Graham: Racism not behind Rice attacks, ‘only color’ at issue blood of those slain

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said Wednesday that it was unfair of congressional Democrats to accuse him of racism or sexism in his criticisms of U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice over the Benghazi consulate attack.

"If you can't answer the question, you attack the questioner ... my criticism has been about failed foreign policy," Graham said during a radio interview on "Kilmeade & Friends." 

"The only color that matters to me is red, the blood of those who were killed. I think it's a good thing for people of color and women to be appointed to the highest level of our government, because in the past, they couldn't be. I think it would be a terrible thing in America if you couldn't question and challenge what they did in their jobs," he continued.

In a press conference earlier this week, incoming Congressional Black Caucus Chairwoman Marcia Fudge (D-Ohio) said she believed criticism of Rice leveled by Graham and Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) contained "clear ... sexism and racism."

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"It is a shame that anytime something goes wrong, they pick on women and minorities," Fudge added.

And on Tuesday, Rep. James Clyburn (D-S.C.), the third-ranking House Democrat, said a letter from nearly 100 House Republicans urging President Obama not to appoint Susan Rice as secretary of State employed racially charged "code words" to make its case.

"You know, these are code words," Clyburn told CNN. "We heard them during the campaign — during this recent campaign we heard [former] Sen. [John] Sununu calling our president lazy, incompetent, these kinds of terms that those of us, especially those of us who were grown and raised in the South, we would hear these little words and phrases all of our lives and we'd get insulted by them."

On Wednesday, Graham defended his critique of Rice by noting he had also called for the resignations of white, male Obama administration officials, including Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and chief counterterrorism adviser John Brennan.

He added that he believed there still remained legitimate questions about Rice's statements in the immediate aftermath of the attack, which attributed the violence in Benghazi to protests over an anti-Islamic YouTube video, rather than planned terrorism.

"What did Susan Rice do? She told a story about a mob based on a video that led to the death of Americans, and that story is based not on any intelligence that we posses. So, somebody made this story up, and if she had access to the true intelligence and didn't check it, that's incompetence on her part," Graham said. "If there is truly no intelligence to support what she was saying and what the president was saying, someone made up this story line that was politically beneficial."