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. LM

    I find it disgraceful that Romney uses this tragedy to make political gain. The man's not even in office and he's a foreign policy nightmare.

    September 12, 2012 09:06 pm at 9:06 pm |
  2. Loring

    By saying in their talking points that Romney rejects the message of the movie, aren't they effectively "apologizing" for the film in exactly the same way the administration "apologized?"

    Romney talking points: "reject"
    Egyptial embassy statement: "condemn"

    If some film makes ridiculous assertions that inflame an entire religion and an entire region, how would our condemnation of those ridiculous assertions say anything about the film makers right to free speech?

    Everyone should condemn hate speech.

    September 12, 2012 09:07 pm at 9:07 pm |
  3. gurgyl

    Mitt is a total disgrace to USA,,,period. The End. o.k,

    September 12, 2012 09:07 pm at 9:07 pm |
  4. Jose Arribas

    At the end of the day, this only adds to the litany of mistakes that Mittens has made and continues to make and it will sway the remaining undecided votes to Obama. Mittens is not ready to be President. That's plain and simple.

    September 12, 2012 09:08 pm at 9:08 pm |
  5. DrDannoMD

    I don't see the initial releasefrom the embassy as any kind of an apology, but rather an attempt to diffuse a rapidly deteriorating situation right outside their front door. It was issued before violence broke out, and if I'm in that embassy looking out at a crowd incensed by a movie made by moronic Americans, free speech isn't on my mind as much as saving the lives of Americans in the compound. Faced with that situation, I'd issue a release acknowledging the indisputable fact that the content of the movie was offensive in hopes of calming the situation down. No apology there. And there can be no doubt that a Romney campaign, coming off a disasterous convention, down in the poles, made the decision to try to capitalize on the death of 4 Americans. That shows amazingly poor judgment and there's no place in this country for that.

    September 12, 2012 09:09 pm at 9:09 pm |
  6. Unfit Mitt

    And you people who are repeating the filthy disgusting lies you heard on right wing hate speech radio this afternoon should be ashamed of yourselves. Our ambassador was murdered, the president responded firmyl and properly, and you shameless drones simply repeat the lies sean hanity and the other haters on fox and right wing radio told instead of listening to what was said. You disgrace our country and help the terrorists when you denigrate our president without any cause whatsoever. If President Obama was doing what you fools claim he was doing I would be right there with you denouncing him, but you are guttlesss uninformed traitors who simply repeat the propaganda and lies of people who value partisan power over the good of our nation and our people.

    September 12, 2012 09:11 pm at 9:11 pm |
  7. DLZ

    What I find utterly astonishing, is that Mormons believe when they die, they become a God of their own planet to repopulate it, which is Exactly what they bash Muslims for on a daily basis. These people claim to be religious, back Romney, knowing full well in Romney's eyes, Christians are among that group of people who are wrong and can't be saved. The Mormons believe Christianity is evil, yet here are these God screaming GOP'ers lining up to vote for him, what is wrong with these people.

    September 12, 2012 09:12 pm at 9:12 pm |
  8. Phillip Cousins

    Another example of Romeny's desperation. Now, realizing that he will lose to Obama, he will do anything to get an edge. What a fool, his irresponsible statements has disqualified him to be President. Typical Republicans, cannot win on facts, they avoid debates because it will disclose the facts and expose theirs lies–their a sound bite party that panders to racists, the uneducated and the grossly uninformed.

    Cannot wait for the debates, Obama will not sweep the floor with Romney, but instead mop and wax the floor with him.

    September 12, 2012 09:13 pm at 9:13 pm |
  9. DrDannoMD

    I don't see the initial releasefrom the embassy as any kind of an apology, but rather an attempt to diffuse a rapidly deteriorating situation right outside their front door. It was issued before violence broke out, and if I'm in that embassy looking out at a crowd incensed by a movie made by mo ron ic Americans, free speach isn't on my mind as much as saving the lives of Americans in the compound. Faced with that situation, I'd issue a release acknowledging the indisputable fact that the content of the movie was offensive in hopes of calming the situation down. No apology there. And there can be no doubt that a Romney campaign, coming off a disasterous convention, down in the poles, made the decision to try to capitalize on the death of 4 Americans. That shows amazingly poor judgment and there's no place in the Whitehouse for that.

    September 12, 2012 09:15 pm at 9:15 pm |
  10. luckjoe

    CNN will always paint the condertative elected official or candidate as evil, incompetent..etc. NEVER will you see CNN print a negative observation about their darling Barry Obama.

