By Justin SInk - 05/09/13 01:04 PM EDT
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) said Thursday that he was saddened by former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's handling of the terrorist attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya.
Rubio said he believed Clinton and others in the administration for political reasons deliberately hid the fact that the attack was by terrorists. Administration officials initially linked the attack to a mob upset over an anti-Islam film.
Clinton and other officials have said initial accounts of what spurred the attack were confusing, though officials testifying at a House hearing on Wednesday said they never had any doubt Benghazi was a terrorist attack.
Rubio said he believed that the Obama administration, including U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice, pushed forward with talking points indicating an initial belief that the Benghazi attack had grown spontaneously out of protests because "the president was in the middle of his reelection."
"One of his talking point was that terrorism had been defeated and that he had defeated it. And this ran counter to that narrative,” Rubio said. “They didn’t want to admit it was a terrorist attack because to admit it was a terrorist attack was to admit that terrorism was still out there and reaching us.
"And so that’s the reason they sent the order in my opinion," he continued. "In some way, shape or form, they sent the order that these talking points should not be allowed to include any reference to terrorism per say, or at least it acting as a terrorist act, but rather that this was something that was the result of a YouTube video. So I think that was the political motivation behind it."
The Florida lawmaker added that he believes "someone needs to be held accountable here" and that there was "a lot more to be learned" about the attack and subsequent response.
In congressional testimony Thursday, a trio of State Department employees said they were frustrated and disappointed in the State Department's response to the attack, which left four Americans – including U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens – dead.
The hearing also raised new questions about whether the U.S. military could have intervened, and over the initial talking points that blamed the attack on spontaneous violence and not on a pre-planned terrorist assault.
On Wednesday, White House press secretary Jay Carney said Republicans were attempting to "politicize" the tragedy.
"The president has been committed from day one to two things — making sure that those who are responsible for the deaths of four Americans are found and brought to justice, and that we do everything we need to do to ensure that this kind of attack cannot happen again," Carney said.