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. 2008-2016

    Enough with this nonsense about President Obama "apologizing" for us all around the world. That is the biggest lie
    perpetrated by the RHM (Republican Hate Machine). If anyone doesn't understand the massive damge inflicted on our
    international standing because of Emperor Cheney and Darth Bush, then surely that person has been in a coma for
    the last ten years. President Obama has had the unenviable task of restoring the image, respect, and integrity of the USA. AND HE HAS DONE THAT!

    September 12, 2012 03:20 pm at 3:20 pm |
  2. Rick in Phx


    The CNN spin machine is in high gear for Obama, yet again !

    There you go, blame the media. Seems some on here are the kind of people that would blame the victim of a crime rather than the person that actually committed the crime. How about blaming Romney for trying to score political points before all the facts where out.

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

    Romney is making this election way too easy for Obama. He just steps on his own junk over and over. Doesn't stand a dandelion's chance in a wind storm of winning.

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

    I do not want Mr. Romney anywhere near our US foreign policy.

    Mr. Romney is not ready for primetime (except perhaps for SNL.

    September 12, 2012 03:21 pm at 3:21 pm |
  5. guangdong57

    It is political opportunism on Romney's part. This speaks volumes on his "character" and "leadership" which he constantly attacks the President with. Whatever happened to rallying behind the leader in times of crisis? We are in the midst of a serious situation now and comments like his weaken the nation's resolve in the eyes of the enemies and the world in general.

    September 12, 2012 03:21 pm at 3:21 pm |
  6. fixer

    facts are out there and captured from posts on twitter. the US embassy in Cairo instead of condeming the attack, sent out apology tweets. weak...weak...weak. the fact the government deleted the posts show their weakness.

    September 12, 2012 03:21 pm at 3:21 pm |
  7. ray

    any white people on the right who will vote or vote for this pathological liar romney and the other pathological liar rayan has no decency or shame. romney will sell his mother just to get elected. this man has no integrity, dignity, no morals or no shame. this man is dishonet at the heart. romney is a hypocrite.and a racists

    September 12, 2012 03:21 pm at 3:21 pm |
  8. lhnus

    Is CNN trying to get Obama reelected ? 4 years are enough. Obama is not a good president and American will let him go.

    September 12, 2012 03:21 pm at 3:21 pm |
  9. wmb

    Romney / Ryan twisting can't be!!! Say it ain't so.......fact checkers will not run their I won't vote for it.....I have had enough of politicians rewriting history to fit their personal history isn't 15 minutes old before it is rewritten...enough

    September 12, 2012 03:21 pm at 3:21 pm |
  10. texas

    CNN is so far left it isn't even laughable anymore. You people that are blindly following what the US media wants you to see/read should try to look around at the rest of the world and read what is really happening. Romney did NOTHING wrong. Last night I saw the tweet that came from OUR US Embassy apologizing for upsetting the Muslims this was indeed well before our US citizens were murdered. Obama's foreign policy and consistently bowing to the ME has helped put us in this predicament. And to claim that Romney is greedy and knows nothing of Middle Class America?! Wow! How about Obama? How middle class do you think he is? Attended private school, Ivy league educated and an attorney?! Yep..he sure is middle class and relates to the poor people in America doesn't he? At least Romney comes from a family that earned their way in life and he has worked hard to achieve the American dream. What has Obama done? Increase our debt, drive up unemployment, drive up inflation and hasn't passed a budget in 3 years!! That is with a Democrat controlled Congress for 2 of the 4 years. This latest travesty is nothing more than his failed foreign policy. Can you say Jimmy Carter?

    September 12, 2012 03:21 pm at 3:21 pm |
  11. jrhodeisland

    We cannot have a president that responds before vetting the information. Romney is not in a position to comment on what happened at the embassy, yet he has. I hope I am not a minority that finds his comments double talk, political and rude.
    He is not presidential at all to me.

