CLEVELAND (AP) — The mother of a State Department employee killed in the deadly attacks in Benghazi, Libya, angrily lashed out at Hillary Clinton on Monday at the Republican National Convention, accusing Clinton of lying to her about her son’s death.
Two Marine Corps veterans who fought in Benghazi as part of a security team posted near the U.S. diplomatic compound also blamed Clinton for lax security before the attacks on Sept. 11, 2012, that killed four Americans, including the U.S. ambassador.
The accusations came during the opening night of the convention, as Republicans cast Donald Trump as a strong leader who can keep Americans safe in a dangerous world.
Security officers Mark “Oz” Geist and John Tiegen spoke harshly about Clinton, but did not repeat a widely debunked claim by some conservatives that high-level officials in Washington had issued a “stand down” order delaying a military rescue in Benghazi.
Pat Smith, the mother of State Department employee Sean Smith, accused Clinton of lying to her by blaming the assault on an anti-Muslim video, instead of labeling it a calculated terrorist attack. Clinton was secretary of state when the attacks occurred and now is the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee.
“I blame Hillary Clinton personally for the death of my son,” Smith said in an emotional speech applauded by delegates.
Smith noted that Clinton had told her daughter, Chelsea, in an email that the attacks were likely terrorism, but told Smith and other family members a different story.
Clinton told the House Benghazi committee last year that “some” people had wanted to use the offensive, anti-Muslim video to “justify” the attack that killed Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans. She rejected that justification, Clinton said.
Clinton and other officials have acknowledged inadequate security in Benghazi — a point also made by numerous congressional investigations and an independent panel.
Geist and Tiegen, the former Marines who fought in Benghazi, also focused on the lack of security — and blamed Clinton. The two men and Smith all support Trump for president.
“Hillary failed to protect her people on the ground,” said Geist, who has appeared in TV ads sponsored by the NRA in support of Trump.
In a 30-minute address, Geist and Tiegen said they defied a “stand down” order by a local CIA station chief to try to rescue Stevens and others at the diplomatic outpost.
“We took off and went to the consulate,” Geist said in a claim also repeated in the book and movie “13 Hours.” Geist and Tiegen were co-authors of the book, a detailed account of the attacks.
The Senate Intelligence Committee found “no evidence of intentional delay or obstruction” of movement by the team from the CIA annex, although some members of the security team expressed frustration that they were unable to respond more quickly.
U.S. military leaders told the House Benghazi committee they thought an evacuation was imminent, slowing any response. The Benghazi panel said in a report last month that Marines based more than 2,000 miles away in Rota, Spain, changed into and out of their uniforms four times as officials debated whether to launch a full military response. The attacks occurred in waves at two locations over 13 hours.
Democrats accuse Republicans of exploiting the tragedy for political reasons and note that the Benghazi panel has spent more than two years and $7 million investigating the attacks. Democrats eagerly point to comments last year by House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., suggesting that the Benghazi panel could take credit for Clinton’s slumping poll numbers.
The report last month by Republicans on the Benghazi panel accused the Obama administration of lethal mistakes, but produced no new evidence pointing to wrongdoing by Clinton.
Clinton has said the Benghazi report “found nothing to contradict” the findings of multiple earlier investigations into the attacks.
“I think it’s pretty clear it’s time to move on,” she said last month.
David M. Perry, a cousin of Stevens, accused Republicans of politicizing his death. His cousin “loved Arabic, diplomacy, internationalism. I reject politicization of his death,” Perry said on Twitter.