The Obama administration on Wednesday rebuffed rumors that the president had nixed an operation to rescue U.S. diplomats under attack in Benghazi after former Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich made the claim on national television.
“Neither the President nor anyone in the White House denied any requests for assistance in Benghazi during the attack,” National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor told The Hill via email.
Gingrich told Fox News on Tuesday evening that he had been told by a “fairly reliable” U.S. senator that at least two news networks have emails “from the national security adviser’s office telling a counterterrorism group to stand down.”
However, Gingrich qualified the statement saying, “I want to be clear, it’s a rumor.”
The rumored emails supposedly describe the non-identified “counterterrorism group” as “in real-time trying to mobilize Marines and C-130s and the fighter aircraft, and they were told explicitly by the White House stand down and do nothing,” he said.
“If that is true and comes out, I think it raises enormous questions about the president’s role, and Tom Donilon, the national security adviser’s role, the Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, who has taken it on his own shoulders, that he said don’t go. And that is, I think, very dubious, given that the president said he had instructions they are supposed to do everything they could to secure American personnel,” Gingrich continued.
Earlier this week, U.S. military officials also denied claims that head of U.S. Africa Command Gen. Carter Ham may have been fired due to an intent to disobey defense secretary Leon Panetta while the Sept. 11 attacks in Benghazi were underway.
A source inside the Pentagon had informed Washington Times reporter James Robbins last weekend that Gen. Ham wanted to send special forces units to help Americans under siege in Libya despite orders from Defense Secretary Panetta to “stand down.”
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Gen. Martin Dempsey issued a statement Monday that said rumors Ham was departing over the Libya attack were “absolutely false.”