U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice has asked President Barack Obama to withdraw her name from consideration to replace outgoing Hillary Clinton as secretary of State.
Obama issued a statement Thursday saying that he accepts her decision. He said Rice will continue to serve as U.N. envoy and as a key member of his cabinet.
Ms. Rice told Obama in a letter that she is highly honored to be considered, but that it is a position that should not be politicized as it has been.
Ms. Rice has been one of the leading contenders for the position until she faced a barrage of criticism of her interpretation of the Sept. 11 attack on the U.S. mission in the Libyan city of Benghazi. U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens was among four Americans killed in the attack.
Republican lawmakers have accused Rice of misinterpreting the intelligence on who orchestrated the attack when she said the violence grew out spontaneously from a protest against a U.S.-made amateur movie that ridiculed Islam.
Sen. John McCain, one of Rice’s harshest critics, claimed that there was compelling and overwhelming evidence that it was a terrorist attack.
He accused her of incompetence and said he would do everything in his power to block her nomination for secretary of State.
The intelligence community later confirmed that the attack on the U.S. mission in Benghazi was planned by terrorists and some reports said that an Islamist group called Ansar al-Sharia had claimed responsibility.
Ms. Rice subsequently issued a statement saying: “We explained that the talking points provided by the intelligence community, and the initial assessment upon which they were based, were incorrect in a key respect: there was no protest or demonstration in Benghazi.”
President Obama has defended Rice saying that she spoke on the information available at the time and that the attack on her is misleading.
Following Rice’s withdrawal, Sen. John Kerry becomes a leading contender for the next secretary of state.