President Barack Obama said Monday that the Sept. 11 attack that claimed the life of the U.S. ambassador to Libya and three other Americans "wasn't just a mob action," but he stopped short of explicitly labeling the assault as an act of terrorism.
Obama's comments came as he taped an interview with "The View" during a brief trip to New York to address the annual United National General Assembly. He had been asked whether the attack on the U.S. Consulate compound in the city of Benghazi was a terrorist act.
"There's no doubt that the kind of weapons that were used, the ongoing assault, that it wasn't just a mob action," the president said. "What's clear is that, around the world, there are still a lot of threats out there." Obama's remarks were collected by pool reporter David Boyer of the Washington Times.
The head of the National Counterterrorism Center has called the attack an act of terrorism. White House spokesman Jay Carney said it's "self-evident" that that is the case. But Obama did not explicitly do so.
Still, his remarks reflected a day-by-day shift in how his administration has described the attack. At first, the White House described it as a spontaneous act resulting from demonstrations against an anti-Islam video on the Internet. That video has led to angry anti-U.S. protests throughout the Muslim world. Obama noted that, but he underlined that "there's never an excuse for violence." And he said the best response to the video would be to "ignore it"--even though aides said he would discuss the film in his speech to the U.N. General Assembly on Tuesday.
The incident has raised questions about whether the slain ambassador, Chris Stevens, should have had more protection. And Republicans led by Mitt Romney have pointed to the demonstrations across the region as a sign that the president has botched his response to the so-called "Arab Spring" uprisings that have swept authoritarian regimes from power.