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November 21st, 2012
11:03 AM ET

Rep. Burgess asks why media wasn't more critical of Benghazi response, says Amb. Rice's credibility has been damaged

This morning on "Starting Point," Rep. Michael Burgess (R-TX) addresses the criticism of Amb. Susan Rice in the wake of the September attack on a U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya. He explains why he signed a letter with 97 lawmakers in the House standing against Rice as a possible candidate for Secretary of State.

"From where I sit right now, the credibility for Susan Rice to be our Secretary of State has been damaged by this," Rep. Burgess says. "It may have been damaged by the administration itself. It may have been an error for the administration to put her out there rather than someone from the State Department or rather than a campaign spokesperson."

"But what it appeared to - to the great masses out here is that Susan Rice was put out there to place a story line into the - into the print or into the national media that was, in fact, inconsistent with the facts. And that is something that has been very, very difficult for her to get around," he adds.

Rep. Burgess also criticizes media outlets for not showing more scrutiny in the days after the attack in Benghazi.

"I don't understand why - why you in the media have not been more critical of the fact that your outlets were used in a way to put forward information that, you know, everybody now believes was not correct and we believe it was known that it was not correct at the time it was put out there. So that's what's so troubling about this," Rep. Burgess says.

Soledad counters that media outlets in general have been working to figure out what happened in Benghazi, and as is now reported members of the intelligence community have said that they gave Rice talking points that were altered. Soledad asks if the intelligence community should bear the bulk of the blame.

"Well, it had to fit within the narrative of the President's campaign at the time that al Qaeda was on the run. It was no longer a threat. So to have put someone out there, saying al Qaeda and Ansar al Sharia was responsible for this or was sponsored by al Qaeda that would have been - they would have fit with the narrative that had been really the main talking point since the Democratic convention," Rep. Burgess says.

Soledad asks if race or sexism has anything to do with the criticism against Amb. Rice. Rep. Burgess says that's "absolutely false."

Rush transcript available after the jump.

Let's talk about the battle over the talking points of the U.S. consulate attack in Benghazi. Who knew what, when? What was of the truth, the whole truth and who told the whole truth, if ever? And 97 House Republicans standing up against Susan Rice as a possible candidate for Secretary of State because they say she did not tell the truth about Benghazi.

Congressman Michael Burgess is a Republican from the great state of Texas, according to Will Cain. It's nice to have you with us, sir. Thank you for talking with us, appreciate it. Did you sign this letter?

REP. MICHAEL BURGESS, (R) TEXAS: Good morning, Soledad.

O'BRIEN: Good morning to you, too. Are you one of the 97 who signed this letter?

BURGESS: Yes, I am. I've got to tell you that Sunday when the - I don't know the four or five interviews occurred, you just knew something wasn't right as you were watching that.

First off, why is our Ambassador to the United Nations is the one on talking about this in the first place? Did we not have anyone available from the State Department or from the administration itself? So it was a little unsettling to have the Ambassador herself out there on the - on the shows. And you know, I frankly I don't understand why - why you in the media have not been more critical of the fact that your outlets were used in a way to put forward information that, you know, everybody now believes was not correct and we believe it was known that it was not correct at the time it was put out there. So that's what's so troubling about this.

(CROSSTALK)

O'BRIEN: You know what's interesting about that - yes and you know and I think what we have been trying to do - and by we, I think I speak media in general, is like figure out, so what has happened? What was the timeline and who did know what, when and who gave what talking points to whom?

And what we seem to know now, in fact, it looks as if that the intelligence was wrong and that the folks in the intelligence community have said that they gave the talking points to Susan Rice and they - they changed those talking points so that she wouldn't talk about al Qaeda. She was talking about extremists.

So to me, some of the takeaway seems to be the intelligence community should bear the bulk of the blame. You don't see it that way? Why not?

BURGESS: Well, it had to fit within the narrative of the President's campaign at the time that al Qaeda was on the run. It was no longer a threat. So to have put someone out there, saying al Qaeda and Ansar al Sharia was responsible for this or was sponsored by al Qaeda that would have been - they would have fit with the narrative that had been really the main talking point since the Democratic convention.

(CROSSTALK)

BURGESS: So in my mind, I think that I think was influenced it.

O'BRIEN: So let me just clarify that. But wasn't that the CIA change, right? They're the ones who edited the talking points so that it wouldn't say al Qaeda. And I think they used the word to protect their sources, it would say "extremist". So they made that edit, which to me again seems to go back to the intelligence community.

