WASHINGTON –- Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus suggested on Sunday that the release of a chapter from a new book by former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was an intentional attempt to defuse controversy over the 2012 attack in Benghazi, Libya.
Politico obtained the chapter of the forthcoming book, Hard Choices, and published a report on it Saturday. The book is due out June 10. In the chapter, Clinton writes, "I will not be a part of a political slugfest on the backs of dead Americans … Those who insist on politicizing the tragedy will have to do so without me.”
Preibus suggested that the early release of that chapter was meant to set the talking points for Democrats on the issue.
"Hillary has been playing politics with this since the beginning, and she is launching an organized political defense," Preibus told "Fox News Sunday" host Chris Wallace. "Their people are trying to preempt or stop any more criticism that she’s been receiving on Benghazi."
"She continues to play politics," he said. "Hillary Clinton is politics 24/7."
Priebus also said that in the days after the attack, Clinton should have appeared on the Sunday morning talk shows rather than sending National Security Adviser Susan Rice. Rice, who was the United Nations ambassador at that time, has said that Clinton was too exhausted from the "grueling" week to go on the shows.
Priebus said Clinton "failed to report for duty" by not appearing personally. "If she's even thinking about running for president, I think she has been disqualified because of her actions here," he said.
But he also said the leak of the chapter could be more about selling books than about Clinton's pursuit of the White House. "Publishers of books create this environment to make a lot of money. All of this talk makes her a lot of money," he said. "Don't confuse her pursuit of money and her pursuit of running for the White House."
Even if she doesn't run for president in 2016, Priebus was already on the attack, calling Clinton's career "insignificant in accomplishment."
UPDATE: 10:47 a.m. -- Michael Czin, national press secretary for the Democratic National Committee, responded to Priebus' remarks on Benghazi with a statement Sunday:
Today, RNC Chairman Reince Priebus sounded more like a conspiracy theorist than a leader of the Republican Party.
The Obama Administration and Democrats are focused on making sure a tragedy like what happened in Benghazi never happens again. Republicans are obsessed with playing politics with that tragedy just to rally their far-right base.
The fact is that there have already been 7 investigations into Benghazi, 25,000 documents have been provided and more than a dozen hearings held. While Republicans want to spend more time investigating what they have already investigated, they are refusing to act on important legislative priorities that will help grow the middle class, like paycheck fairness, raising the minimum wage or passing comprehensive immigration reform.