White House Press Secretary Jay Carney temporarily slipped back into election mode on Friday, bringing up failed GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney while attempting to downplay the significance of an ABC News report that showed multiple revisions to the administration's talking points on the Sept. 11 anniversary attacks in Benghazi, Libya.
"There is the discussion about, you know, the Republicans again, and this ongoing effort that began hours after the attacks, when Mitt Romney put out a press release to try to take political advantage out of these deaths, or out of the attack in Benghazi, and, in a move that was maligned even by members of his own party," Carney said during a press briefing. "And from that day forward, there has been this effort to politicize it."
Carney went on to argue that criticism of the State Department's "scrubbing" of references to terrorism didn't hold up, because President Barack Obama had referenced "terror" in his initial address on the episode.
"And if you look at the issue here, the efforts to politicize it were always about, you know, were we trying to play down the fact that there was an act of terror and an attack on the embassy," he said. "And the problem has always been with that assertion it is completely hollow because the president himself in the Rose Garden said this was an act of terror and he talked about it within the context of Sept. 11, 2001."
As the Associated Press reported earlier Friday, the talking point drafts showed that senior State Department officials had pressed for changes leading up to U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice's post-attack media appearances. It was in these appearances that she controversially and inaccurately said that the event began spontaneously. Initial versions of the talking points show that intelligence from the ground suggested there was knowledge of which extremists had taken part in the terror attack.
State Department officials have maintained that critics are "cherry picking" the released emails, and that the edits were made because the intelligence on the ground was still sketchy and could have complicated the ensuing investigation.