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Hillary Clinton's forceful response to a GOP leader's miscue on Benghazi

 Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton stands on stage during the New Hampshire Democratic Party Convention at the Verizon Wireless Center on September 19, 2015 in Manchester, New Hampshire.
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton stands on stage during the New Hampshire Democratic Party Convention at the Verizon Wireless Center on September 19, 2015 in Manchester, New Hampshire.
Scott Eisen/Getty Images

Republicans' use of the House Benghazi Committee as a political weapon to affect the 2016 presidential election is "deeply distressing" and dishonors "everybody who has served our country," Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton said in an interview taped Wednesday.

Her forceful counter to House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy's ill-advised remarks Tuesday night about the Benghazi Committee suggests that she thinks the GOP has ceded any remaining semblance of a moral high ground in its investigation — a major shift after the weeks of criticisms she's received for the email-handling scandal the Committee helped prompt.

McCarthy, who is running for House speaker, told FOX News's Sean Hannity that he and his colleagues should get credit for damaging Clinton's standing with voters because they set up a select committee to investigate the terrorist attacks that killed four Americans in Benghazi, Libya, in 2012.

This is what McCarthy said:

Hillary Clinton was unbeatable, right? But we put together a Benghazi special committee. A select committee. What are her numbers today? Her numbers are dropping. Why? Because she’s untrustable. But no one would have known that any of that had happened had we not fought to make that happen.

It was an inadvertently revealing admission of what has been obvious to Democrats and many in the media all along: The committee is less interested in investigating the September 11, 2012 terrorist attacks and more interested in attacking Clinton to help Republicans' chances of recapturing the White House. And McCarthy's comments couldn't have come at a worse time for Republicans, because Clinton is due to testify before the panel October 22.

Clinton's Democratic allies started the political assault on McCarthy's remarks early in the day Wednesday — Rep. Eliot Engel of New York even called for the panel to be disbanded — and Clinton rounded it out by suggesting they demean the Americans, including Ambassador Chris Stevens, who lost their lives in Benghazi.

"I have to tell you, I find them deeply distressing," she said in the interview, which will air on Sharpton's "PoliticsNation" at 8 a.m. Sunday on MSNBC. "When I hear a statement like that, which demonstrates unequivocally that this was always meant to be a partisan political exercise, I feel like it does a grave disservice and dishonors not just the memory of the four that we lost, but of everybody who has served our country."

The problem for the GOP is twofold: In the short term, Republicans on the Benghazi Committee will have a lot less latitude to try to turn Clinton's appearance before the panel into a political sideshow, and, over the longer term, the panel's work will be given less weight by the media and other observers. McCarthy's remarks were a godsend for Clinton, and her interview with Sharpton proves she knows it.


VIDEO: Hillary Clinton on her email practices