In the interview, according to the latest portions, Obama would not say whether he thought the attack was terrorism. Yet he would later emphasize at a presidential debate that in the Rose Garden the same day, he had declared the attack an act of terror.
That moment was one of the most intense exchanges in the second presidential debate. Romney was on the offensive on what conservatives believed was a serious vulnerability of Obama — the handling of the Benghazi attack and what he called it from the beginning.
The town hall questioner asked, “Who was it that denied enhanced security and why?”
Obama did not provide a direct answer, but said: “When I say that we are going to find out exactly what happened, everybody will be held accountable, and I am ultimately responsible for what’s taking place there, because these are my folks, and I’m the one who has to greet those coffins when they come home, you know that I mean what I say.”
Romney pounced, saying, “There were many days that passed before we knew whether this was a spontaneous demonstration or actually whether it was a terrorist attack. And there was no demonstration involved. It was a terrorist attack, and it took a long time for that to be told to the American people.”
On rebuttal, Obama seemed rehearsed, but indignant. “The day after the attack, Governor, I stood in the Rose Garden, and I told the American people and the world that we are going to find out exactly what happened, that this was an act of terror… And the suggestion that anybody in my team, whether the secretary of state, our U.N. ambassador, anybody on my team would play politics or mislead when we’ve lost four of our own, Governor, is offensive. That’s not what we do. That’s not what I do as president. That’s not what I do as commander in chief.”