RICHMOND, Va. – Mitt Romney on Friday accused Vice President Joe Biden of “doubling down on denial” in Thursday night's debate and directly contradicting the testimony of State Department officials regarding last month’s terrorist attack in Libya, prompting the White House and Democrats to come to Biden’s defense.
Romney was referring to comments Biden made in the debate when he was asked about requests for additional security on the ground in Benghazi prior to the Sept. 11 incident in which four Americans were killed. The vice president responded by saying, “We weren’t told they wanted more security there. We did not know they wanted more security again.”
GOP officials and the Romney campaign pounced on the remark, pointing to congressional testimony this week from a security official who said he had requested additional support on the ground, and a State Department official who testified that she turned the request down.
“When the vice president of the United States directly contradicts the testimony, sworn testimony, of State Department officials, American citizens have a right to know just what’s going on,” Romney said during a rally in Richmond.
White House spokesman Jay Carney sought to clarify Biden’s comment, saying that the vice president “was speaking directly for himself and the president. He meant the White House” and not the State Department.
Democratic Rep. Chris Van Hollen of Maryland, who helped Biden prepare for the debate, also tried to distinguish between what knowledge was shared between the White House and the State Department in an interview on CNN. "This information had been communicated, at least according to the hearings, to the diplomatic security folks at the State Department and some others,” he said. “But it wasn't communicated to the president."
Romney praised his running mate for focusing on the issues during the debate, while “the other candidate, of course, just attacked.”
“There was one person on stage last night who was thoughtful, and respectful, steady, and poised. The kind of person you might want to turn to in a crisis. And that was the next vice president of the United States, Paul Ryan,” Romney told a crowd of around 3,000 who cheered in approval.
Romney continued to project confidence on the trail, telling the crowd that “Virginia’s going to get me the White House and we’re taking back America.”
Two new polls out this week show mixed results in the state. A Quinnipiac University/New York Times/CBS News poll shows President Obama leading by 5 percentage points, 51 percent to 46 percent, while a new NBC News/Wall Street Journal/Marist poll shows the race a dead heat, with Romney at 48 percent and Obama at 47 percent.