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. Woman In California

    "I think it's a terrible course for America to stand in apology for our values.

    This from a greedy, corporate thug who has never known the battlefields, a bread line or the harsh realities of life and to this day, has yet to apologize for deserting this country, RETURNING and having the nerve to ask us to make him POTUS. Talk about apologies.

    September 12, 2012 02:57 pm at 2:57 pm |
  2. Jean Pennie

    Some of us knew about the embassies being attacked YESTERDAY AFTERNOON. I tweeted about it at approximately 3pm on 9/11/12. We SAW the statement apologizing for freedom of speech released on Twitter by the US Embassy at that same time. Romney is 100% correct in speaking out against this no-can-do administration. And anyway, with regard to our "apology" to the extremists who killed our citizens, since when do Americans (especially "artists") have to conform to any other nationality's standard of behavior? I am a Catholic and my beliefs are mocked and diminished every single day (and often by the likes of those on CNN shows) yet I don't kill anyone.

    September 12, 2012 02:58 pm at 2:58 pm |
  3. Marine08

    CNN's comments are typical of the mainstream media tactics to protect Obama despite his incompetence and failure to stand up for America. Romney in 2012!

    September 12, 2012 02:58 pm at 2:58 pm |
  4. Sorensen

    Romney is twisting everything, including himself. The few brains left in the GOP must really regret, that they did not
    speak up against this idiot a long time ago. Now they are all paying the price of total worldwide ridicule and
    humiliation.

    September 12, 2012 02:58 pm at 2:58 pm |
  5. freelance

    It's good to see Romney stepping up and BLASTING Obama over failed foreign policy.

    September 12, 2012 02:58 pm at 2:58 pm |
  6. gj2001

    President Romney.
    Non how does that sound at this time?

    September 12, 2012 02:58 pm at 2:58 pm |
  7. Volucre

    The morning's condemnation was of the video criticizing Islam. The first statement after the attacks was, "This morning's condemnation (issued before protests began) still stands. As does our condemnation of unjustified breach of the Embassy."

    So the first sentence was sympathy, and the second was criticism of the attackers. As Romney said, the sympathy came first. I agree with him–that's outrageous.

    September 12, 2012 02:58 pm at 2:58 pm |
  8. PTNY

    This is the Romney Family's chance, "A CALL TO ARMS" ...

    Mitt Romney, suit them 5 boys of yours up and send them to Libya with the 200 troops President Obama is sending.

    September 12, 2012 02:59 pm at 2:59 pm |
  9. Anonymous

    First you state " The statement came after protests erupted in parts of the Arab world in response to an online video found offensive by Muslims." Then you state "The embassy then tweeted about its earlier statement: "This morning's condemnation (issued before protests began) still stands."

    Which is it. Was the first statement made before or after protests began?

    September 12, 2012 02:59 pm at 2:59 pm |
  10. A Humble Perspective

    Mitt Romney does not need to attack on things like this. He has this election won. It is about the economy, and the economy is woeful. None of the current polls reflect likely voters and independents. Just keep you nose clean Mitt, and we can begin to piece this country back together again.

    September 12, 2012 02:59 pm at 2:59 pm |
  11. Uncertain Republican

    Is it TOO MUCH to ask for an actual good Republican presidential candidate that has right wing values but is at least truthful and shows integrity in their political race?
    Enough is enough.... no more lies and flip flops before you turn most of us into dems! :S

    September 12, 2012 02:59 pm at 2:59 pm |
  12. CB FL

    If you elect this person POTUS God help us all.

    September 12, 2012 02:59 pm at 2:59 pm |
  13. edward insight

    Tuesday morning in Egypt is 7 or 8 hours later in Egypt.

    September 12, 2012 02:59 pm at 2:59 pm |
  14. litalatina

    Ronmey is not ready to be a Conmader in Chief. I live in Miami and I WILL NOT VOTE POR RONMEY-RYAN ticket.

    September 12, 2012 02:59 pm at 2:59 pm |
  15. vintel7

    Shallow Romney is wrong about everything and is always getting caught in lies and falsehood.

    For shallow Romney, the killing of Americans is a "political opportunity" to attack the president. Notice how Mittens doesn't prescribe a plan or solution to the problem.

    This is a pattern with Republicans in general...they hate, blame, and criticize but never do they offer or provide any solutions to any of the nation's problems.

    Bunch of angry, unconscious, do nothing hypocrites the Republicans are. Since being elected to control the House, the Republicans have not accomplished a single thing...and they are baffled why they are polling 11% in the Congress?

    ROMNEY HAS NO FOREIGN POLICY EXPERIENCE WHATSOEVER....NONE. AND IT IS OBVIOUS. Every time this guy opens his mouth he blunders.

    September 12, 2012 02:59 pm at 2:59 pm |
  16. Rudy NYC

    from the article:

    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 Republican then issued his own timeline of the events. Democrats, you can have your own opinions, but you have to be a Republican to have your own facts. Issuing your own timeline isn't leadership, that's reqriting history.

