NM congresswoman defends missing panel with Benghazi relatives

CATCHING HEAT: Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham has been attacked on the Internet for missing part of a hearing on Benghazi but her spokesman says it's a bum rap.

CATCHING HEAT: Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham has been attacked on the Internet for missing part of a hearing on Benghazi but her spokesman says it’s a bum rap.

By Rob Nikolewski │ New Mexico Watchdog

Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham, D-New Mexico, has been assailed on the web for being one of a number of Democrats not on hand when the parents of two victims of the Benghazi attack testified last week at the House Oversight Committee on Capitol Hill.

But a spokesman for Lujan Grisham said there was no coordinated move by Democrats on the panel to leave the hearing and questioned whether committee chairman,U.S. Rep. Darrell Issa, R-California, was ginning up political outrage.

“The hearing was six hours total and was no Democratic walkout,” Lujan Grisham spokesman Richard Ruffner told New Mexico Watchdog, adding that Lujan Grisham “had another meeting on Syria. There were votes called in the middle of the hearing.”

When asked if New Mexico Watchdog could speak to Lujan Grisham, Ruffner said, “I don’t think so.”

Ruffner said the congresswoman attended the Benghazi hearing earlier in the day and then left for a series of meetings, including one with Syrian women leaders on the conflict in Syria, votes on the House floor and a meeting regarding Department of Energy funding.

Last Thursday, Issa tweeted a picture showing just Democrats in the committee hearing — Jackie Speier of California and Elijah Cummings of Maryland — staying for a second panel to listen to testimony from Patricia Smith, mother of Sean Smith, an information management officer, and Charles Woods, father of Navy SEAL Tyrone Woods:

The tweet went viral and a look at Grisham Lujan’s Facebook page showed a host of angry — sometimes profane — comments aimed at the freshman Capitol Hill legislator who represents New Mexico’s First Congressional District, including Albuquerque.

“You have to question the motives” of Issa, Ruffner said. “Was the purpose of this to figure out what went wrong and make sure that what happened in Benghazi never happens again or is it to re-examine the same evidence and using it, politicizing it?”

Ruffner went on to say Lujan Grisham “received and reviewed every written statement submitted by the families, including statements of Sean Smith’s mother (and) the two statements from Ambasador (Christopher) Stevens’ family … She’s very engaged on it.”

Contact Rob Nikolewski at rnikolewski@watchdog.org and follow him on Twitter @robnikolewski

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