U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Oshkosh, had a testy exchange with
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton today as he pressed her on the
administration’s initial explanation that attacks on the American diplomatic
outpost in Benghazi sprang out of a protest.
Johnson asked Clinton as she testified before the Foreign Relations Committee if she spoke with any of the evacuees
from the embassy or if anyone from the State Department had talked with them
immediately after the attack.
Clinton said she has talked to one of them and State Department
officials waited to speak with others until after an investigation had begun
into what happened and the FBI interviewed them. She said the immediate concern
in the aftermath of the attack was giving medical attention to those injured.
Johnson continued to press her on why the State Department
did not do more to find out what happened, saying former Ambassador Susan Rice
went on talk shows in the days after the attack to say it stemmed from spontaneous
protests and were not terrorist attacks. The administration later classified it
as a terrorist attack.
“The point I’m making is a very simple phone call to these
individuals, I think, would have ascertained immediately that there was no protest
prior to this,” he said, accusing Rice of “purposefully misleading the American
Clinton said there was no intention to mislead and the State
Department did not feel it was appropriate to speak with the evacuees until
after the FBI had interviewed them and did not want to interfere with the
“I realize that’s a good excuse,” Johnson said, interrupting
“No, it’s the fact,” Clinton shot back.
Johnson repeated the charge that Americans were mislead and
insisted the public could have known that right away if the State Department
had interviewed witnesses right away.
“With all due respect, the fact is we had four dead
Americans. Was it because of a protest or was it because of guys out for a walk
one night who decided they’d go kill some Americans?” Clinton said, her voice
rising. “What difference at this point does it make? It is our job to figure
out what happened and do everything we can to prevent it from ever happening again,