It's not that Susan Rice got a long list of talking points and said, "Ooh, I don't want to say al Qaeda. Let me cross that out. I'm going to use the word extremist." She was given talking points that had removed that word "al Qaeda" and put "extremist". Isn't that correct?

BURGESS: Well really the big question is who in the administration said Susan Rice should be the person out there talking about this in the first place?

O'BRIEN: So you just don't like her?

(CROSSTALK)

BURGESS: And look the more we learn about this there was the real time information - no. The real time information that our - that our consulate was under attack. And I'll tell you what - what bothers me is that someone in the White House situation room or at the State Department or at the Pentagon said it's not worth it. We can't go in and help them.

And to understand how long the attack continued, that's really troublesome, the fact that the United States cannot respond within an hour's time to an attack like that on its own State Department? I mean, that's just incredible information to - to give to the rest of the world and I think if I were a member of the diplomatic corps, I would be troubled.

(CROSSTALK)

O'BRIEN: I'm sure they are. And I think that when they talked to General Petraeus he talked a lot about sort of the intelligence. Again, it sort of all goes back to the intelligence for me.

Let me ask you a question though.

BURGESS: Sure.

O'BRIEN: I have asked others before how this does not compare, the Susan Rice issue to the Condoleezza Rice issue on weapons of mass destruction. She was also wrong when she was the national security advisor, right? She had information and she talked, I remember, to Wolf Blitzer about you know let's not have the smoking gun become a mushroom cloud.

And then fast forward three years in 2005 when she was up to be Secretary of State, it was Lindsey Graham who was furious that the Democrats were pushing back. It was Senator John McCain who was furious that the Democrats were pushing back on Condoleezza Rice to be Secretary of State. She was wrong on weapons of mass destruction. How is this different?

BURGESS: Well the difference is the scrutiny provided by our - our free press in this country. Condoleezza Rice was exposed to withering criticism by the press. I don't see that happening now. Maybe I've missed something in the talking points, but I don't see that happening.

(CROSSTALK)

O'BRIEN: So, let me –

BURGESS: The ambassador of the United Nations should not have been the person on the Sunday shows. Someone from the administration or the State of Department should have been.

(CROSSTALK)

O'BRIEN: So you're confusing me there for a moment. When you say the scrutiny on the press - are you saying five days after comments about weapons of mass destruction, that - that you feel like the media was picking apart Condoleezza Rice? I don't think that's true, sir. I think that most people say that is not the case. That it took a long time. I'm talking about three years before she was up for Secretary of State.

I - I see, if you're blaming the press, how does it go back to Susan Rice?

BURGESS: That's a different situation with different timelines.

O'BRIEN: OK so how does it go back to the Susan Rice?

BURGESS: They're different situations with different timeline.

O'BRIEN: How is she to blame is my question.

BURGESS: Again, first - first thing is I do not understand who in the administration thought that this would be a good idea and why. What was their reasoning behind that? No one has answered that question.

(CROSSTALK)

O'BRIEN: OK. I think that's a valid question. How do you blame Susan Rice for that?

(CROSSTALK)

BURGESS: I've written letters to the President. I've asked the State Department to discuss this with me.

O'BRIEN: How do you - what Susan Rice did was say something that was incorrect. We know now, the intelligence community says we gave her the talking points. The information, the Intel was incorrect. How does that go back to blame Susan Rice? And my question of course is because you're one of the 97 people who signed saying that you believe that her misleading statements causes irreparable damage to her credibility and she should not be Secretary of State. And I don't see the difference between Condoleezza Rice situation.

BURGESS: It does damage her credibility. Now look, you know as well as I that House members do not get a vote on presidential appointments. But in the purpose of this letter was to let our senators know this is something that we believe deserves their scrutiny. And I think you - And I think you - you would want that.

(CROSSTALK)

O'BRIEN: Of course. You know hey, I'm all about scrutiny. But I guess I like consistency, too. But you were not calling for more scrutiny and you weren't saying that this is - that the fact that Condoleezza Rice was wrong on weapons of mass destruction was going to damage her - her credibility as Secretary of State.

You know again, John McCain and Lindsey Graham were supporting that. It seems just contradictory to me.

BURGESS: Well, you'll have to - you'll have take that up with Senator McCain and Senator Graham. But the fact of the matter is –

(CROSSTALK)

O'BRIEN: OK.

