A vehicle and the surrounding area are engulfed in flames after it was set on fire inside the U.S. consulate compound in Benghazi, Libya on Sept. 11, 2012.(Photo: AFP/Getty Images)
On the eve of the presidential election CBS News program 60 Minutes
released a transcript of an interview with President Obama in which he
said it was "too early to tell" whether the attack on the U.S. consulate
in Libya was an act of terrorism.
The statement appears to
contradict Obama's claim in a second debate with GOP presidential
candidate Mitt Romney that he identified the Sept. 11 attack that killed
Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans as a terror
attack the day after it happened.
Romney had criticized Obama at
the Oct. 17 debate for refusing to accurately call the assault
"terrorism" and pointed to instances where Obama referred to it several
times as a spontaneous protest of an anti-Islam video for weeks
Obama said he referred to it as an act of terror Sept.
12 in a statement in the Rose Garden at the White House. Debate
moderator Candy Crowley of CNN agreed and told Romney he was wrong.
in an interview with CBS newsman Steve Kroft after the Rose Garden
statement but on the same day, Obama was asked what he meant because
Kroft indicated it was unclear:
Kroft: Mr. President, this
morning you went out of your way to avoid the use of the word terrorism
in connection with the Libya attack. Do you believe that this was a
Obama: Well it's too early to know
exactly how this came about, what group was involved, but obviously it
was an attack on Americans.
CBS News waited until Nov. 4 to
post that portion of its interview and offered no explanation as to why
it delayed release of a video clip that was pertinent to what became a
significant story at the time.
On Friday, Rep. Jason Chaffetz,
R-Utah, a member of the congressional committee investigating the
attack, suggested the White House intentionally misled the public
because Obama's re-election campaign was claiming he had crushed
"They didn't want to admit it was a terrorist
attack," Chaffetz said. "Admitting it was terrorism would fly in the
face of what they had been telling the American people about al-Qaeda."
"No matter what happens on Tuesday, the Congress will continue to dive deep into this issue," he said of the election.
the Rose Garden, his first official remarks on the attack, Obama read a
44-line statement on the deaths in Benghazi and extolled the memories
of those who died.
Toward the end of his statement, he spoke
generally of the "solemn memory" of the Sept. 11 attacks 11 years
earlier. He talked of mourning those who died then, and how he had
visited the graves of troops who died in Iraq and Afghanistan at
Arlington National Cemetery and also to wounded troops at Walter Reed.
country is only as strong as the character of our people and the
service of those both civilian and military who represent us around the
globe," he said. "No acts of terror will ever shake the resolve of this
great nation, alter that character, or eclipse the light of the values
that we stand for."
After the debate in which Obama claimed that
statement referred to Benghazi, GOP vice presidential nominee Rep. Paul
Ryan defended Romney's characterization of Obama's refusal to admit the
"It was a passing comment about acts of terror in general,
it was not a claim that this was a terrorist attack," Ryan said on ABC's
Good Morning America that week. "Nobody believes that that Rose
Garden speech from the president was suggesting that that (individual
act) was an act of terror."