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Jay Carney vs. FOX News' James Rosen Over Benghazi

Q I wanted to follow up on both of the areas we’ve been talking about. First, since we’re on it, Ambassador Rice in the statement that she released today and to which you have referred us, she says something which marks the first time that she has said this, which is, and I quote, “In the course of the meeting, we explained that the talking points provided by the intelligence community and the initial assessment upon which they were based were incorrect in a key respect. There was no protest or demonstration in Benghazi.”

And yet, references to this protest that never occurred and these demonstrations that never occurred in Benghazi were a staple of President Obama’s pronouncements about Benghazi for all the way on through September 25 at the United Nations. Why?

MR. CARNEY: James, I appreciate the question and there have been some very interesting answers to these questions of late, but I would make the point that, as Ambassador Rice makes clear in this statement, that those initial assessments were wrong in one key respect. There was no protest outside the Benghazi facility. To this day, it is the assessment of this administration and of our intelligence community and certainly the assessment of your colleagues and the press who have interviewed participants on the ground in the assault on our facilities in Benghazi that they acted at least in part in response to what they saw happening in Cairo and took advantage of that situation.

They saw what was the breach of our embassy in Cairo and decided to act in Benghazi. And as you know, the breach of our embassy in Cairo was directly in response to the video and was started as a protest outside of our embassy in Cairo. Again, what your question seems to suggest is that it is more important that I or others used talking points provided by the intelligence community than actually what happened in Benghazi.

Q No, that’s not a supposition of my question, and --

MR. CARNEY: No, but it is a supposition of many folks out there who have focused on this for what appear to be political reasons when the issue that matters is what happened to those four Americans and who was responsible and what can we do to make sure it doesn’t happen again. And nothing that occurred on a Sunday show, nothing that I said or others said based on assessments by the intelligence community relates to our need to find out who was responsible, as the President has made clear he wants to do and insists we do, and making sure that we take action to ensure that it doesn’t happen again.

Q I’m sure you would agree it’s reasonable for members of the news media and members of the public to ask questions about the public statements of their top elected officials and his aides in the aftermath of an event like this.

MR. CARNEY: No question.

Q So that’s why people are asking about it. I’m sure some have political motives, but you don’t have to impugn the motives of the questioner when we ask those questions.

My other point I wanted to raise with you on Ambassador Rice, and then I want to move to fiscal cliff, is the presence of the acting CIA Director in this meeting. Whose idea was that?

MR. CARNEY: I’m not sure whose idea it was. The fundamental issue here, unless this is all about politics, is what information was Ambassador Rice provided, and by whom, and what was it based on when she went out on television to take questions about what happened in Benghazi, and what was happening around the region and the world. Because the talking points that she relied on and others relied on were provided by the intelligence community, I think it’s entirely appropriate that the Acting Director of the CIA participate in these meetings.

It has been repeatedly said by some of the critics on this issue on the Hill that the White House provided talking points. That has been categorically refuted not just by us, but by the intelligence community and yet it’s still periodically said on the air. And it’s just wrong. And I think it is more -- again, more evidence to the fact that people are more interested in talking points for a Sunday show of several months ago than they are in finding out what happened in Benghazi, bringing to justice who was responsible, and ensuring that we take action that prevents something like that happening again.

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