In a testy interview with Fox News' Bill O'Reilly Sunday, President Barack Obama defended the handling of the three scandals — the attack in Benghazi, Libya, the rollout of the Obamacare website and the IRS' targeting of conservative groups — that have dogged his presidency.
"When someone is attacking our compound, that is an act of terror and that's how I characterized it the next day," Obama said during the live sit-down broadcast from the White House during Fox's Super Bowl pregame show. "People understood at the time something very dangerous was happening and that we were doing everything that we could to protect them.
"In the aftermath, what became clear was the security was laxed, that not all the precautions that needed to be taken were taken," Obama continued. "And both myself and Secretary Clinton indicated as much."
O'Reilly pressed Obama on the mixed signals that came out of the White House in the days following the Sept. 11, 2012, attack.
"At the moment when things like this happen on the other side of the world, people don't know at the very moment why something like this happens," Obama said. "What happens is you have an attack like this taking place, you have a mix of folks who are troublemakers, you have folks who have an ideological agenda, you have some who are affiliated with terrorist organizations, you have some that are not."
Obama scoffed at critics who say he did not characterize the attack in Benghazi as an act of terror because it came during the heat of the 2012 presidential campaign.
"We revealed to the American people exactly what we understood at the time," Obama said. "The notion we would hide the ball for political purposes when a week later we all said there was a terror attack taking place — the day after I said it was an act of terror — that would not be a very good cover-up if that is what we were engaged in."
On the IRS scandal, Obama admitted there were "some boneheaded decisions" at the agency, but denied there was any corruption in meetings IRS officials had with the White House. "Not even a smidgen of corruption," he said.
O'Reilly interrupted Obama several times during the interview, which lasted less than 10 minutes.
Earlier in the exchange, the president defended the rocky rollout of the Affordable Care Act website.
"I don't think I anticipated or anybody anticipated the degree of the problems with HealthCare.gov," Obama said. "The good news is it got fixed within a month and a half. It was up and running and working the way it's supposed to, and we've signed up 3 million people."
O'Reilly asked the president why he didn't fire U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius over the site's bungled launch.
"My main priority is making sure it delivers for the American people," Obama said. "Our main focus is, 'How do we make this thing work?'"
Obama also scoffed at the notion that his pre-Obamacare promise — "If you like your insurance you can keep your insurance" — was the biggest mistake of his presidency.
"You've got a long list of my mistakes, Bill," Obama said. "I try to focus not on the fumbles but on the next play."
The president also told O'Reilly that Fox News plays a role in prolonging White House controversies.
"These kind of things keep on surfacing in part because you and your TV station will promote them," Obama said.
Finally, when asked to give a prediction on the Super Bowl between the Denver Broncos and Seattle Seahawks, Obama would only predict the score: 24-21.
The teams, he said, were "too evenly matched" to pick a winner.
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