U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice has withdrawn her name from consideration to replace outgoing Hillary Clinton as secretary of state.
Rice was one of the leading contenders for the position until she faced a wave of Republican criticism for her public comments on the September 11 attack on the U.S. mission in the Libyan city of Benghazi.
She told NBC News on Thursday she would have been honored to serve in the position, but that withdrawing was the right choice since the position had become politicized.
“I withdrew my name because I think it's the right thing for the country and I think it's the right thing for the president. And putting those things together, that makes it the right thing for me and my family.”
President Barack 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.
Republican lawmakers have accused Rice of misinterpreting the intelligence on who orchestrated the Benghazi attack when she said the violence grew out spontaneously from a protest against a U.S.-made amateur movie that ridiculed Islam. U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens was among four Americans killed in the attack.
Senator 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.
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, Senator John Kerry becomes a leading contender for the next secretary of state.