Nearly 100 House Republicans on Monday urged President Barack Obama to not nominate Susan Rice as secretary of state, arguing in a letter that the credibility of the current U.S. ambassador to the United Nations was irreparably damaged following the September attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya.
"Though Ambassador Rice has been our Representative to the U.N., we believe her misleading statements over the days and weeks following the attack on our embassy in Libya that led to the deaths of Ambassador Stevens and three other Americans caused irreparable damage to her credibility both at home and around the world," stated the letter, whose first signatory was Rep. Jeff Duncan of South Carolina.
Rice has been under fire for publicly stating the administration’s preliminary view was that the attack was a spontaneous reaction to an anti-Islamic video, rather than calling it a planned terrorist attack.
In testimony to the House and Senate intelligence committees on Friday, former CIA Director David H. Petraeus said he believed almost immediately that the Sept.11 assault was linked to extremists with ties to al Qaeda, according to media reports. However, he said the Obama administration held off on making that suspicion public in order to avoid tipping off the terrorist organization.
But Petraeus also said some early classified reports appeared to support the idea that the deadly attack had grown out of a protest that was ultimately overwhelmed by extremists.
U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., the chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, told NBC’s “Meet the Press” that Rice did not immediately call the Benghazi incident a terrorist attack, because that view was based on information that had not been cleared for public release.
Despite the extenuating circumstance, the letter sent to Obama on Monday says Rice “propagated a falsehood” and that "her actions plausibly give U.S. allies (and rivals) abroad reason to question U.S. commitment and credibility when needed.”
Rice is currently speculated to be one of the Obama administration’s top choices to replace Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who plans to step down from the position next year.
That speculation heightened after the president pointedly defended Rice after a reporter asked him about threats from Republican Sens. John McCain and Lindsey Graham to block her confirmation if she is nominated for secretary of state.
“If Senator McCain and Senator Graham want to go after somebody, they should go after me,” Obama said. “For them to go after the U.N. ambassador ... and to besmirch her reputation is outrageous. And, you know, we’re after an election now.”