By Justin Sink - 05/01/14 06:52 PM EDT
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) accused White House press secretary Jay Carney of deliberately lying about new emails released earlier this week related to the Benghazi controversy.
“I guess he believes that we're all dumb,” Graham told CNN. “To say that this wasn't trying to shape the Benghazi story is inconsistent with the document itself, flies in face of the facts, and yet another insulting, misleading lie.”
The White House has maintained that Rhodes was merely prepping Rice to discuss protests across the Middle East, and not the Sept. 11, 2012, incident specifically.
“It was explicitly not about Benghazi,” Carney said Wednesday. “It was about the overall situation in the region, the Muslim world, where you saw protests outside of embassy facilities across the region, including in Cairo, Sanaa, Khartoum and Tunis. And the so-called talking points around Benghazi, as you know because it's been substantially reported on, were prepared by the CIA.”
But Graham said he wasn't buying Carney's explanation.
“This was an email trying to shape the story away from what would have been a damaging admission of failure of foreign policy seven weeks before an election,” Graham said, reiterating his contention the email was a “smoking gun.”
Republicans argue the talking points were part of a White House election-year effort to play down the idea that the Benghazi attack was terrorism.
Rice discussed a protest outside the Benghazi consulate Rice came under fire for insisting during her interview with "Face the Nation" that the administration's current assessment was that “what began spontaneously in Benghazi as a reaction to what had transpired some hours earlier in Cairo where, of course, as you know, there was a violent protest outside of our embassy — sparked by this hateful video.”
The White House has subsequently said that the attack was preplanned, but that talking points prepared by the CIA drew the link between the protest and the attack in Benghazi, where four Americans died. Critics say the White House pushed the link between the protest and violence for political reasons, and note that the Rhodes email was the only released document that explicitly acknowledges an anti-Islam YouTube video credited with inspiring protests around the region.
Earlier Thursday, Carney accused Republicans of attempting to politicize the tragedy.
“What we have seen since hours after the attack, after the attack, beginning with a statement by the Republican nominee for president, is an attempt by Republicans to politicize a tragedy," Carney said. "And that continues today and yesterday."