The scandal unfolding around U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice has become a microcosm for the relationship between President Barack Obama and Republican lawmakers. As conservatives have protested Rice’s promotion amid allegations she misled the American people about the Benghazi attacks, the White House has only doubled down.

In his first news conference after re-election, Obama said Rice had played a faithful role as the administration’s mouthpiece, even though the information she dispensed to the press about a riot sparking the deadly attacks was contradicted by intelligence reports. The timing and exact content of those intelligence reports and who might have doctored her talking points to paper over any terrorist connection remains an open question for the American public.

“If Sen. [John] McCain and Sen. [Lindsey] Graham and others want to go after somebody, they should go after me,” Obama said. “To besmirch [Rice’s] reputation is outrageous.”