Kerry: ‘There Were No Protests in Benghazi’ Prior to Attack

By Penny Starr | January 24, 2013 | 7:23 PM EST

Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.). ( Starr)

( – During his Senate confirmation hearing on Thursday, Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) said the intelligence reports he got about the Sept. 11, 2012 attack on the consulate in Benghazi, Libya, which killed four Americans, showed there were no protests at the facility.

His remark was in response to a question by Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wisc.), a member of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations where Kerry was chairman before his nomination to replace Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State.

Johnson asked, “How soon did you know there were no protests, I mean, because it’s pretty obvious by the Accountability Review Board report that there were no protests. I mean, did you know that pretty immediately?”

Kerry said, “Senator, the intel that I got, and that I was told by people, was that there were no protests in Benghazi – there were no protests in Benghazi, but that there had been protests in Cairo.”

As the exchange continued Johnson asked Kerry if he would make a “commitment” to get the answers about what happened in the wake of the Benghazi attack.

“Well, I think, senator, in all fairness, I think we do know what happened,” Kerry said, explaining that video tapes were shown to members of the committee by intelligence personnel that Kerry said “made it crystal clear” what had unfolded at the consulate where terrorists killed Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans.

“Well, there was a briefing with tapes which we all saw, those of us who went to it, which made it crystal clear,” said Kerry.  “We sat for several hours with our intel folks who described to us precisely what we were seeing. We saw all of the events unfold. We had a very complete and detailed description.”

Johnson, who was not yet on the committee at the time of that intelligence briefing, told Kerry that the attack itself was not at issue.

“Yes, we know what happened in Benghazi now because we have the reports,” Johnson said. “But what we don’t know is why we were misled.”

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) ( Starr)

“Senator, in fairness, I don’t want the American people to be left with a misimpression here,” Kerry said. “When you say, ‘Why we were misled,’ that implies an intent to actually mislead you somehow. I think there was a description of a variance of talking points. I don’t know why that happened but there was description of that.”

But while Kerry defended the State Department and the Obama administration, when Sen. John McCain’s (R-Ariz.) time for questioning came, McCain  used the word “misled” five times to describe the Benghazi attack and its aftermath.

“They do care why four Americans were murdered,” McCain said. “ We do care why the American people were misled.”

“They were misled by the talking points that (Susan) Rice told the American people, which were false,” McCain said. “They were misled when the information that we needed to know about how those talking points were put together, which we still don’t know the answers to, many months later.”

“We were misled when we still haven’t gotten answers why there was not better security at the consulate when there was clear indication of the threat,” McCain said. “We were misled when we were not told that there was request for a 16-member security force to remain at the consulate and were removed.”

“The list goes on and on,” McCain said. “We still haven’t gotten the answers as to what happened in Benghazi and for anyone to say that we don’t care what happened is absolutely false.”

A swift confirmation of Kerry by his colleagues is expected.