The White House, on the defensive for newly released emails showing senior officials attributing the Sept. 11 Benghazi attacks to an anti-Islam video, Wednesday said the documents in question were “not about Benghazi.”
“It was explicitly not about Benghazi," White House press secretary Jay Carney said. “It was about the overall situation in the region, the Muslim world, where you saw protests across embassy facilities across the region.”
Emails obtained by the conservative watchdog Judicial Watch showed that top White House officials were involved in framing the narrative that an anti-Islam video was the root cause of the attack that killed four Americans, including U.S. ambassador Christopher Stevens.
In the emails, White House communications official Ben Rhodes lays out the goals for the now-infamous Sunday show appearance by then-U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice in the wake of the terrorist strike.
Rhodes calls on Rice “to underscore that these protests are rooted in an Internet video, and not a broader failure of policy” and “show that we will be resolute in bringing people who harm Americans to justice, and standing steadfast through these protests.”
Republicans have accused the White House of whitewashing the terrorist elements behind the Benghazi attack to protect President Obama ahead of the 2012 election. And lawmakers used the new disclosures to ramp up calls to further investigate the administration's response.
Carney dismissed suggestions Wednesday that the emails proved the White House was pedaling a false narrative. He said the preparation conducted by the White House was typical for any communications shop at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
“Those talking points produced by the intelligence community and produced by the CIA for members of Congress were the same talking points that Ambassador Rice ought to use with regards to the matter of Benghazi,” Carney said, reflecting on the White House's thinking.