By Justin Sink - 03/15/13 06:37 PM EDT
Carney also disputed the notion that anything other than the sequester cuts had led to the decision to cancel tours. Some Republicans in Congress have argued the decision was intended as a punishment for failing to offset the sequester. White House tours are booked through congressional offices, and Capitol Hill staffers were responsible for informing constituents that their visits to the executive mansion had been canceled.
“Well it is the consequence of sequester. I’m surprised to hear the suggestion [at] this late date that it’s anything else," Carney said. "The Secret Service, like every agency in government, has to cut its budget, significantly, because of sequester. That’s how the law was written and that’s what everyone is doing in Defense and everywhere else across the government, including the Department of Homeland Security and the U.S. Secret Service.”
The administration has spent much of the week on the defensive about the decision to cancel tours, with critics suggesting the president could limit his travel or leisure trips rather than limit access to the White House grounds.
"We've been dealing with questions about this every day, quite a few of them," Carney told reporters on Thursday. "And as the president has said, and I and others have said, this is a very unfortunate circumstance that is a result of the sequester. And it was an unhappy choice that had to be made."
Earlier in the week, President Obama said he hoped to reopen the tours to school groups, although was not certain it could be done under the sequester restrictions.
Later in the Fox News interview, Carney seemed to take another shot at the network when pressed on a report that three diplomatic security agents injured in the Benghazi attack last September had been restricted from speaking publicly. Lee asked Carney if the White House would help ensure the survivors of the attack could speak.
“I appreciate it, but I’m not familiar with the story,” Carney said. “I should have been watching Fox earlier. I’m sure we can get more information on that for you.”