The State Department now says it never believed the Sept. 11 attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, was a film protest gone awry, giving congressional Republicans new fodder for criticizing the Obama administration’s initial accounts of the assault.

The State Department’s extraordinary break with other administration offices came in a department briefing Tuesday, where officials said ‘‘others’’ in the executive branch concluded initially that the protest was based, like others in the Middle East, on a film that ridiculed the Prophet Muhammad.

That was never the department’s conclusion, a senior official told reporters.

The Republican-led House Oversight and Government Reform Committee holds a hearing Wednesday on diplomatic security in the attack that killed U.S. Ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens and three other Americans. The attack as become a political football in the final weeks before the election.

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