By Justin Sink
U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice said Tuesday she incorrectly claimed the September terrorist attack in Benghazi was the result of a protest over an anti-Islam video because of faulty intelligence.
In a statement released shortly after a meeting with three Republican senators who have criticized her comments, Rice said she did not mean to mislead the public with her initial comments on cable television about the attack.
Rice is considered a front-runner to succeed Hillary ClintonHillary Rodham ClintonLadies, don’t give it up for Trump Pence likens ObamaCare to Samsung phones that catch on fire The Hill's 12:30 Report MORE as secretary of State, but the controversy over her comments has raised doubts about whether she would win Senate confirmation.
Rice and Acting CIA Director Michael Morell met for more than an hour Tuesday with Sens. John McCainJohn McCainLots of (just) talk about 'draining the swamp' 56 memorable moments from a wild presidential race Is Georgia turning blue? MORE (R-Ariz.), Lindsey GrahamLindsey GrahamThe Trail 2016: Who is really winning? Graham: GOP Senate could rein in Clinton White House The Hill's 12:30 Report MORE (R-S.C.) and Kelly AyotteKelly AyotteThe Hill's 12:30 Report California National Guard official: Congress knew about bonus repayments Outside group links Ayotte challenger to school sex scandal in new ad MORE (R-N.H.) in an attempt to explain her comments, which initially linked the violence to other protests in the region.
On Tuesday, Rice stressed that "neither I nor anyone else in the administration intended to mislead the American people at any stage in this process, and the administration updated Congress and the American people as our assessments evolved."
Republicans have suggested that the White House was reluctant to acknowledge the incident was a planned terrorist attack because it could have hurt President Obama ahead of the election. Some Republicans, including McCain and Graham, have suggested that they would block any move by Obama to appoint Rice to Clinton's successor.
While Rice said she "appreciated" the opportunity to speak with the lawmakers and said issues were addressed "directly and constructively," in a press conference shortly after the meeting, the Republican senators said they were not convinced by her explanation.
“Bottom line, I'm more disturbed now than I was before [by] the 16 September explanation about how four Americans died in Benghazi, Libya, by Ambassador Rice,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.).
Ayotte echoed Graham, saying she was “more troubled today having met with the acting director of the CIA and Ambassador Rice.
“When you're in a position where you're ambassador to the United Nations, you go well beyond unclassified talking points in your daily preparation and responsibilities for that job. And that's troubling to me as well, why she wouldn't have asked” more questions, she said.
Rice pledged in her statement that the Obama administration remained "committed to working closely with Congress as we thoroughly investigate the terrorist attack in Benghazi."
Earlier this month, Obama told reporters it was unfair to criticize Rice for having repeated talking points provided from the intelligence community, and stressed he was ready to fight for her nomination. Rice is a close Obama ally who served as his senior foreign policy adviser in the 2008 campaign.
Julian Pecquet contributed.