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

    The Whitehouse timing of the event is off too. They stated he would come out with an attack while our diplomat was killed. Romney didn't make the condemnation when it was known our US diplomat was killed.

    But Obama cheer leading is all you can expect from this rag.

    September 12, 2012 03:22 pm at 3:22 pm |
  13. Cinnamon Toast

    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.

    September 12, 2012 03:22 pm at 3:22 pm |
  14. Tony Karais

    Mitt Romney coming out and saying that he doesn't support this statement, that he thinks it is apologetic and against "American Values" makes me question his values.

    Does he mean that he DOES support the denigration of the religious beliefs of others? Does he think that religious bigotry IS an American value? That's what I'm getting from his statement.

    September 12, 2012 03:22 pm at 3:22 pm |
  15. Chris

    Romney twisting facts? THIS IS A BREAKTHROUGH!! There was actually a FACT to twist this time? Not just blatant lies?? OMFG!!! lol

    September 12, 2012 03:22 pm at 3:22 pm |
  16. Obama's America 2016

    Doesn't Obama support the people that did this? YES.

    September 12, 2012 03:22 pm at 3:22 pm |
  17. Tom

    In trying to sound like a tough guy, Willard comes across as a bigger idiot than George W. Bush.

    September 12, 2012 03:22 pm at 3:22 pm |
  18. Zaggs

    Seems CNN wants to be the arbiter of what is and is not a statement. The 6:30 tweet, along with others it seemed, was deleted from the Cairo embassy's twitter stream. But it was a statement, the embassy is part of the executive branch and therefore part of the administration. Some of the other statements that were deleted were:
    "US Embassy condemns religious excitement"
    "We firmly reject the actions by those who abuse the universal right to free speech to hurt the religious beliefs of others." and
    "We condemn the continuing efforts by misguided individuals to hurt the religious feelings of Muslim"

    September 12, 2012 03:23 pm at 3:23 pm |
  19. Cruddy

    How is this any different from any of the other lies they tell?

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

    "Mittens" Romney is losing and he's desperate. His knee-jerk reaction and unsubstantiated lies are inexcusable. It's unthinkable and deplorable that Romney attempted to score political points by bashing our President in the midst of this serious, complex and fluid international crisis. Cooler heads will prevail–Thankfully, President Obama and Secretary Clinton are leading our great nation..NOTHING about Willard Romney demonstrates he has the diplomatic prowess or communications skills required to lead the free world.

    September 12, 2012 03:23 pm at 3:23 pm |
  21. Nadeem

    Romney is NOT a patriot. Period end of story. He is not fit to be President. Remember how the parties came together after 9 11 . Now look how Romney is behaving. Pathetic.

    September 12, 2012 03:23 pm at 3:23 pm |
  22. Bob

    Paul Ryan is rubbing off on Romney. The guy couldn't even resist removing an hour off his marathon time (repeatedly) and when caught in the lie tried to brush it off as a slip of memory.
    "Hey, Ryan, how tall is your basketball player son?" "
    Seven-foot four or five"
    "Um, he's actually five-foot eight."
    "Well, he stopped growing a long time ago so I forgot."

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

    I do not want Mr. Romney anywhere near our US foreign policy.

    Mr. Romney is not ready for primetime (except perhaps for SNL.)

    September 12, 2012 03:24 pm at 3:24 pm |
  24. guangdong57

    This purely political opportunism on Romney's part. This speaks volumes on his "character" and "leadership" that he harangues the President constantly. What ever happened to rallying behind the leader in times of crisis. We are now in a serious situation and Romney's comments weaken the nation's resolve against our enemies.

    September 12, 2012 03:24 pm at 3:24 pm |
  25. John Mann

    If romney was bummed out about Obama's recent bounce in the polls, just give this stuff pretzel twisting chance to sink in. Here comes another Obama bounce. (Does romney not have any smart people to advise him? What a dufus!)

    September 12, 2012 03:24 pm at 3:24 pm |
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