President Barack Obama jets off to campaign events Monday in the critical swing state of Ohio, even as Libyan officials and locals have shredded his defensive claim that a spontaneous protest against a Californian’s anti-Islam video caused the Sept. 11 killing of four Americans, including the U.S. ambassador.
“The idea that this criminal and cowardly act was a spontaneous protest that just spun out of control is completely unfounded and preposterous,” Libyan President Mohammed el-Megarif told the liberal National Public Radio network.
Instead, the killing was a military-style attack, he said.
That attack hit the poorly guarded group of diplomats, who had to be rescued by Libyan reinforcements.
The Obama administration’s claim that the murderous Benghazi attack was a unpredictable byproduct of a spontaneous protest gives White House officials a short-term way to fend off media questions.
Any investigation may create a damaging pre-election scandal for the president, who touted his ability in 2008 to build peace between the United States and conflict-prone Muslim countries.
But accumulating media reports — and Libyans’ statements — suggest the administration severely underestimated the danger of jihadis in Libya, many of whom have seized weapons from the armory of former Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi.