(WASHINGTON) -- White House Press Secretary Jay Carney sought to defend a newly released email from a White House communications adviser that showed the White House prepping then-U.S. ambassador to the UN Susan Rice for her round of TV interviews following the deadly terror attack in Benghazi, Libya.
The email from National Security Council communications adviser Ben Rhodes lists as a "goal" of Rice's round of interviews, "to show that these protests were rooted in an Internet video, and not a broader failure of policy."
The video Rhodes to which referenced was an anti-Muslim YouTube video that sparked other protests in the Muslim world, and was blamed by many in the adminstration, including President Obama himself, for kicking off the Benghazi attack.
The messages also stated in part that Rice should publicly, "reinforce the President and Administration's strength and steadiness in dealing with difficult challenges."
Critics assert that because the terror attacks that left U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans dead came during the 2012 presidential election campaign, they could have cast doubts on President Obama's assertations on the stump that his administration had "al-Qeada on the run" had the public been made aware they were premeditated and executed by terrorists linked to the group.
ABC's Jonathan Karl sparred with Carney during a press briefing on Wednesday, pressing the spokesperson about the emails, which took a Freedom of Information Act request to bring to light. "Why were you holding back this information?" a frustrated Karl asked. "Why was this email not turned over to the Congress? Why was it not released when you released all the all the other emails? This was directly relevant. Why did you hold it back? Why did it take a court case to release this...?" Karl asked.
"This document was not about Benghazi," Carney insisted.
"It is often forgotten that during that time period there was an enormous amount of attention and focus, appropriately, on the fact that there were protesters, sometimes violent protesters, surrounding U.S. embassies, causing us to draw down personnel at those embassies, causing great concern, understandably, about the safety of American personnel at other diplomatic facilities around the Muslim world. And that was a focus of a great deal of press attention, and thus would be, as the promos indicate, one of the areas of focus of those Sunday shows."
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