BURGESS: - from where I sit right now, the credibility for Susan Rice to be our Secretary of State has been damaged by this. It may have been damaged by the administration itself. It may have been an error for the administration to put her out there rather than someone from the State Department or rather than a campaign spokesperson.

But what it appeared to - to the great masses out here is that Susan Rice was put out there to place a story line into the - into the print or into the national media that was, in fact, inconsistent with the facts. And that is something that has been very, very difficult for her to get around.

O'BRIEN: I'm completely out of time but I've got to throw a quick question to you. We talked to Congressman Clyburn. And he said, listen, "Because she's black and because she's a woman that you guys are doing this", meaning the 97 Republicans who signed this.

BURGESS: Yes and you know that's - that's absolutely false. I don't know where senator - or Representative Clyburn gets that, his information. I will just tell you he is factually incorrect.

O'BRIEN: Michael Burgess, is Republican Congressman and a doctor. Dr. Burgess joining us from - from Dallas, Texas. It's nice to have you sir, thank you. I appreciate it.

BURGESS: Thank you.


Filed under: Benghazi investigation • Libya
soundoff (12 Responses)
  1. T.J, Dallas Texas

    This guy Rep. Burguss is the same guy that always open his mouth to spew poisinous words against The President. What credibility does he has anyway. All I see here is that only the partsan Republicans ganging up against Ambasador Susan Rice, who has the interllect and ready to serve if the President so decided to choose her for the Secretary of state position. The truth is she is by far more qualify than all of these partisan Republican Politicians who are so much in disdain to this President and vowed to oppose him to the bitter end. Let the President choose whom the President wants to choose to serve in his cabinet. PERIOD!

    December 2, 2012 at 7:31 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  2. Anonymous SC voter

    I agree with Horace Grant and Blah Blah...trailer. I wouldn't be surprised if The money trail led to some extremely visible GOP members. They will stop at nothing to mar this presidency – even if it requires holding the nation's social and economic development hostage.

    November 22, 2012 at 12:48 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  3. Horace Grant

    Rep Burgess and the rest of the GOP are the biggest hypocrites I have ever seen. There is NO difference between what Condeleeza Rice did/said and what Susan Rice did/said. Senators McCain and Graham ought to resign and go try and sell bridges.

    November 21, 2012 at 8:36 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  4. Sharon V Beach

    I think if he wasn't talking out his ass all the time his credibility wouldn't be damaged.

    November 21, 2012 at 8:34 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  5. joshua

    no mention of youtube in the intelligence report. no "spontaneous mob action". they knew it was terrorist massacre almost immediately and were 100% certain before susan rice went on the sunday talk shows. and yet obama continued the youtube video lie for 2 weeks. He even got candy crowell to help him with his lies.But let's attack john mccain. perfectly sound logic from a twisted democrat mind.

    November 21, 2012 at 6:35 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  6. Flogger

    Pal, you're off your rocker .... Oh yeah, that's right, don't forget that Bush pushed a little button that started the jets flying that hit the world trade centre building too. And, oh, those Martians.

    O'brien purposely tried to stir up the racism this morning on her show, especially at the very last minute so that Burgess couldn't even answer. That's what the vultures and elitist lefty chicken-shits in the media do, don't they? She was obviously upset and insulted that someone would question the ethics of one of her minority buddies. Show some professional, balanced journalism for a change, and leave the 'angry little lefty' at home when you go to work.

    November 21, 2012 at 4:50 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  7. Blah blah the wheel's off your trailer

    And while the GOP are ganging up on Ms. Rice, well let me guess...Ms. Rice funded and authorized the Benghazi attacks right from the confort and confines of the NBC studios. Don't believe it? Well, just ask John McCain! Pathetic!

    November 21, 2012 at 3:51 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  8. Blah blah the wheel's off your trailer

    If I was a millionaire, I'd bet all my money that if the assailants of the Benghazi attacks were captured, they'd prove that the GOP were behind this attack to make the President look weak and to sabotage his re-election campaign. These are the same right wingers who have used intimidation and fear mongering tactics to influence and mislead the public and divide the country. These are the same right wing domestic tea bag terrorists who painted crosshairs on a map of Congresswoman Giffords's district, thereby inspiring a lunatic to go on a deadly rampage. These are the same right wing extremists who have called for a civil war if our President is re-elected and the same domestic terrorists who have talked about assassination of our President. And by the way, if you have any doubts, just ask yourself why the oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico exploded just days from the one year anniversary of passage of the historic healthcare legislation.Yes, I can guarantee you that the home grown right wing christian brotherhood extremists in this country funded and authorized the Benghazi attacks.

