Officials in Hillary Clinton’s State Department were warned against saying that an anti-Muslim video contributed to the the 2012 attacks on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, a new email released on Friday reveals.
The warning came from the U.S. embassy in Tripoli, Libya, on Sept. 14, 2012, three days after the Sept. 11 terrorist attack in which four Americans were killed.
“Our monitoring of the Libyan media and conversations with Libyans suggest that the films [sic] not as explosive of an issue here as it appears to be in other countries in the region,” the email said.
“And it is becoming increasingly clear that the series of events in Benghazi was much more terrorist attack than a protest which escalated into violence,” it continued.
The email, addressed to “colleagues” and whose author was redacted before it was made public, advised officials to be “cautious in our local messaging with regard to the inflammatory film trailer” so as not to “draw unwanted attention to it.”
It noted that “relatively few [Libyans] have even mentioned the inflammatory video.”
Despite the email, the House Select Committee on Benghazi said Clinton and other officials continued to blame the video on the attack.
“Secretary Clinton continued to associate the video with what happened in Benghazi in public remarks two and three days after the attacks, including at a transfer of remains ceremony at Andrews Air Force Base with family members of the victims present,” a statement from the panel on Friday said.
“I referred to the video that night in a very specific way,” she said. “I said some have sought to justify the attack because of the video.”
She added that she “still believes” the anti-Muslim video played a role in the attack.
“I still believe to this day that the video played a role,” she said at the hearing. “I think it is important to look at the totality of what is going on.”
Clinton told the Libyan president in a call the night of the attack that Ansar al-Sharia, a local terrorist group associated with al Qaeda, had claimed responsibility for the attack