    September 12, 2012 02:59 pm at 2:59 pm |
  17. Kiki

    This is Romney's big chance to show the nation that he has what it takes to be president. Instead, the Romney campaign has come across looking like a ship without a rudder with no sense of direction. He reminds me of McCain's 2008 campaign that got caught flat-footed when the economic meltdown occurred and McCain wanted to suspend his presidential campaign because he was clueless on how to solve the problem.

    At both times President Obama was and is the only level-headed, even tempered, reliable adult in the room.

    September 12, 2012 03:00 pm at 3:00 pm |
  18. Facts don't Lie

    The Romney campaign has told all kinds of falsehoods about the president from the welfare deal, to Medicare, to tax reform, to now this and when called out on it they NEVER admit to being wrong in fact they as the term goes DOUBLE DOWN on their accusations. I will say it until I am blue in the face, this is the WORST campaign run I have ever seen in my life.

    September 12, 2012 03:00 pm at 3:00 pm |
  19. Observer974

    I see CNN is up o their old tricks. I tried to post the following criticism, to lend some form of balance to this hate fest, and CNN blocked it! So, I am trying it, again, and hoping that they will be shamed into at least pretending to be nonpartisan.

    Well, take a look at the timeline and Middle Eastern news. The US government apologized for this stupid film. No one was rioting. Most people in the Libya, Egypt, etc. didn't even know it existed. But the Obama Administration issued an apology and a condemnation of the film (and, other than it being the right of the film makers to do this, I DO NOT like the film or that self serving nitwit "reverend" Jones). Following that apology, various Mullah's and fanatics drummed up the mob, we got riots, flag burnings, homicides, and injuries. It sounds to me as if the incompetence of this White House *led* to the embassy attacks and the deaths, was the spark that led to this. Now, you can try and spin it any way you want, but any independent observer is going to come to the conclusion that that Mr. Romney's criticism is completely valid, that the bungling incompetence of an Administration trying to score political points, trying to head off the very riots they caused! They blew it and the result was the death of an ambassador and three staff members and the continuing violence and anti-American, anti-Jewish, anti-Christian, anti-Western mess we see today.

    September 12, 2012 03:00 pm at 3:00 pm |
  20. SpotOn

    Facts be damned, Romney will say what he wants and repeat it often enough that his low-IQ followers will believe that its fact. Sigh.

    September 12, 2012 03:00 pm at 3:00 pm |
  21. Bill

    What an insensitive clown. Figures his first instinct would be to take a horrible national tragedy and try and find a way to use it to attack the president.

    September 12, 2012 03:01 pm at 3:01 pm |
  22. djmp

    Mr. Romney demonstrates yet again why his complete lack of foreign policy expertise (not to mention common sense and decency) make him completely incapable of leading this country. For shame.

    September 12, 2012 03:01 pm at 3:01 pm |
  23. graphite

    Romney has again proven to me that he is the biggest liar and fake I have seen in my lifetime run for president. I find it hard to believe that even his wife would vote for this fake. He is the ultimate worst that you find in a lying salesman who will do anything and say anything to get the sale. He is the epitome of someone who believe's that there is a sucker born every minute and he will take advantage of that. Is he for real? Even Republican leaders can't stand him. They might like his words, but it's obvious to even Republican leaders that he is faking it just to get elected. What kind of person falls for that. I liked Nixon's lies more than Romneys – at least Nixon was honest about his motives. We knew he was trying to staying in office. Romney is too smooth to let it be seen that he will live up to what Gingrich said about him: "If he lies to you to get elected. He'll lie to you if he's president." Exactly.

    September 12, 2012 03:01 pm at 3:01 pm |
  24. Observer974

    I see CNN is up to their old tricks, blocking any criticism of their candidate. I tried to post the following criticism, to lend some form of balance to this hate fest, and CNN blocked it! So, I am trying it, again, and hoping that they will be shamed into at least pretending to be nonpartisan.

    Well, take a look at the timeline and Middle Eastern news. The US government apologized for this stupid film. No one was rioting. Most people in the Libya, Egypt, etc. didn't even know it existed. But the Obama Administration issued an apology and a condemnation of the film (and, other than it being the right of the film makers to do this, I DO NOT like the film or that self serving nitwit "reverend" Jones). Following that apology, various Mullah's and fanatics drummed up the mob, we got riots, flag burnings, homicides, and injuries. It sounds to me as if the incompetence of this White House *led* to the embassy attacks and the deaths, was the spark that led to this. Now, you can try and spin it any way you want, but any independent observer is going to come to the conclusion that that Mr. Romney's criticism is completely valid, that the bungling incompetence of an Administration trying to score political points, trying to head off the very riots they caused! They blew it and the result was the death of an ambassador and three staff members and the continuing violence and anti-American, anti-Jewish, anti-Christian, anti-Western mess we see today.

    September 12, 2012 03:01 pm at 3:01 pm |
  25. sam barber

    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."

    Typical Karl Rove-like attack. Accuse your opponent of what YOU YOURSELF are doing.

    September 12, 2012 03:01 pm at 3:01 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