White House Contacted YouTube About Anti-Muslim Film During Benghazi Attack, Congressman Says
A still-classified State Department email says that the White House reached out to YouTube about the controversial Innocence of Muslims video while the September 2012 Benghazi attack was still going on.
The message suggests that the Obama administration initially believed the events in Libya were a response to the anti-Islamic video, Republican congressman Darrell Issa said on Wednesday.
Although the entire document is classified, Issa, who is calling on the White House to release the message, entered the subject line and one sentence from the email into the Congressional Record.
The message, which was sent at 9:11 p.m. ET on the night of the attack, hours before the attack was over, reads "Update on Response to actions -- Libya," Issa said.
The email says, in part, "White House is reaching out to U-Tube to advise ramifications of the posting of the Pastor Jon video," according to Issa. The "Pastor Jon" part is likely a garbled reference to the Innocence of Muslims trailer, which was reportedly being promoted by Pastor Terry Jones.
A senior White House official told ABC News the email demonstrates that the White House genuinely believed the video provoked the attack.
“We actually think this proves what we’ve said. We were concerned about the video, given all the protests in region,” the official told ABC News. The official added that the intelligence community “was also concerned about the video."
But Issa said the email contradicts the White House's assertion that it was the CIA that first blamed the attack on protests to the anti-Islamic video, since the message was sent before the CIA began its process of compiling talking points.
“The e-mail shows the White House had hurried to settle on a false narrative -- one at odds with the conclusions reached by those on the ground -- before Americans were even out of harm’s way or the intelligence community had made an impartial examination of available evidence,” Issa told ABC News.
The White House did request that YouTube remove the Innocence of Muslims trailer but Google denied the request, saying that it "restricted access to it in countries where it is illegal such as India and Indonesia, as well as in Libya and Egypt, given the very sensitive situations in these two countries."
Whether Google is obligated to remove the clip is now the subject of a lawsuit filed by an actress in the video who claims she owns a copyright in her performance.