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. GFF

    You don't apologize for someone shooting at you !!
    Our Administration is nuts........Tweeting an APOLOGY.............holy crap...............our leaders are nuts

    September 12, 2012 05:32 pm at 5:32 pm |
  2. Bill

    Like a desperate animal that chews off his leg when trapped and desperate, Romney the Zombie has severed himself
    from all logic and decency. His desperation is apparent and his quagmire insurmountable.

    September 12, 2012 05:33 pm at 5:33 pm |
  3. GeneK

    Wilson: if you live anywhere near a major US city and will provide your address, I know where you can get some homeless people who will be happy to mow your lawn, pull your weeds and sweep your driveway for $50. It may take them a bit longer than that little girl because they suffer from PTSD, but if they're having a good enough day to make it into the VA they can usually put in four or five hours of work. You are willing to pay minimum wage, right?

    September 12, 2012 05:33 pm at 5:33 pm |
  4. michaelw777

    Does Romney EVER engage his brain before he opens his mouth? And to think I at one time actually considered voting for him. I've since reformed.

    September 12, 2012 05:33 pm at 5:33 pm |
  5. Thinking Texan

    That is correct Ancient Texan.

    The Republican candidate for POTUS can say any dumb thing he wants.
    It is freedom of speech for him, and an opportunity to show his ignorance or promote a lie.

    September 12, 2012 05:34 pm at 5:34 pm |
  6. TheFoolKnownAsMittRomney

    "I should tell my story. I'm also unemployed." —Mitt Romney, speaking in 2011 to unemployed people in Florida. Romney's net worth is over $200 million.

    September 12, 2012 05:34 pm at 5:34 pm |
  7. GFF

    You don't apologize for someone shooting at you !!
    Our Administration Tweeted an apology.............holy crap...............our leaders are nuts

    September 12, 2012 05:34 pm at 5:34 pm |
  8. GFF

    Did Romney say ONE thing that was not fact? He spoke the truth, the prez is inept

    September 12, 2012 05:36 pm at 5:36 pm |
  9. Lisa P

    UDidntBuildThat

    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."
    THAT IS AN APOLOGY!!!!...
    +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
    Well, no. That's an American value - two, really: freedom of speech is not unlimited (no "Fire!" in a crowded theater, for example) and we respect the rights of all people to hold their beliefs and freely practice them (again, with some practical limitations). The movie that provoked the demonstrations in Cairo and Benghazi was meant as fighting words, a deliberate poke in the eye to Muslims around the world. Fighting words - incitements to violence - are not covered under the First Amendment. The sad thing here is that four of our heroic Libyan diplomatic mission personnel lost their lives over this instead of the trash who funded, created and promoted it.

    Why isn't Romney condemning the reckless anti-Muslim provocateurs instead of pretending that President Obama and our diplomatic corps are not bravely defending American values to the rest of the world every single day? I hate to say it, but sometimes I think that when Mitt Romney says "American values" he really has no idea what he is talking about.

    September 12, 2012 05:36 pm at 5:36 pm |
  10. GFF

    Why didn't Obama condemn the movie?

    September 12, 2012 05:37 pm at 5:37 pm |
  11. Grahame Rhodes

    Vladamir Putin The Russian President Thanked Mitt Romney for making his job easier because Putin wanted to upgrade Russia's nuclear capability but was getting push-back from his government. When Romney said the "Russia is our greatest foe." it gave Putin the excuse he needed to push through his nuclear upgrade. Thereby making the world an even more dangerous place. Thank you Mitt Romney for once more putting both feet in your mouth. This latest moronic statement from Romney is just another in a long line of misstatements by this stupid stupid man.

    September 12, 2012 05:37 pm at 5:37 pm |
  12. Namejkane sfl a vote for the gop will cut your moms medicare and soc sec .can you afford to pay for them???

    All republicans are unfit for government office and romney the tax cheat is the prime example and lyin Ryan is just a bribe taker in his home state , does 60,000 dallars ring a bell lyin Ryan ??????

    September 12, 2012 05:38 pm at 5:38 pm |
  13. Progressive Veteran

    Were this man to be elected President of the United States, someone would have to staple his lips together to ensure he doesn't say something before thinking. It's one thing to have a V.P. who occassionally speaks out but he rarely if ever speaks about such significant events such as this and babbles uncontrollably. Pathetic.

    September 12, 2012 05:38 pm at 5:38 pm |
  14. Timbits

    Romney Report Card:
    1) Republicans the only ones who believe in God check
    2) Russia is our #1 Enemy in the World check
    3) Hides Taxes from Americans check
    4) Not in touch with average Americans, but his wife states they were in College but flip flops on that...they lived on stocks, the average American can do that...LOL check
    5) Feeds off someones death to try and get political gain...but doesn't wait for the facts and doubly screws up...disasterous. check
    6) Trickle down...LOL check
    7) Lyin Ryan...check
    Enough said...this guy cannot be trusted!

