COLUMBIA -- While a U.S. senator from South Carolina is attacking United Nations Ambassador Susan Rice, a Palmetto State congressman is defending her.
"To say she was incompetent for reading erroneous information that was provided to her, how does that get to anybody's competence?" U.S. Rep. Jim Clyburn, D-Columbia, has said of U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham's criticisms of Rice.
Clyburn's district includes part of Beaufort County.
"This woman got a Ph.D., a Rhodes scholar. I would dare to say (she is) much more competent and much more accomplished than (2008 Republican presidential nominee) Sarah Palin, who John McCain said deserved to be vice president of the United States," Clyburn said. "Give me a break."
Rice is at the center of the Washington controversy over a terrorist attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, in which four Americans, including the U.S. ambassador, were killed.
U.S. Sen. McCain, R-Ariz., and Graham, R-Seneca, have pledged to block Rice's nomination if President Barack Obama proposes her to replace Hillary Clinton as secretary of state.
"I don't trust her," Graham has said, arguing that Rice's statements after the Benghazi attacks either were intentionally inaccurate or ignorant. "The reason I don't trust her is because I think she knew better, and if she didn't know better, she shouldn't be the voice of America."
Obama has defended Rice, saying that as U.N. ambassador, she was not responsible for the State Department and did not attempt to mislead anyone. She simply repeated what intelligence sources had told Congress and her, he said.
Graham's comments also upset Clyburn, in part because Rice has South Carolina roots.
"Susan Rice's roots are in Florence," Clyburn told MSNBC. "Her father, ... Emmett, who was born there in Florence, didn't leave there until he was 16 years old. I have been a close friend of his over the years. I'm a close friend with Susan Rice.
"It's absolutely a shame for this young lady, whose roots are deep in South Carolina soil, to get sullied like this by my senior senator, who I consider to be a good friend."
A spokesman said Graham had no response to Clyburn's comments. "(Graham) is focused on (Rice's) job performance. Period," Kevin Bishop said.