunication. Richard Wolffe, formerly of Newsweek, now editor of, said that Sen. McCain was pursuing “a witch hunt” about “these people of color.” When asked if McCain was “being driven by racial prejudice,” Wolffe replied, “There is no other way to look at this..."

An article in Wednesday’s Washington Post said, “Rice came face to face with some of her harshest Republican critics, hoping to allay their concerns about whether she misled Americans regarding what precipitated the assault.” There is no longer an issue of “whether she misled.” The issues are why she misled, who was responsible, and who will be held accountable. It is clear the administration is covering up a scandal. Is the cover-up worse than the scandal? That remains to be seen.

Yet, as Attkisson pointed out, White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters on Tuesday, “I would simply say that there are no unanswered questions about Ambassador Rice’s appearances on Sunday shows, and the talking points that she used for those appearances that were provided by the intelligence community, those questions have been answered.”

She points out that President Obama indicated the same at his November 14 press conference: “We have provided every bit of information that we have, and we will continue to provide information…We will provide all the information that is available about what happened on that day...” and “I will put forward every bit of information that we have.”

Hopefully, other reporters will realize the importance of this story, and stay on it until the truth is known and people are held accountable.


Roger Aronoff is the Editor of Accuracy in Media, and can be contacted at

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  1. powertothepeopleComment by powertothepeople
    November 29, 2012 @ 3:12 pm

    Rice is part of the most corrupt Administration ever. Who would believe anything she says other than idiots and Obozo lovers. She is a joke!

    The lie has morphed so many ways that they now can’t remember what the original version looked like. What I fear though is that the lap dog GOP will give in and she will be the next SS.

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  2. Mort_fComment by Mort_f
    November 29, 2012 @ 3:38 pm

    In the past 4 years there has been only ONE truthful statement, ‘I will stand with the Moslems’. No, John McCain, HE is NOT a loyal American, never has been, and never will be. We are faced with an army of lackeys, Benghazi wa merely the icing on the cake.

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  3. DudleyComment by Dudley
    November 29, 2012 @ 3:59 pm

    Lie, cover-up, obfuscate, and lie some more. Fast and furious all over again. Then they poke these committees in the eye, laugh, tell more lies and dare them to do anything about it. We live in a banana republic with a rogue administration who literally believes they can get away with murder, because they do. No one will be heald responsible and no one will be prosecuted. RIP USA, welcome to Obamaland.

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  4. popstComment by popst
    November 29, 2012 @ 4:01 pm

    Obama keeps saying the he didn’t want to comment on Benghazi until he had all of the facts.

    On July 16, 2009, Harvard University Professor Henry Louis Gates was arrested by Sgt. James Crowley.

    On July 22, 2009 President Obama commented on the incident, criticizing the arrest and the response by the police.

    It took him 6 days to get all of the facts. Who cares if the facts were wrong. It was a learning process for him. It taught him to keep his mouth shut until he can somehow put the blame on someone else.

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  5. bna42Comment by bna42
    November 29, 2012 @ 4:07 pm

    “There is no longer an issue of “whether she misled.” The issues are why she misled, who was responsible, and who will be held accountable”.

    I would really like to know if any of the Senators she met with asked her who gave her the story and why she continued to repeat it after she found out it was untrue.

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  6. sparkyvaComment by sparkyva
    November 29, 2012 @ 4:39 pm

    As in many things there is more than one issue here. We are trying to get past the first issue which is why the changing story. Obviously the truth is to be hidden as seen by the countless series of different stories that are coming out. Once we have the administration fessing up, and probably blaming some low level flunky who will loose his job, we need to move on to the next question. And that is why help was not sent. There are many low level people that knew exactly what help to send, and middle management even staged the help as close as possible awaiting word from the top to go help them. But someone stopped the help and refused to allow the staged aircraft and men to proceed. At least two lives could have been saved by sending help. And a message to the terrorists would also have been sent that we are not wusses. Unfortunately we decided to send the other message. There are only two people in government that have that kind of power to commit the military to action. The first is of course the President of the United Sates. But he goes to bed early and sleeps late (low energy guy when it comes to the work of the White house, high energy guy when it comes to campaigning). Then there is the other person, the control freak you have to go through to get to Obama: Valery Jared. Everyone but Micheal is terrified of her, and she could get away with making the call not to wake the Prez. I suspect she made the decision to do nothing until morning. Remember not deciding is a decision in itself.

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  7. Jota_Comment by Jota_
    November 30, 2012 @ 12:18 am

    It is so sad the only defense they can make for their actions is their race

    It is like saying we are incompetent because we are of a certain race

    If they had any decency they would be ashamed for casting such a negative light on a group of people

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  8. tomtComment by tomt
    December 1, 2012 @ 10:01 pm

    The Community Organizer in Chief and his co-conspirators have opened a lot of doors, that, they have not learned to close.
    The maleficence of office, falls on the Commander in Chief.

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