President Obama said the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya occurred because “not all the precautions that should have been taken were taken' and denied any effort in the immediate aftermath to downplay the role terrorism played.
“That is inaccurate,” Obama said of Fox News' Bill O'Reilly's suggestion that the administration sought to sweep under the terrorist-nature of the attack in the final months of his 2012 re-election campaign.
“We revealed to the American people what we knew at the time,” said Obama.
In a contentious pre-Super Bowl interview with O'Reilly, Obama said early on during the attack — when then-Defense Secretary Leon Panetta informed him about the assault — that U.S. officials did not tell him exactly who was involved.
“People understood at the time that something very dangerous was happening,” Obama said. “In the aftermath what became clear was the security was lax — not all the precautions that should have been taken were taken.”
O'Reilly interrupted Obama several times during his responses, interjecting: “It's more than that” and asking why then-U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice went on the Sunday talks shows and blamed the attack on a spontaneous protest over an anti-Islamic video.
“I'm trying to explain it to you, if you want to listen,” Obama said at one point during the questioning.
The president said that anytime someone attacks a U.S. compound overseas, that, by definition, is a terrorist attack.
“The question becomes who is attacking us?” he said. He later noted that “there was a mix of folks” – “some who are just trouble-makers” and some “who were affiliated with terrorist organizations.”
The president also emphasized the need to implement all of the reforms the independent Accountability Review Board, which investigated the circumstances surrounding the Benghazi attack, recommended.