Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) on Sunday defended his past assertion that the administration lied about the causes of the 2012 attack on the American consulate in Benghazi, by failing to acknowledge that al Qaeda played a role.
"It was accurate," Issa said on NBC's "Meet the Press." "There was a group that was involved that claims an affiliation with al-Qaeda."
Issa and other critics had accused the administration of resisting labeling the raid as an al-Qaeda terrorist attack in order to protect the president during an election year. In an April letter to the president, he and the Republican chairmen of four other committees asked "why the administration decided to communicate to the American people that the attacks were a spontaneous demonstration inspired by a YouTube video, rather than explaining the likely al-Qa'ida affiliation of those responsible." But, in an investigation published this weekend, the New York Times reported that the 2012 attack was led by local anti-American militants and not al-Qaeda.
"It is not about al-Qaeda as the only terrorist organization," said Issa, the chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee and a leading critic of the administration's handling of the attack. "They went out on five stations and told the story that was at best a coverup for the CIA or, at worst, something that cast away this idea that there was a real terrorist operation in Benghazi," Issa said.
The Times also reported that the attack was "fueled in large part by anger at an American-made video denigrating Islam," which Issa also disputed.
"Interviewing people in Benghazi after the fact, after the world has been told about this video, is really not in real time," Issa said Sunday. "We have seen no evidence that the video was widely seen in Benghazi, a very isolated area, or that it was a leading cause."