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. Publius Novus

    Mr. Romney: Thre is only one president at a time. The president is responsible for foreign policy. Close your pie hole and keep it closed. You are giving aid and comfort to the enemy. There is a word for that.

    September 12, 2012 03:16 pm at 3:16 pm |
  2. martiniano

    The GOP has trained their minions well to accept whatever they are told by a Gopper as the truth regardless of whether or not it even passes the smell test. Romney can twist the truth however he wants to and it will be believed by the blue-collar toadies as long as Romney makes it clear the libs believe otherwise. This is so because contards hate libs more than they love America.

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

    By the way as a state governor and a head of the 2002 Olympic committee, Mitt Romney had to deal with foreign issues.
    Ding ding ding... we have a winner for dolt of the day. Yeah, I'm sure the Utah Olympics sure gave Mitt a whole lot of experience with foreign issues... like what colored sequins the Yugoslavian gymnastics team wears.

    September 12, 2012 03:17 pm at 3:17 pm |
  4. mary_saff

    Here we go again, Mitt Romney jumps on the opportunity to make a political point and Twisting it, without having all the details, without respecting those who are dead, and even before hearing the president of United States or Lybia or Secretary of States clarify what happened. This is just a desperate attempt. People are not fool to realize to what length you are willing to go just to be a president.

    September 12, 2012 03:17 pm at 3:17 pm |
  5. Lee Van Cleef

    just another low tactic for political gain played by the already low GOP. the bodies aren't even cold yet!

    September 12, 2012 03:17 pm at 3:17 pm |
  6. The Thinker

    I think this is what 'winning at any cost' looks like. Its not pretty and its not honorable.

    September 12, 2012 03:17 pm at 3:17 pm |
  7. John


    Don't back down Romney. The Democrats attack dogs in the media are trying to make this a controversy when there is none."

    That's right Mitt, stay the course. If the media attack dogs don't have you pegged, the voters do. Feel free to continue proving them correct!

    September 12, 2012 03:17 pm at 3:17 pm |
  8. iblawman

    How did I know that CNN would spin Romney's comments into a misstatement and turn this tragic event (which IS negative to the President) into a total expose of Romeney. The buck stops with Obama. If he disagreed witt the pathetic apology issued by the state department, then why didn't he preempt it? He is the President, right? You Obama sympathizers are delusional in your endless attempts to defend this guy. As Bill Clinton put it, "A couple of years ago this guy would have been carrying our luggage." He's in way over his head, and you guys know it.

    September 12, 2012 03:18 pm at 3:18 pm |
  9. jayswon

    this guy is a bad bad dude. he does not get it.

    September 12, 2012 03:18 pm at 3:18 pm |
  10. Sniffit

    The best part is that when all is said and done, Mittens' 2012 campaign will serve as the ultimate example for authors who in the future decide to write books about the death of journalism and the Amurikan political system.

    Why do politicians lie?

    Simple: Because the MSM lets them.

    Boom...and Mittens is providing us with the world's best case study.

    September 12, 2012 03:18 pm at 3:18 pm |
  11. Anthony

    Romney got the facts wrong and attacked the US embassy in Egypt for apologizing to the protestors after the attack, but the embassy actually issued a statement before the attack, condemning an online movie that mocked Islam. Afterward, Romney himself condemned the message of the movie. Do we want a president who comes out with guns blazing before knowing all the facts? Remember, Romney has said that he is more than ready to go to war with Iran.

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

    This man is disgusting. That's all I can say.

    September 12, 2012 03:18 pm at 3:18 pm |
  13. SearchingForAnAtheistExtremist

    What a shmuck

    September 12, 2012 03:18 pm at 3:18 pm |
  14. bucman

    mitt, the lying twit, and lyan ryan. What a pair. What a pair of losing candidates. Shameless.

    September 12, 2012 03:19 pm at 3:19 pm |
  15. anonymous

    I think the statements put out by the American embassy in Egypt before the killings just fueled the fire......apologizing gave validity to the protesters anger.

    September 12, 2012 03:19 pm at 3:19 pm |
  16. Evan

    he just lies about everything.Mitt is shameful

    September 12, 2012 03:19 pm at 3:19 pm |
  17. Glenn Doty

    I love the fact that Mitt Romney gets "his own timeline". That should be worthy of a Nobel Prize in physics if anyone can find any evidence that Romney's timeline has some relevance to the real world.

    Unfortunately, that's probably not the case... and this can simply be chalked up as yet another lie in a seemingly infinite line of lies.

    September 12, 2012 03:19 pm at 3:19 pm |
  18. PK

    Not only should this buffoon NOT be running for POTUS, he should NOT be allowed to speak publicly – EVER! This man is a flipping cartoon for pity's sake! Who on earth could possibly vote for this moron?! ARGHHH!!!

    September 12, 2012 03:19 pm at 3:19 pm |
  19. Boomer in Mo

    Romney has never been one to let himself be confused with the facts. And apparently he does not know part of the Mormon religion is based on Islam.

    September 12, 2012 03:19 pm at 3:19 pm |
  20. KuMiCu

    Mitt Romney got the capital of Libya wrong in his opportunistic statement this morning criticizing the President about his handling of the attacks against the US embassy in Cairo and the US consulate in Benghazi, Libya.

    Romney referred in his statement to the "embassies" and particularly to "our embassy at Benghazi, Libya." He made the mistake three times, so it wasn't just a slip of the lip.

    Any first year international relations student knows that our diplomatic offices in the capital are "embassies," and our offices in cities that are not the capital are "consulates."

    This means that Romney either had no idea what the capital of Libya was when he said it was Benghazi (it's Tripoli, obviously), or he had no idea what the difference was between "embassies" and "consulates," which is so basic Diplomacy 101 that it's frightening that Mitt Romney wants to be commander in chief in four months and had no idea about the difference.

    September 12, 2012 03:19 pm at 3:19 pm |
  21. deangarr

    I keep thinking about that 3:00am call at the White House.
    I don't want it to be Mr. Romney who answers.

    September 12, 2012 03:19 pm at 3:19 pm |
  22. Spockish

    Before is after, and a condemnation is an apology. More Romney lies.

    September 12, 2012 03:20 pm at 3:20 pm |
  23. Jay T

    We can't call it lying. The so-called "Liberal" MSM doesn't have the balls to do it.

    Disgusting. If he wanted to criticize Obama's foreign policies, that's fine. But do it right after some great American citizens were killed, pathetic. On the other hand, what should be expect from the person who wouldn't move "Heaven and Earth" to get Bin Laden.

    September 12, 2012 03:20 pm at 3:20 pm |
  24. Christian

    I am just glad he isn't president and had pushed some big red button before he got all the facts! eeeks...

    September 12, 2012 03:20 pm at 3:20 pm |
  25. Adam in Texas

    Wow, even republicans I know here are having a hard time condoning Romney's comments. This was a lie by Mitt, plain and simple. Add it to the list, and there is no chance in hell im voting for this man.

    September 12, 2012 03:20 pm at 3:20 pm |
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