Susan Rice: Benghazi critics "dead wrong"

U.S. Ambassador SusanRice speaks at a news conference after the U.N. Security Council held an emergency meeting on North Korea's nuclear test on Tuesday morning at U.N. headquarters, Tuesday Feb. 12, 2013.
AP Photo/Craig Ruttle

Those who have accused the Obama administration of a cover up in the wake of the attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi are "dead wrong, and they are in fact doing a disservice to those we lost," U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice said Thursday on the "Daily Show with Jon Stewart."

Rice became a lightning rod for GOP criticism after she portrayed the attack as the result of a protest, rather than a premeditated terrorist assault, on the Sunday talk shows following the incident. She defended that characterization, telling Stewart, "I shared the best information that our intelligence community had at the time, and they provided the talking points that I used."

She admitted, "they were wrong in one respect, we learned subsequently... and that is that there wasn't, in fact, a protest. But in every other respect, they have more or less held up over time."

Asked why she was selected to brief the talk shows on that particular Sunday, Rice explained, "Secretary Clinton, who had been asked originally to do it, felt that she didn't want to, couldn't do it that week, having been through quite a pretty intense week with the loss of our colleagues in Benghazi...so I was asked as I've been in the past, and I said I would."

The "bigger tragedy" of the reaction to Benghazi, Rice said, "Is that we've spent all of these months trying to figure out the origin of some talking points which were cleared at the highest levels of the intelligence community, and in my opinion, not enough time doing the service that we owe to our fallen colleagues who have been lost."

She also disputed accusations that the administration is stonewalling, arguing that dozens of hearings and briefings have given Congress "ample opportunities" to understand the response to the attack.

The U.N. ambassador also addressed the recent North Korean nuclear test, saying "we had every reason to expect that it was coming," though "we didn't know when, precisely."

But North Korea needs to understand, Rice said, that "The more they violate their international obligations...the more they're isolating and impoverishing their own people."

"It's not just the United States of America that finds this absolutely unacceptable," she explained. "It's the entire international community. It's China, who was none too amused by this latest" action.