President Barack Obama said it’s clear that the Sept. 11 assault in Benghazi, Libya, that killed U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three others “wasn’t just a mob action” while declining to call it an act of terrorism before an investigation is complete.
“We don’t have all the information yet and we’re still gathering it,” Obama said in an interview for “The View,” a daytime talk show on ABC Television. “There’s no doubt that the kind of weapons that were used, that the ongoing assault, that it wasn’t just a mob action.”
The program is scheduled for broadcast tomorrow, when the president also is set to address the United Nations General Assembly and an audience at the Clinton Global Initiative.
Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney has escalated his criticism of Obama over foreign policy since a wave of protests and violence over a film made in the U.S. that Muslims regard as blasphemous. The four U.S. deaths in Libya have become a flashpoint in the campaign.
Obama’s spokesman, Jay Carney, said Sept. 20 that it was “self-evident” that the attack on the consulate was a terrorist act. Matthew Olsen, director of the National Counterterrorism Center, said the U.S. is looking into indications that some of those involved may have had links to al-Qaeda, while the initial investigation suggests it was planned ahead of time.
Campaigning today in Pueblo, Colorado, Romney said Obama has put the U.S. “at the mercy” of events in the Middle East rather than trying to shape them.
Romney also is scheduled to speak tomorrow at the conference hosted by former President Bill Clinton.
The interview on “The View,” which also included first lady Michelle Obama, marked Obama’s second appearance as president on the daytime program, which is aimed largely at women, a group that is part of his campaign strategy to win re-election.
The show averages 3.3 million viewers and is the fourth-most-watched daytime TV program, according to data from Nielsen. It ranks fifth among women ages 25 to 54. When Obama last was on “The View,” broadcast July 29, 2010, the audience for the program almost doubled to 6.6 million viewers, Nielsen data show.
In a Pew Research Center poll conducted Sept. 12-16, Obama had a 56 percent to 38 percent advantage among likely women voters. Romney led among men, 48 percent to 46 percent. The survey had an error margin of plus or minus 2.4 percentage points.
Obama also used the used the venue to argue the case for his re-election and defend his handling of the economy.
“Governor Romney is a good man and means well, but the policies that he is putting forward are precisely the policies that got us into this mess,” he said.
Presidential candidates in recent elections increasingly have sought to reach voters through non-news programs, from daytime fare like “The View” to late-night comedy and talk shows such as “Late Night with David Letterman” on CBS and “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno” on NBC.
Romney and his wife, Ann Romney, appeared earlier this month on ABC’s syndicated daytime talk show “Live! With Kelly & Michael.” Ann Romney is scheduled to be a guest on Leno’s program tomorrow night.
In New York tonight, Obama is the host for a closed-door reception for visiting heads of state.
He has no scheduled one-on-one meetings with world leaders tonight or tomorrow. That’s in contrast to last year, when he had more than a dozen private sessions with the leaders of Israel, the Palestinian Authority, France, the U.K. and other nations.
“He will see a number of leaders, I’m sure, tonight; he will see more tomorrow,” Carney said.
Carney said the president, in his speech tomorrow, will restate that “Iran must not be allowed to develop a nuclear weapon” and address “recent unrest in the Muslim world and the broader context of the democratic transitions in the Arab world” following attacks on U.S. embassies in Libya and Egypt.
“He will also send a clear message that the United States will never retreat from the world,” Carney said. “The United States will bring justice to those who harm Americans.”