Susan Rice Warns White House Not to Put Out ‘Inaccurate If Not Deliberately False’ Information

By Patrick Goodenough | March 23, 2017 | 4:25am EDT
U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton confer at the White House on Mar 10, 2009. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert, File)

( – Former Obama administration national security adviser Susan Rice was castigated on social media over a Washington Post op-ed accusing the Trump White House of dissembling and contorting the facts, but doubled down in a PBS interview Wednesday, saying when the White House puts out information seen to be “inaccurate if not deliberately false, it shakes the credibility and the confidence of our allies.”

The criticism greeting the op-ed almost universally pointed to the fact that, in an earlier role as President Obama’s ambassador to the U.N., Rice was sent by the White House to deliver to five Sunday television talk shows the message that the Sept. 11, 2012 attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi was a “spontaneous reaction” to an online video mocking Mohammed.

Only later did the administration publicly acknowledge that it was a terrorist attack, with a likely al-Qaeda link.

The incident prompted suspicions that the administration had deliberately sought to mislead American voters – during Obama’s re-election campaign – about the nature of the attack. Reinforcing those suspicions was the subsequent revelation that then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, on the very night of the attack, told her daughter in an email that the deaths at the consulate were the work of “an Al Queda-like [sic] group.”

Rice’s role in disseminating the White House talking points on television drew strong and sustained criticism on Capitol Hill, and may well have cost her the chance of succeeding Clinton as secretary of state. (That December, Rice asked Obama to withdraw her name from consideration, and the post went to John Kerry.)

On the talk shows, Rice said her comments were based on the best information available at the time, but it later emerged that in highlighting the video she was acting on direct instructions from the White House.

In an email released in 2014 in response to a Freedom of Information Act request deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes – five days before Rice’s television appearances – outlined his advice about how to portray the attack.

Rhodes wrote that she should “underscore that these protests are rooted in an Internet video, and not a broader failure of policy.”

In her Washington Post op-ed Tuesday, Rice wrote that, “when a White House deliberately dissembles and serially contorts the facts, its actions pose a serious risk to America’s global leadership, among friends and adversaries alike.”

Rice was referring among other things to Trump’s assertion that Obama had the “wires tapped” at Trump Tower before last November’s election. FBI Director James Comey has said he has “no information that supports” the accusation.

In her interview Wednesday on PBS Newshour, Rice said, “we have heard a number of striking and actually patently misleading statements from not only the president, but also from his principal spokespersons.”

“The United States of America is the leading power in the world,” she said. “Our friends and our adversaries respect us in large measure because they know that we are steady. We are fact-based. We are serious.”

“And when we have the White House of the United States putting out information that everybody can see to be inaccurate, if not deliberately false, it shakes the credibility and the confidence of our allies, and it lends doubt to our adversaries who may miscalculate.”

In the attack on the U.S. Consulate in Libya’s second city, Islamic terrorists killed Ambassador Chris Stevens, Navy SEALs Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty, and foreign service officer Sean Smith.

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