Romney's political pretzel over Libya
September 12th, 2012
02:23 PM ET
2 years ago

Romney's political pretzel over Libya

(CNN) – Has Mitt Romney twisted the narrative of Tuesday's attacks at U.S. missions in Libya and Egypt?

A timeline of the events suggests Romney was wrong in his accusation that the Obama administration's "first response" on Tuesday was one of sympathy for those who started the violence itself–as the violence came after the first statement was published.

– Follow the Ticker on Twitter: @PoliticalTicker

And Romney's comments Wednesday characterized that response as standing "in apology" when the embassy's statement was not actually an apology but a condemnation.

The timeline:

Tuesday morning in Egypt, the U.S. Embassy in Cairo released a statement stating it "condemns the continuing efforts by misguided individuals to hurt the religious feelings of Muslims." The statement came after protests erupted in parts of the Arab world in response to an online video found offensive by Muslims.

While the statement doesn't specifically mention the video, it says the embassy "firmly reject(s) the actions by those who abuse the universal right of free speech to hurt the religious beliefs of others." READ THE FULL STATEMENT HERE.

After the statement, protesters began to breach the embassy in Cairo, where ultimately several men scaled the walls of the mission and tore down its American flag.

At 6:30 p.m. ET - The embassy then tweeted about its earlier statement: "This morning's condemnation (issued before protests began) still stands. As does our condemnation of unjustified breach of the Embassy." The tweet was posted by a foreign service officer, CNN confirmed. Several State Department sources said that the U.S. ambassador to Egypt did not sign off on the original statement, as she was in Washington at the time.

Reports then emerged Tuesday evening, Eastern Standard Time, of attacks on the consulate in Benghazi, Libya. The State Department also told CNN that a consulate employee had been killed in the attacks. At the time, however, the employee's nationality was not clear.

At 10:10 p.m. ET, Romney's campaign released an embargoed (until midnight) statement blasting the Obama administration. The statement had a veiled reference to the Egypt embassy's statement that condemned offensive speech against Muslims and referred to it as the administration's "first response":

"I'm outraged by the attacks on American diplomatic missions in Libya and Egypt and by the death of an American consulate worker in Benghazi. It's disgraceful that the Obama Administration's first response was not to condemn attacks on our diplomatic missions, but to sympathize with those who waged the attacks." READ THE FULL STATEMENT HERE.

At 10:25 p.m. ET, the campaign lifted the embargo, and news outlets began reporting the statement.

At 12:11 a.m. ET, Obama's re-election campaign put out a statement, accusing Romney of taking a political swipe during the crisis.

"We are shocked that, at a time when the United States of America is confronting the tragic death of one of our diplomatic officers in Libya, Governor Romney would choose to launch a political attack."

At 6:21 a.m. ET, CNN reported on its wire service that U.S. ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens was killed in a rocket attack. Over the next few hours, it's revealed that three other personnel, including a Foreign Service information management officer, were also killed.

At 10:16 a.m. ET, Romney held a press conference at his campaign office in Jacksonville, Florida. He renewed his criticism of the Obama administration, saying "Obama has demonstrated a lack of clarity as to a foreign policy."

Asked if he regretted the wording in his statement Tuesday night, the Republican then issued his own timeline of the events in answering the question.

"The embassy in Cairo put out a statement after their grounds had been breached. Protestors were inside the grounds," he said. As noted earlier, however, the U.S. Embassy statement was issued before the breach. The embassy then reiterated the statement on Twitter after protestors were over the walls. A Romney campaign official pointed to this tweet, which has since been deleted, as justification for the Republican nominee's comment that the statement came after the grounds were breached.

Romney then said the administration's original statement from the embassy in Cairo was effectively an "apology." His language went further than the Tuesday release from his campaign where he called it "disgraceful" and an expression of "sympathy for those who waged the attacks." READ THE TRANSCRIPT OF THE PRESS CONFERENCE HERE.

"I think it's a terrible course for America to stand in apology for our values. That instead when our grounds are being attacked and being breached, that the first response of the United States must be outrage," he said. "An apology for America's values is never the right course."

His comments also raise the question that if Romney was condemning the embassy statement that condemned offensive speech against Muslims, where does Romney stand on the offensive video?

While he wasn't asked about the video in the press conference, Romney stood by the right to free speech.

"We'll defend also our constitutional rights of speech and assembly and religion," he said. "We encourage our nations to understand and respect the principles of our Constitution because we recognize that these principles are the ultimate source of freedom for individuals around the world."

CNN, however, obtained talking points from the Romney campaign in which they advise Republicans on how to respond to the press over the issue. The document suggests Republicans be prepared to answer this question: "Don't you think it was appropriate for the embassy to condemn the controversial movie in question? Are you standing up for movies like this?"

The answer prompts the responder to say that Romney "rejects the reported message of the movie," but to add that "we will not apologize for our constitutional right to freedom of speech."