    September 12, 2012 05:38 pm at 5:38 pm |
  15. arcnorth

    Romney is a sad, sad man.

    September 12, 2012 05:38 pm at 5:38 pm |
  16. GFF

    The movie has NOTHING to do with the continual hatred Islam has demonstrated towards the West.....
    Bombings in every corner of the globe in the name of allah

    September 12, 2012 05:38 pm at 5:38 pm |
  17. Mentalk

    So now that the election is down to Obama or Johnson, who do you plan to vote for?

    September 12, 2012 05:38 pm at 5:38 pm |
  18. TheFoolKnownAsMittRomney

    "I believe in an America where millions of Americans believe in an America that's the America millions of Americans believe in. That's the America I love." –Mitt Romney (January 2012)

    "When you give a speech you don't go through a laundry list, you talk about the things that you think are important." –Mitt Romney, when asked about failing to mention the troops in his nomination speech at the Republican National Convention, Fox News interview, Sept. 7, 2012

    "Join me in welcoming the next president of the United States, Paul Ryan." –Mitt Romney

    "There were a couple of times I wondered whether I was going to get a pink slip" –Mitt Romney, attempting to identify with the problems of average folk (January 2012)

    "I get speaker's fees from time to time, but not very much." —Mitt Romney, who earned $374,000 in speaking fees in one year according to according to his personal financial disclosure (January 2012)

    "It's not worth moving heaven and earth, spending billions of dollars just trying to catch one person." —Mitt Romney, speaking in 2007 about killing Osama bin Laden

    "Who let the dogs out? Who, who." –Mitt Romney, during an awkward photo op with a group of African Americans kids at a Martin Luther King Day parade (January 2008)

    "I'm Wolf Blitzer and yes, that's my real name." —CNN's Wolf Blitzer at the beginning of a November 2011 Republican presidential debate
    "I'm Mitt Romney—and yes Wolf, that's also my first name." —Mitt Romney, getting his own name wrong (his first name is "Willard," and his middle name is "Mitt")

    September 12, 2012 05:39 pm at 5:39 pm |
  19. Barry In Las Vegas

    It's not wrong. The Obama Administration did not reject the statement until AFTER all hell broke loose about how wrong the embassy was to apologize and then Obama threw the embassy under the bus.

    CNN and the rest of the MSM media are covering for Obama again and the proof is in how the reporters were caught and recorded coordinating their "got you" questions for Romney at his press converence this morning.

    September 12, 2012 05:41 pm at 5:41 pm |
  20. GI Joe

    Nutjob southern preacher incites war and romney stand up for him.

    Say it ain't so.

    September 12, 2012 05:41 pm at 5:41 pm |
  21. arcnorth

    According to Sarah Palin, the GOP will disband after the election. Thanks goodness.

    September 12, 2012 05:41 pm at 5:41 pm |
  22. Tilly

    Seriously, did any of you people actually read the article before you commented? Or perhaps the better question is, are you people just too ideologically blind or simply too ignorant to understand?..

    Did the US Embassy in Egypt (and by extension the Obama administration) apologize for hurt feelings of Muslims? YES

    Was the Obama administration's "first response" on Tuesday one of sympathy for those who started the violence itself – before and after the attacks? YES (see next question)

    Was the original statement viewed as our embassy/administration standing "in apology" or was it a condemnation of the movie's message? BOTH
    Condemnation: "The Embassy of the United States in Cairo condemns the continuing efforts by misguided individuals to hurt the religious feelings of Muslims."
    Apology: "We firmly reject the actions by those who abuse the universal right of free speech to hurt the religious beliefs of others."
    (Tweeted again following the attacks)

    Does the timeline of the events suggest 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? NOPE

    Does America stand for freedom of speech? YES

    Does our freedom of speech only apply as long as we don't offend Muslims and their religion? NO (sorry libs, there's no clause in the 1st amendment that makes an exception for Islam)

    September 12, 2012 05:42 pm at 5:42 pm |
  23. Justin Smithson

    Maybe the attacks where part of the security briefings. President Obama has only attended 43% of them? Maybe that's where the empty chair came from.

    September 12, 2012 05:42 pm at 5:42 pm |
  24. GFF

    Obama is a malignant narcissist with messianic delusions

    September 12, 2012 05:42 pm at 5:42 pm |
  25. Timbits

    GFF what in the heck are you talking about... the statement was in regards to the movie and came long before the killings...these are the facts...not your nightmares

    September 12, 2012 05:42 pm at 5:42 pm |
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