Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said at Thursday’s Benghazi hearing that she’s proud of her work spreading the U.S. message against an anti-Muhammad YouTube video in 2012.
House Select Committee on Benghazi Ranking Member Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) showed a news clip containing footage of protests against the video including Kabul, Jakarta, Pakistan and Beirut.
Clinton said she was “particularly concerned about what happened in Tunis, and it was the Friday after the attack in Benghazi.”
“We knew from monitoring the media, from reports coming in from our embassies throughout the region, that this was a very hot issue. It was not going away. It was being kept alive. We were particularly worried about what might happen on Friday, because Friday is the day of prayers for Muslims,” she said.
“So, we were on very high alert going into Friday. I got a call through our — our Operations Department from our Ambassador in Tunis who was in the safe room in the embassy in Tunisia. There were thousands of demonstrators on the outside. They were battering down the barriers and the walls around our embassy. They had already set on fire the American school, which is very close to the Embassy. And the ambassador and his team were desperate for help. Their calls to the government of Tunisia, the host government, had gone unanswered.”
Clinton said she “immediately got on the phone calling the foreign minister, calling the prime minister, who were the heads of government.”
“I could not find either one of them. I called the president, President Marzouki. I got him on the phone. I told him he had to rescue our people. He had to disperse the crowds that were there because of the video,” she continued. “He said, I don’t control the army. I have nothing I can do. I said, Mr. President, you must be able to do something. I’ve got all of my people inside the Embassy — they are being attacked. If the protesters get through into the Embassy, I don’t know what will happen.”
She said she persuaded him to send his presidential guard to “at least show that Tunisia will stand with the United States against these protesters over this inflammatory video.”
“It was the kind of incredibly tense moment — we had protesters going over the walls of our embassy in Khartoum. We had protests, as you rightly point out, all the way to Indonesia. Thankfully, no Americans were killed, partly because I had been consistent in speaking out about that video from the very first day when we knew it had sparked the attack on our embassy in Cairo,” Clinton said.
“I spoke about it because I wanted it to be clear to every government around the world that we were going to look to them to protect our facilities. And it was a very tense week, congressman. One that I think demonstrated how volatile the world is and how important it is for the United States to be on top of what people themselves are reacting to, and that’s what I tried to do during that time.”
Rep. Lynn Westmoreland (R-Ga.) commented that Clinton gave the committee “that blow by blow of something that we’re not even investigating here.”
“Could you do the same thing with what happened in Benghazi?” Westmoreland asked. “Could you tell us the same kind of play by play that — who came to the rescue there? Because I don’t know of anybody that did.”
Clinton shot back that “several of you have raised the video and have dismissed the importance of the video.”
“And I think that is unfortunate, because there’s no doubt, and as I said earlier, even the person we have now arrested as being one of the ringleaders of the attack on our compound in Benghazi, is reputed to have used the video as a way to gather up the attackers that attacked our compound. So, I think it’s important. These are complex issues, Mr. Congressman. And I think it’s important that we look at the totality of what was going on. It’s like that terrible incident that happened in Paris,” she said, referring to the Charlie Hebdo attack.
“Cartoons sparked two al-Qaeda-trained attackers who killed, you know, nearly a dozen people. I think it’s important as you are members of Congress looking into these issues, that you look at the totality so we can learn the best lessons.”