WASHINGTON, Sept. 23 (UPI) -- A senior White House aide Sunday denied the Obama administration tried to downplay the apparent terrorist attack on the U.S. consulate in Libya.
Robert Gibbs said the initial characterization of the attack as a spontaneous event stemming from a street demonstration was accurate given the information available at the time.
Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other State Department employees were killed when demonstrators sacked the Benghazi consulate. At the time, U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice portrayed the attack as an unplanned assault by opportunistic militants.
Republicans scoffed at the idea and said the raid had been planned in advance by terrorists who used the protest as cover. They accused Rice and the administration of downplaying the incident to cover up lax diplomatic security.
But Gibbs told "Fox News Sunday" the evidence supporting the terrorism claim did not surface until later, and the White House dutifully changed its assessment.
"The answer (was) based on what (Rice) knew at that point and we've learned more and we're going to continue to learn more," Gibbs said. "The most important thing is we get to the bottom of the intelligence and what happened and what may or may not have caused this incident?"