    November 21, 2012 at 3:42 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  9. Dan

    Very good job today by Soledad today with followup questions to Rep. Michael Burgess, not letting him get away with his undefendable postion on Rice. I wish more anchors would do this, and not let guests say crazy things and get away with it. Good job today, Soledad.

    November 21, 2012 at 1:09 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  10. Dumdpolitics

    Why does the GOPers hate this country so much that every chance they get to make nonexisting problems to stall helping this great country they do it. Condi Rice lied to us and she became Sec. of State. Susan Rice reads from a piece of paper that is provided by Intel & the CIA and all of thisis a big nonexisting problem. Hey GOPers we still looking for the jobs you promised in 2010.

    November 21, 2012 at 1:07 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  11. Perk

    Get up 70's generation and we've got a national security communication Obama administration problem ! Sly Stone to ya....Higher..... Americans call your senators. Gotta go and no more Rice until the next wedding I go to.

    November 21, 2012 at 1:01 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  12. Perk

    Great job Burgess and Clyburn is playing politics with the race card to support Susan Rice as Secretary of State. Hello and we're concerned with the national security communication and a terrorist attack on US soil with four American's deceased. Who gave Susan Rice the talking points and approved it at the White House ? Blame the Intelligence Team ? Seriously ? At the end of the day,where was Obama ? Running for president and who's in charge of the CIA today ? When the State Department requested added security why wasn't it there ? Sounds like we have confusion as it relates to national security and the Obama administration and that's not acceptable or is misleading the American people. Susan Rice as Secretary of State ? No thank-you and don't care what her race and nationality is or her gender. Politics has no place in a national security conversation for solution or the safety of American citizens. It's not a about a video and it was a terrorist attack. Who has the truth and facts and where are the documents to show to the public via media ? What did they cross out and who was in charge of that ? In 8 hours no response to send help ? Why ? The White House got the information from Intelligence and the facts will lay out the trail of truth and disorganization of the Obama administration as it relates to national security. Why isn't Susan Rice asking more questions and she wants to be Secretary of State ? Did she ask to see the drone video information ? Who at the Pentagon and CIA did she call or meet with prior to reporting to the news stations with her misleading information ? Did she have a conversation with Hillary Clinton or anyone at the State Department ? How's she reacting to get the truth and facts before reporting ? What's her judgement ? How intuitive is she ? Here are your talking points and go do it ? Were those her instructions and from whom ? It's like she 's used as a puppet and or a knight in a chess game in all this.Her up two and over one is a questionable move and don't appreciate her added cause of confusion in communications as it relates to national security and this topic.Hey sister, go sister flow.....get your facts before ya roll. How do you blame Susan Rice ? Intelligence to White House and Susan Rice to National Media and the people,that's how and her information was wrong and misleading.Question her judgement and reactions as it relates to national security, not her race ,politics or gender.Will Obama be impeached and do you think this is worse than Watergate ? I think the State Department on behalf of Hillary Clinton did their job and requested added security and what happened to it there prior to this happening to begin with ? How will communications be improved for solution ? "We Are Family"......."Chic Le Freak"...we have a national security communication problem Obama. Why ? Report to the Congress and Senate Obama and answer all questions just like Hillary Clinton is doing. Who running the CIA today with all this attacking Israel and Hamas going on ? How long did it take the Obama administration to respond to a terrorist attack ? They didn't and flunked ! How are they fixing it so that it doesn't happen again ? Blame it on the Intelligence team isn't working and good job Burgess ! "When You've Been Blessed" to Susan Rice but she needs to ask more questions and through experience she'll grow but don't trust her at all in charge of the State Department. Doesn't seem to have enough truth to power and savoy,get tougher about her.Somebody tells her to do something and she does it and gets out there with false information. Why not just say the investigation is pending and the gathering of facts underway.......what video caused this terrorist attack ? A planned attack and legally that is US soil on our US 911 special day to remember and never forget . "Get Down On It" and the facts, cause we the people have no time for your misleading confusion, for your horse shoot and you know what in the bucket. Don't play with a citizens national security and the administration's communication stinks the big dog Obama ! She's black,intelligent enough to ask more questions and a women wanting to be Secretary of State and as it relates to national security needs to get her facts straight ! Can American citizens take a vote ? Poll it !

    November 21, 2012 at 12:46 pm | Report abuse | Reply

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