Rep. Peter King, the New York Republican who heads the House Homeland Security Committee, told National Review that he thinks Rice should resign over the controversy. He was referring to her repeated claims during interviews on the Sunday after the attack that the strike was a “spontaneous” reaction to protests in Cairo over an anti-Islam film -- though officials now acknowledge it was a coordinated terror attack.
"She is America's foreign policy spokesman to the world," King said. "The fact is she gave out information which was either intentionally or unintentionally misleading and wrong, and there should be consequences for that. And I don’t see how she didn’t know how … that information was wrong.”
He called for a “full investigation.”
King’s statement, the first call by a top-ranking lawmaker for a resignation in connection with the controversy, triggered a swift response from Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., who leapt to Rice’s defense. Kerry, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said he was “deeply disturbed by efforts to find the politics instead of finding the facts in this debate.”
"During her appearances on the Sunday talk shows September 16, 2012, Ambassador Rice's comments were prefaced at every turn with a clear statement that an FBI investigation was underway that would provide the definitive accounting of the events that took place in Benghazi," State Department spokeswoman Erin Pelton said late Friday. "At every turn Ambassador Rice provided -- and said she was providing -- the best information and the best assessment that the administration had at the time, based on what was provided to (her) and other senior U.S. officials by the U.S. intelligence community."
King’s statement, though, was a sign he perhaps wasn’t satisfied by the claim by the nation's top intelligence official Friday that administration officials who initially said the attack was spontaneous did so based on intelligence officials' guidance.
The statement by Shawn Turner, spokesman for Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, was put out late Friday -- the statement appeared to take the blame for the confusion, and also marked a complete reversal from the administration’s initial claims about the origin of the strike.
"As we learned more about the attack, we revised our initial assessment to reflect new information indicating that it was a deliberate and organized terrorist attack carried out by extremists," Turner said. "It remains unclear if any group or person exercised overall command and control of the attack, and if extremist group leaders directed their members to participate. However, we do assess that some of those involved were linked to groups affiliated with or sympathetic to Al Qaeda."
Turner, though, sought to explain that officials who discussed the attack as spontaneous did so based on intelligence community assessments.