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The Boston Globe

Politics

Obama on defense in pregame interview

WASHINGTON — President Obama defended himself against an array of Republican criticism in an interview during Fox’s Super Bowl pregame show.

The president traded barbs with interviewer Bill O’Reilly in a live interview that covered his troubled health care law rollout, the 2012 attacks on the US diplomatic mission in Libya, and revelations that the IRS targeted conservative groups for extra scrutiny.

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‘‘I try to focus not on the fumbles but on the next plan,’’ Obama said.

Obama would not say why he didn’t fire Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius after the failed launch of the government’s online marketplace. He also declined to say that the biggest mistake of his presidency was telling Americans that if they liked their health care they could keep it, and argued that the website is now working the way it’s supposed to.

‘‘We’ve got 3 million people signed up so far. We’re about a month behind where we anticipated we wanted to be,’’ Obama said.

He responded to O’Reilly’s questions about why administration officials initially described the attack in Benghazi, Libya, as a spontaneous mob protest of an anti-Islamic, American-made video.

He rejected ‘‘the notion that we would hide the ball for political purposes when a week later we all said in fact there was a terrorist attack taking place.’’

‘‘That wouldn’t be a very good coverup,’’ Obama said.

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