Romney's political pretzel over Libya
September 12th, 2012
02:23 PM ET
10 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.

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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. Anonymous

    Hey, Mitt Romney. You got your wish after all didn't you. You know that wish you've been praying for ... the chance to mock President Obama during a time of national crisis.

    Hope you and you supporters feel better for now having done so.

    September 12, 2012 02:25 pm at 2:25 pm |
  2. Marie MD

    They are so desperate that anything that they think they can use against the President they will fall on like hungry fire ants.
    Of course we can't expect anything less from the flip flopper.

    September 12, 2012 02:26 pm at 2:26 pm |
  3. Jack

    Can't wait to see alexithymic Mitt get "pretzel-ed" in the debates. 4 MORE YEARS!

    September 12, 2012 02:26 pm at 2:26 pm |
  4. epsigafoos

    Romney is correct. If you look at the timeline, the Embassy, who speaks for the Administration and Obama, tweeted an apology before the first attack. They then tweeted a second apology agreeing with the first apology.

    September 12, 2012 02:26 pm at 2:26 pm |
  5. alicia

    Willard will take us to War within the first 5 seconds of sitting in that chair. He must be denied.

    September 12, 2012 02:28 pm at 2:28 pm |

    He'll be flipping and flopping all day. You won't get one clear answer.

    September 12, 2012 02:29 pm at 2:29 pm |
  7. Sniffit

    "A timeline of the events suggests Romney may have been 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."

    Not to mention that facts coming out now indicate that the vast vast majority of protesters had nothing to do with violence, but it was rather just a small group seeking to take advantage of the protests as cover for attacking. Yes. Info keeps comign in and, much to Mittens and the MSM's disappointment, it's only further highlighting just how rash and hasty Mittens' knee-jerk ill-conceived attempt to pounce on this as an opportunity to spin criticism of Obama really was.

    September 12, 2012 02:31 pm at 2:31 pm |
  8. Kamil Zawadzki

    Reblogged this on Outspoken and commented:
    I'll be honest, I initially wasn't too familiar with the timeline of events and statements yesterday, either. And I, too, thought the Embassy's statement was odd for not making a reference deploring violence even while condemning religious intolerance and disrespect.
    But my only virtue in this ignorance is that I can admit that I was wrong, given that the Embassy had not yet been stormed by the protesters, neither had the U.S. Ambassador to Libya been killed at the time the message was initially released.
    Mitt Romney, on the other hand, doubled down on his bogus attack on the administration's response and refused to acknowledge this timeline of events. No surprise, I guess, from a man who refuses to let his campaign be governed by facts. But still deplorable.
    Learn basic diplomacy and foreign affairs, Mr. Romney, before you try to be our president. It is NOT merely a distraction, as you claim – IT'S PART OF THE JOB.

    September 12, 2012 02:31 pm at 2:31 pm |
  9. michaelam

    "may have been wrong..."
    Willard WAS wrong and he has jeopardized our national security and put the lives of American soldiers and citizens at greater risk and harm!!! He needs to stop! This is real, not some issue to score political points.

    America!!!! Please do not let this man anywhere NEAR the White House or have access to any nuclear bombs! He has proved he's beyond incapable of making any rational decision for the good of this entire nation.

    September 12, 2012 02:31 pm at 2:31 pm |
  10. GetEd

    This guy is unbelievable. And desperate. Please, Republicans, before making any comments,
    read this article carefully and form your own opinion about your candidate.

    September 12, 2012 02:32 pm at 2:32 pm |
  11. V

    Obviously not ready for Prime Time!

    September 12, 2012 02:33 pm at 2:33 pm |
  12. Thomas

    Please Romney , stay out of the way. You twist ,flip , twist , flip.

    Go play with you car elevator , it goes up and down!

    September 12, 2012 02:33 pm at 2:33 pm |
  13. Lyin Ryan should be an Olympian

    Again, nothing but talking points and lies from the Twit.
    Facts don't matter to RMoney, he's already said so regarding fact checkers. Then of course he's also the king of retroactively trying to make facts fit his warped narrative. The media needs to start dropping the Liar tag on him and not allow him to pivot and try to worm out of answering questions.
    I can't wait until POTUS Obama cleans his clock during the debates. Rick Perry will probably be able to laugh at Willard.

    September 12, 2012 02:34 pm at 2:34 pm |
  14. moi

    How would R-money save the remaining American citizens abroad? Critisize and was the Conservative religious so called "Christians" that wage yet another crusade.....smells like election propaganda to me....but thanks to R-money, it backfired.....see you in November, Twitt

    September 12, 2012 02:35 pm at 2:35 pm |
  15. xirume

    Romney stands for nothing other than the 1% and the corporations. He couldn't find Libya on a map to save his life.

    September 12, 2012 02:35 pm at 2:35 pm |
  16. Kevin in Atlanta

    So....even when they are presented with evidence that they are wrong on this issue, they stick to their story. Good job Romney, I give you points for determination. Even if you are a bit slow...

    September 12, 2012 02:35 pm at 2:35 pm |
  17. Richard

    MUTT DUMNEY!!!!! Enough said.

    September 12, 2012 02:36 pm at 2:36 pm |
  18. Wow

    Romney you just sealed your fate. No presidential title for you ever.

    September 12, 2012 02:36 pm at 2:36 pm |
  19. Squigman

    Wanna see a man, unfit to be president? Look at the picture above.

    September 12, 2012 02:37 pm at 2:37 pm |
  20. DENNA

    Romney is priceless. Does he not understand that when his lips are moving WE CAN ALL HEAR HIM and we understand that he is lying. He thinks that if he keeps blowing smoke screens about bullstuff, we will forget to demand his plan for this country if we elect him. Nice try. You and your little lap dog Ryan are major screwups and you haven't even been given the job yet.

    September 12, 2012 02:37 pm at 2:37 pm |
  21. labman57

    It all goes back to the standard ploy that has been part of Republican strategy ever since Obama was elected - the loaded comments which infer that Obama is not one of us, that his values are "unAmerican", that perhaps he is not even "native-born", that his loyalties are elsewhere, and therefore he cannot be trusted to be our Commander in Chief and Head of State.

    With respect to the proper course of action when the events in Libya and Egypt occurred, perhaps Romney believes that the U.S. should storm each of these Middle East nations, guns blazing with a "shoot first and to hell with the questions" attitude.

    Sorry Mitt. This is the real world, not a Clint Eastwood movie.

    September 12, 2012 02:38 pm at 2:38 pm |
  22. Independent Thinker

    he will NOT be our next president. Pure and simple.

    September 12, 2012 02:38 pm at 2:38 pm |
  23. Nancy

    He's getting to be almost as bad as Sarah Palin. I just hope he keeps on keeping on saying ridiculous things. He will be solely responsible for his slow but steady demise in the polls. GO OBAMA 2012!!

    September 12, 2012 02:39 pm at 2:39 pm |
  24. Anthony in California

    Romney is WRONG again. He needs to keep his nose out of foreign policy.
    Talk about shooting from the hip. fail.

    September 12, 2012 02:39 pm at 2:39 pm |
  25. Andrew

    I wouldn't listen to Romney's spew. Ever.

    September 12, 2012 02:39 pm at 2:39 pm |
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