– CNN's Elise Labott, Peter Hamby, Rachel Streitfeld, Jill Dougherty, Ashley Killough, and Kevin Liptak.

Also see:

– With attacks in Middle East, campaign turns to foreign policy

– Romney's political pretzel over Libya

– Democrats outraged with Romney foreign policy attacks

– Ryan ramps up foreign policy attack on Obama


Filed under: 2012 • Egypt • Libya • Mitt Romney
soundoff (1,318 Responses)
  1. ThinkAgain: Mittens 'n' Munster are Liars

    @Obama's America 2016: "Doesn't Obama support the people that did this? YES."

    NO. President Obama condemned the attack and said those responsible for it would be brought to justice. (Please see the President's record on taking out Osama bin Laden, al Qaeda operatives and Somali pirates for what he means by that.)

    September 12, 2012 03:34 pm at 3:34 pm |
  2. rxlawdude

    Bousan:"Obama got caught sleeping on all days on 9/11 when you think the US would have been alert. Too busy campaigning to attend national security meetings or meet with Israel."

    So you're complaining that Obama is too busy meeting with an ally? You Foxtard people crack me up. You claim Obama is not supportive of Israel, and then make a backhanded comment that Obama should be faulted for having a meeting with Israeli representatives? Make up your minds!

    September 12, 2012 03:34 pm at 3:34 pm |
  3. Tim

    Man Romney has made so many mistakes lately, President Obama doesn't have to send out any attack adds...Mit Romney is a Human Attack add against himself, everytime he speaks...Man! This guy just don't get it...you don't use someones death for political gain. The statement from the U.S. Embassy in regards to the online movie came out before the attacks on the Ambassador and the others. This is ridiculous!

    September 12, 2012 03:34 pm at 3:34 pm |
  4. Wanderer

    R-R ticket is not concerned about the death of the ambassador. They are using this tragedy as an opportunity to attack Obama. Is attacking Obama the only thing that the R-R ticket has in their mind?

    September 12, 2012 03:35 pm at 3:35 pm |
  5. jrhodeisland

    Whats this, comments are not prescreened before posting, but i'm awaiting moderation?
    Isn't moderation pre-screening? whats with this. All this negative Obama crap ticks me off royally. He is our President.
    He deserves our respect and support. A father is not going home to his family, a father that accepted the embassy post knowing it is always dangerous. Sympathy to the family, and apologies that they may hear Romney comments.

    September 12, 2012 03:35 pm at 3:35 pm |
  6. Jules

    Mitt Romney could have stood for America today. Instead, he chose to stand for himself.

    September 12, 2012 03:35 pm at 3:35 pm |
  7. nlgatewood

    The response came because they were trying to distance themselves from the video, because the protesters thought it was being supported by the government (when they thought the attack was in response to the video). I see nothing wrong with that statement. It was made to help quell any future protests/attacks...but Obama also came out condemning the attacks....so I don't see what the fuss is about

    I think the Romney campaign made a huge error in coming out so politically so quickly. They would have made a little traction fi they waited a day or two..not to mention the news on the ground may have changed (which it did)

    September 12, 2012 03:35 pm at 3:35 pm |
  8. Latino

    Tired of Democrats. They flip flop on all the issues as long as it is to their favor. They do not understand that if the USA doesn't lead the world, someone else will lead, and it won't be us. That should be the scary part they should think about. Sounds cruel, but that is life.

    September 12, 2012 03:36 pm at 3:36 pm |
  9. nlgatewood

    The response came because they were trying to distance themselves from the video, because the protesters thought it was being supported by the government (When we thought it was bc of the video). I see nothing wrong with that statement. It was made to help quell any future protests/attacks...but Obama also came out condemning the attacks....so I don't see what the fuss is about

    I think the Romney campaign made a huge error in coming out so politically so quickly. They would have made a little traction fi they waited a day or two..not to mention the news on the ground may have changed (which it did)

    September 12, 2012 03:36 pm at 3:36 pm |
  10. Adam

    I am almost curious how the hard core Christian religious people in this country would have reacted had a video been released making fun of Jesus and mocking their beliefs. Would they have gone out in search of Muslims and perpetrated violence on them? I kind of thing that some would. Just as some Muslims took the same track with this. In no way am I justifying what happened or excusing it. The actions were reprehensible and utterly demeaning to their own religion. I also would say that the actions of those who made the film were equally reprehensible. Free speech is one thing, but tact and judgement are also required as is personal responsibility. Freedom doesn't mean you get to do whatever you want. Freedom comes with responsibilities as well. One of the responsibilities is respect for differing opinions and beliefs. Freedom means you don't have to agree with them, but you have to respect their right to no agree with you. This film did not respect that right.

