CNN host Soledad O’Brien on Wednesday challenged a Romney surrogate who is blaming President Barack Obama’s administration for the attacks in Libya even though he pressured the State Department to reduce security personnel when he voted to cut embassy funding.
Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) has spent the week appearing on news programs promoting Wednesday’s House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing to investigate a possible cover-up of lax security in Benghazi that led to the death of U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and other Americans.
“The heart of what I’m concerned about in this situation is there was a conscious decision: Politics were driving the decisions rather than security,” Chaffetz recently told The Hill.
During his multiple appearances on CNN and Fox News, Chaffetz used the same line of attack and met little resistance. That is, until he faced off with O’Brien on Wednesday.
“So where there are complaints that, in fact, that there was not enough security, you’ve just said ‘absolutely’ that you cut — that you were the one to vote against, to increase security for the State Department, which would lead directly to Benghazi,” O’Brien told Chaffetz. “It seems like you are saying you have a hand in the responsibility for this? Right? The funding of the security, you’re happy to cut it.”
“You have to prioritize things,” Chaffetz insisted. “Libya before 9/11, two bombings on our consulate out there. Of course, that’s got to be a higher priority than making sure that we’re protecting some other interest.”
“We’ve just heard from the clip — from one of the guys that’s going to testify before you today — that there’s definitely this pressure, in his mind, to not staff the security fully security-wise,” the CNN host noted. “Wouldn’t that pressure be coming from you directly essentially? People and others who voted against funding for security? Keep it low because there’s no funding for security?”
“Well, you’re also talking about a vote that never came to fruition because we actually continued at the exact same funding levels moving forward,” Chaffetz insisted. “This is what happened over in the House but the Senate never got to this point. So, it’s a red herring.”
Chaffetz, who is a Mormon from Utah, will be back on the campaign trail on Thursday to stump for Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney.
Watch this video from CNN’s Starting Point, broadcast Oct. 10, 2012.