    September 12, 2012 09:16 pm at 9:16 pm |
  11. DLEE

    Let's also talk about Romneys comments about the Russians, and the fact that Putin said that Russia needed to rearm itself for war since America felt that way. This guy is a disaster and shouldn't be allowed to speak period.

    September 12, 2012 09:16 pm at 9:16 pm |
  12. politicalgumhockey

    Romney has shown once again that he is both dishonest and dishonorable.

    September 12, 2012 09:17 pm at 9:17 pm |
  13. Tubby the Tuba Texas

    Robme just step over the line. A Diplomat's death, and the death's of staff of the Embassy not even cold in their grave, and Robme is trying to score political points on such devastion! What a horrible President Robme would make! I would like to know where the film is from (US), who paid for it, who brought it to Egypt, and was it finaced by a RICH man back in the United States? Why would someone make a movie like described, except to incite a riot....maybe so there would be a rebellion....and we could say, Obama's poor foreign policy? It was shocking that Mitt the Twitt knew more about was going to happen than any human would possibly know! He is not a seer! All that money sitting off the coast and in foreign lands with no possibility of a trace....uhm!

    September 12, 2012 09:18 pm at 9:18 pm |
  14. Thinking Texan

    Bishop Romney's accusation that the Obama administration's "first response" on Tuesday was one of sympathy for those who started the violence itself.

    So what Romney is saying is that Obama is a traitor, that he is really supporting Al Queda.

    I am reminded this is the Republican strategy for decades. Like when Senator Joe McCarthy and US Army's chief legal representative, Joseph Nye Welch connected in the congress.

    "Until this moment, Senator, I think I never really gauged your cruelty or your recklessness ..."
    "Senator. You've done enough. Have you no sense of decency, sir, at long last? Have you left no sense of decency?"

    We did not learn with McCarthy, Nixon and a long line of criminals and fools.
    And now we have another one who wants to be in power to save us and bring us back to their America.

    September 12, 2012 09:20 pm at 9:20 pm |
  15. Thomas

    Mr. R cannot handle his handlers. Sad

    September 12, 2012 09:20 pm at 9:20 pm |
  16. Doc_78

    Romney is at the point he will say anything to get elected. He and Ryan figure if they repeat their lies enough times they can cash in on the deaths of 4 Americans. Shame on you while you do this.

    September 12, 2012 09:21 pm at 9:21 pm |
  17. Thinking Texan

    The actions of the former Governor of Massachusetts have caused alarm and dismay amongst our allies abroad, and given considerable comfort to our enemies. And whose fault is that? Not really his. He didn't create this situation of fear; he merely exploited it—and rather successfully.

    September 12, 2012 09:22 pm at 9:22 pm |
  18. Numyorangay

    Was Sheldon Adelson also funding this film, in response to the one who asked about funding. Thoughts and prayers for Chris Stevens and his family; he seems to have been a good and kindly man with a conscience. And he knew Libya and its people. . .not like some of out daft politicians here.

    September 12, 2012 09:22 pm at 9:22 pm |
  19. john5021

    I see this whole thing as an attempt to show that America is a woose and easy to attack by word or worse. Romney thank you for helping those who hate us to find a reason for the attacks. Instead of see us showing a united front, they see us as stupid and moronic.

    September 12, 2012 09:24 pm at 9:24 pm |
  20. Ancient Texan

    Did anyone seriously think when President Obama and SOS Clinton got the US involved in the overthrow of those in control of Egypt and Libya and expect the "good guys" to wind up in charge of a stable functioning government that would be friendly to the U.S of A.that the result would be much different?

    September 12, 2012 09:25 pm at 9:25 pm |
  21. Lizzie

    Come on people, President Obama waited untill he had all the facts, not that he ever needed them before. He is upset because Romney spoke out before he did.

    September 12, 2012 09:25 pm at 9:25 pm |
  22. TomNPitt

    Willard acts like a drowning man. He's flailing and wailing. He's just about done. A few more of these stupid statements and Obama opens up a double digit lead then Sara, Rush and Oreilley can say they KNEW he wasn't the right guy for the job.

    September 12, 2012 09:26 pm at 9:26 pm |
  23. Josef Bleaux

    Typical Romney stupidity. How anyone in their right mind could vote for this dimwit is beyond me.

    September 12, 2012 09:27 pm at 9:27 pm |
  24. Lori

    Mitt the twitt offends our best allies on his fact-finding tour – desperate bush league pretty little rich boy.

    September 12, 2012 09:28 pm at 9:28 pm |
  25. Chmee

    This should remove all doubt as to Romney's character, or lack thereof.

    September 12, 2012 09:28 pm at 9:28 pm |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50 51 52 53