    September 12, 2012 03:36 pm at 3:36 pm |
  11. Ultralance12

    You guys defending Romney or bashing Obama are pretty pathetic. I know your hatred for Obama is deep but Romney was blatantly wrong here. He should apologize, stop talking about it, and let the president handle it. I was never a fan of George W Bush (I didn't hate him as some of you do Obama) but on 9/12/01 if a democratic candidate for president would have opened their mouth other than to say "my deepest sympathies...", I wouldn't have urinated on them if they were on fire. This is from of the people that are supposed to be "the more patriotic" party. Romney was wrong about the events, he was wrong about the "apology", he was wrong to politicize it and those of you defending his actions in this case are more wrong than he is.

    September 12, 2012 03:37 pm at 3:37 pm |
  12. Izzy

    The Leni Reifenstahl/Joseph Goebbels wing of the democrat party is out in force, or should I say out in farce here. Protecting your incompetent in chief will not change the fact that the embassy travesty is Obama's responsibility. It has even been reported that he skipped, once again, the Intel briefing that would have helped his sorry behind. It is every American's first ammendment right to critique one's Dear Leader and the modern day Marie Antoinette. It was OK for you to do it to Shrub now it is our turn. And Mitt is right that our Dear Leaders shoud defend American virtues rather than wipe the butts of hurt man-child muslims. It is time to give Obama a permanent golf vacation.

    September 12, 2012 03:37 pm at 3:37 pm |
  13. Blah blah the wheel's off your trailer

    Mitt Romney's public response to the tragedy: I'm outragged! Mitt Romney behind closed...I just hope the killing of Ambassador Stevens gives me a bounce in the polls. Unpatriotic un-American traitor!

    September 12, 2012 03:37 pm at 3:37 pm |
  14. Core republican Values

    Mr. Romney is DOA. He is utterly without ethics or integrity.

    September 12, 2012 03:37 pm at 3:37 pm |
  15. Zack

    It is honestly amazing how CNN reports "news"... I used to like CNN, A LOT, because I felt they wer fairly balanced, although they did lean left, I was ok with that... Now, they seem to truly just be a messenger for the left and whatever they are trying to "convince" the people of about Romney... Stop trying to be convinced people and do your research... If you read the events as they happened, they responses, as they happened, and Romeny's response, as it actually happened, you will see the story is full of crap

    September 12, 2012 03:37 pm at 3:37 pm |
  16. dcd

    How would Romney even know what an apology is? He and Ryan don't apologize for any of the lies they have told in the past and actually try and defend their lies. Mitt and Paul are not ready to lead this country anywhere except into war. Keep up the good work Mitt!

    September 12, 2012 03:37 pm at 3:37 pm |
  17. cj219

    According to Fox, he will be spot on in his judgement..

    September 12, 2012 03:37 pm at 3:37 pm |
  18. sarge

    He is whining for attention!

    September 12, 2012 03:38 pm at 3:38 pm |
  19. Wise Texas

    @oneandun: The President didn't apologize, he used diplomacy. Egypt has been a powder keg since the Arab Spring began, and the so-called movie only threw fuel on the fire. Diplomacy is used to try and prevent violence. Maybe you don't understand that America is not popular in the Muslim. Maybe you don't understand that there over 1 billion Muslims and only 330 million Americans. We can't afford to fight everyone.

    September 12, 2012 03:38 pm at 3:38 pm |
  20. Tim

    Mitt Romney needs to clean up his attacks against the President. Maybe he could come up with something true before he says something next time!

    September 12, 2012 03:38 pm at 3:38 pm |
  21. olga

    Yet again, the idiot strikes! Someone please put a muzzle on this clown's mouth! He has no idea what he's talking about and he should be ASHAMED of himself for the messagout that came out at midnight to gain political points. He is beyond a moron and just becomes stupider as the challenges arise. Please GOD, don't let this idiot get into office! Go Obama

    September 12, 2012 03:38 pm at 3:38 pm |
  22. Ken

    Romney is a disgrace to America. He did think enough to mention the brave men in women in battle zones and he didn't stop to consider the implications of his words as Americans lie dead in the street. This man is no where near presidential. Just another shameless businessman who thinks that meets the qualifications of POTUS.

    September 12, 2012 03:39 pm at 3:39 pm |
  23. David in Cincinnati

    Romney is an empty man.

    September 12, 2012 03:39 pm at 3:39 pm |
  24. Tower

    Romney's argument is that the Pres is responsible for the embassy's statements, and therefore attributes those statements as Obama's.

    Romney says those statements are "disgraceful"... you know, those statements made by the Ambassador, the embassy and consulate in Libya. You know, the ones that was just attacked and and the ambassador that was just killed.

    September 12, 2012 03:39 pm at 3:39 pm |
  25. Liberatus

    As a Democrat, I am so happy the Republicans actually nominated this guy. If I were a Republican, I'd be trying to replace him as the nominee. He is absolutely without shame and has no backbone.

    September 12, 2012 03:39 pm at 3:39 pm |
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