King (R-Seaford), chairman of the Committee on Homeland Security, said Rice's comments left "the very clear impression that this was not a terrorist attack," which he called negligent on the ambassador's part.
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"This to me was such a gross misstatement of the facts," King told Newsday. "It was sending wrong information to the country and the world."
Rice, speaking about the Benghazi attacks, said on ABC's "This Week" on Sept. 16: "Our current best assessment, based on the information that we have at present, is that, in fact, what this began as, it was a spontaneous -- not a premeditated -- response to what had transpired in Cairo."
Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, in a statement Friday, said the attacks constituted a "deliberate and organized terrorist attack," Reuters reported. The attack on two U.S. government facilities killed four U.S. personnel, including Ambassador Christopher Stevens.
A spokeswoman for Rice noted that Rice's comments were made early in the investigation.
"During her appearances on the Sunday talk shows Sept. 16, 2012, Ambassador Rice's comments were prefaced at every turn with a clear statement that an FBI investigation was under way that would provide the definitive accounting of the events that took place in Benghazi," said Erin Pelton, spokeswoman for the U.S. Mission to the United Nations, according to The Associated Press.
A White House spokesman agreed: "You've seen the intelligence community say that in the immediate aftermath of the attacks, there was information that led them to assess that the attack began spontaneously following protests earlier that day at our embassy in Cairo. As we learned more information, we updated our information."