Obama strongly defends Susan Rice on Benghazi

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice Bebeto Matthews/AP

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice won strong backing on Wednesday from President Obama, who dismissed Senate Republicans’ criticism of her initial handling of the fatal Benghazi attack as “outrageous.”

While declining to discuss possible upcoming nominations as he begins a second term, Obama ripped Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., for vowing to try to block Rice if the president should nominate her to replace Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton. Obama said he would nominate Rice if he concluded she was best-suited for the post.

“If Senator McCain and Senator Graham and others want to go after someone, they should go after me,” Obama told a news conference in dismissing criticism that Rice inaccurately described the attack on the Benghazi diplomatic compound, declining to call it a terrorist attack as the administration later did. "And I'm happy to have that discussion with them. But for them to go after the ambassador who had nothing to do with Benghazi, and was simply making a presentation based on intelligence that she had received, and to besmirch her reputation is outrageous."

“She has done exemplary work,” Obama added. “She has represented the United States and our interests in the United Nations with skill and professionalism and toughness and grace."

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