Obama to Susan Rice GOP Critics: When They Go After the U.N. Ambassador...Theyve Got a Problem With Me | John McCain | Lindsey Graham | Kelly Ayotte

President Barack Obama speaks during a White House press conference on Nov. 14, 2012. (Getty Images)

President Barack Obama on Wednesday gave a fierce defense of United Nations Ambassador Susan Rice, declaring that Republican senators who go after her have “got a problem with me.”

Obama was responding to comments made earlier Wednesday by Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) calling Rice unacceptable as a possible replacement for Secretary of State Hillary Clinton because of her initial comments calling the Sept. 11 attacks in Benghazi, Libya a response to an anti-Islam video.

“She has done exemplary work,” Obama said of Rice. “She has represented the United States and our interests in the United Nations with skill and professionalism and toughness and grace. As I’ve said before, she made an appearance at the request of the White House in which she gave her best understanding of the intelligence that had been provided to her.”

He continued, “If Senator McCain and Senator Graham and others want to go after somebody, they should go after me. And I’m happy to have that discussion with them. But for them to go after the U.N. ambassador, who had nothing to do with Benghazi and was simply doing a presentation based on information she had received, and to besmirch her reputation is outrageous.”

Saying “we’re after an election now,” Obama called it imperative to find out precisely what happened in Benghazi and vowed to cooperate fully.

“But when they go after the U.N. ambassador apparently because they think she’s an easy target, then they’ve got a problem with me,” Obama said. “And should I choose, if I think she would be the best person to serve America in the capacity of the State Department then I will nominate her. That’s not a determination I have made yet.”