September 26th, 2012
03:35 PM ET
Both the Romney campaign and the Republican National Committee released statements Wednesday criticizing President Obama for not explicitly classifying the attacks on the U.S. consulate in Libya as “terrorist attacks” in public appearances over the past two weeks.
At the UN General Assembly on Tuesday, Obama called the violence, “attacks on America,” but stopped short of labeling the perpetrators as terrorists.
“There should be no doubt that we will be relentless in tracking down the killers and bringing them to justice,” the president said.
When specifically asked whether the strikes were terrorist attacks during a television appearance on ABC’s The View on Monday, Obama wouldn’t say.
“We're still doing an investigation,” he said. “There's no doubt that the kind of weapons that were used, the ongoing assault, that it wasn't just a mob action. Now, we don't have all the information yet, and so we're still gathering it, but what's clear is that around the world, there's still a lot of threats out there.”
RNC Press Secretary Kirsten Kukoswki sent an email to reporters Wednesday afternoon asking, “If the president believes we were attacked by terrorists on 9/11 why hasn’t he said so in the 15 days since the attack?”
White House Press Secretary Jay Carney addressed the criticism in a gaggle with reporters aboard Air Force One on Wednesday.
“The President spoke eloquently I believe about the attack that took the lives of four Americans at the United Nations General Assembly,” Carney began, before summarizing the president’s comments condemning the violence.
“The President - our position is, as reflected by the NCTC director, that it was a terrorist attack,” he continued. “It is, I think by definition, a terrorist attack when there is a prolonged assault on an embassy with weapons.
“The broader questions here about who participated, what led to the attack on the facility in Benghazi - all those questions are under investigation at two levels, by the FBI and by the Accountability Review Board established by Secretary Clinton to look at issues of security in Benghazi and security at other diplomatic facilities.”
Carney then reemphasized the administration’s position, “Let’s be clear, it was a terrorist attack and it was an inexcusable attack.”
When pushed on why the president passed on the opportunity to explicitly call the incident in Libya a terrorist attack when asked about it on Monday, Carney said the president had “answered the question that he was asked.”
That’s not exactly true. The question the president was asked by host Joy Behar on ABC included a description of the attacks and their probable cause, but ended with a very specific question that the president decided not to answer.
“I heard Hillary Clinton say that it was an act of terrorism,” Behar said. “Is it? What do you say?”
Carney insisted that there was no significance to the president’s decision not to label the attackers as terrorists.
“There's no reason that he chose the words he did beyond trying to provide a full explanation of his views and his assessment that we need to await further information that the investigation will uncover,” Carney said about Obama’s appearance on The View. “But it is certainly the case that it is our view as an administration, the President’s view, that it was a terrorist attack.”
Romney campaign spokesperson Ryan Williams piled on after the gaggle, sending out a statement saying, “This is now the second time the White House Press Secretary has said something that President Obama has declined to admit. If the President thinks the tragic events in Libya were acts of terrorism, he should say so himself.”