(WASHINGTON) — Senate Republicans said that the White House’s delay in calling the assault on the consulate in Libya an act of terrorism set back efforts to truly confront the attack.
“On Sunday, to hear Ambassador Rice talk about how somehow this was all the result of a YouTube video, I think that is increasingly being debunked, and quite frankly I think that sets us back in our efforts to confront what this really is about,” Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., said to cameras, referring to Susan Rice, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.
Rubio’s comments came after the full Senate received a one-hour briefing on the attack in Benghazi from Secretary of State Clinton Thursday evening.
The administration has said — repeated as recently as Sunday — the attack was a spontaneous reaction to the protests over the anti-Muslim video. But for the first time Thursday White House press secretary Jay Carney publicly characterized the deadly assault a “terrorist attack.”
“It is, I think, self-evident that what happened in Benghazi was a terrorist attack,” Carney told reporters aboard Air Force One en route to Florida. “Our embassy was attacked violently and the result was four deaths of American officials. So, again, that’s self-evident.”
Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., Thursday said he is “stunned” that the administration ever thought the attack was spontaneous.
“It shows the level of — abysmal level of their knowledge about fundamental aspects of terrorist attacks and militant operations which had mortars, heavy equipment and rocket-propelled grenades, not exactly a spontaneous demonstration.”
McCain said that he “learned nothing” from the briefing by Clinton Thursday and still has many more questions for the administration.
“Why is it that we believe that this video is a problem?” McCain asked, ticking through his questions for the Obama administration. “What was the security of the embassy? Are there al Qaeda elements involved? Was this organization that’s been reported to be operating in Benghazi al Qaeda-affiliated and involved in the attack? There are 20 more questions that I have.”
The House of Representatives received a similar briefing from Clinton Thursday as well.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Claire Moran, CNN
Michael Pearson and Steve Almasy, CNN