The White House on Wednesday shot down rumors that President Obama nixed an operation to rescue U.S. diplomats under attack in Benghazi after former Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich made the claim on national television.
“Neither the President nor anyone in the White House denied any requests for assistance in Benghazi during the attack,” National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor told The Hill via email.
Gingrich told Fox News on Tuesday evening that he'd been told by a “fairly reliable” U.S. senator that at least two news networks have emails “from the national security adviser’s office telling a counterterrorism group to stand down.” Gingrich qualified the statement, however, saying “I want to be clear, it’s a rumor.”
The former House speaker went on to say the rumor, if true, could help sway the election in Mitt Romney's favor.
The rumored emails supposedly describe the non-identified “counterterrorism group” as “in real-time trying to mobilize Marines and C-130s and the fighter aircraft, and they were told explicitly by the White House stand down and do nothing,” Gingrich said. “If that is true and comes out, I think it raises enormous questions about the president’s role, and Tom Donilon, the national security adviser’s role, the Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, who has taken it on his own shoulders, that he said don’t go. And that is, I think, very dubious, given that the president said he had instructions they are supposed to do everything they could to secure American personnel.”
Gingrich's unsubstantiated statement comes as Republican lawmakers on Wednesday rekindled criticism that the administration has not been forthcoming about what exactly happened when the U.S. consulate in Benghazi came under attack on Sept. 11, killing U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans. The attacks have played a role in the presidential election, with Romney saying they're proof that Obama's Middle East policy is “unraveling.”