Republicans seized the opportunity Monday after CBS News released portions of a “60 Minutes” interview with President Obama that shows him vacillating on whether to call the Sept. 11 attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, an act of terrorism.
“In new 60 Minutes clips released by CBS, Obama refuses to call Benghazi attack terrorism when asked directly,” former Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich said on Twitter. In an interview with Politico Gingrich further stated that CBS had been “explicitly misleading” in order “to protect President Obama.”
“’60 Minutes’ shld b renamed ’59 Minutes’,” tweeted Ari Fleischer, who served as White House press secretary to President George W. Bush. “They wait until it’s almost over 2 break news that wld hv been significant earlier.” Fleischer later told Politico that he was “dumbstruck” by the network’s decision not to report on such a newsworthy item.
Sen. John McCain told Fox News that CBS was “not carrying out their responsibilities of informing the American people.”
Republicans have been sharply criticizing the administration for deliberately misleading the public by calling the well-planned attack a spontaneous riot caused by an anti-Islam video and refraining from calling the attack an “act of terrorism” for several weeks after it had occurred, so as not to question Obama’s claim to have vanquished al Quaeda.
The “60 Minutes” interview, which was first reported on by Fox News after CBS released it Sunday evening, shows the president declining to call the attack terrorism during an interview with the network immediately following his Rose Garden address.
“Mr. President, this morning you went out of your way to avoid the use of the word terrorism in connection with the Libya attack,” correspondent Steve Kroft asked the president. “Do you believe that this was a terrorism attack?”
“Well, it’s too early to tell exactly how this came about, what group was involved, but obviously it was an attack on Americans,” Obama answered. “And we are going to be working with the Libyan government to make sure that we bring these folks to justice, one way or the other.”
The administration said it had first announced that the attack was linked to an anti-Islam film made in the U.S. due to intelligence information it had received at the time. The White House claimed that the differing reports that had emerged in the weeks following was merely the result of shifting intelligence information and not the result of attempting to conceal certain facts or truths from the public, although the sophisticated weapons used were obviously not in the public’s possession.
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