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. dialogos68

    CC and the Kool Aid drinking liberals are clueless. This is just a sample of the future. Obama and NATO took Kaddafi out because he started a new currency called the Gold Dinar. The Western Media has been lying to us during the entire episode. We bombed Libya into the Stone Age for banking reasons and helped Al Qaeda and the Muslim Brotherhood take over these countries. Obama and the Western Media are lying to us about Syria too. Soon Obama’s friends in Al Queda will be running Syria next. What could this lead too...? I can see all of these countries starting a war with Israel. Obama is literally pushing the World into WW3!!!!

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

    Pay attention, America. This candidate, Romney, will say and do just about anything he thinks will give him an advantage. HE IS A DISGRACE! Yet, he has the nerve to condemn the POTUS and his administration? What we should be doing is rallying together, around the victims family and other diplomats, who risk their lives to advance a noble cause. Romney has no honor or shame. HE IS NO LEADER! Definitely, not one I would follow and for the Repubs to blindly recite his talking points should tell you this man is not ready to be Commander In Chief!

    September 12, 2012 03:24 pm at 3:24 pm |
  3. Lyin Ryan should be an Olympian


    The CNN spin machine is in high gear for Obama, yet again !
    Don't know what to tell ya Groucho, facts are facts. Romney has an aversion to them and won't allow them to dictate his campaign, but that's not CNN's fault. Get better, not bitter. Your party needs a huge improvement to be taken seriosuly come 2016.

    September 12, 2012 03:25 pm at 3:25 pm |
  4. fixer

    odd how the terms of use say posts are not pre screened.....Yet my comment i had just made is awaiting moderation. CNN is the democratic news network just as i thought

    September 12, 2012 03:25 pm at 3:25 pm |
  5. The Real Tom Paine


    LOL! This tripe is hilarious considering that in 2008 Obama had ZERO foreign policy experience. Obama could not even secure the Olympics for Chicago! We don't need Obama learning on the job any more. By the way as a state governor and a head of the 2002 Olympic committee, Mitt Romney had to deal with foreign issues. Something the agitator-in-chief never did. Stop covering for our Jimmy Carter II !
    Exactly WHAT foreign issues did Romney deal with as governor of MA? Can you list them off? His experience with the Olympics was largely limited to begging for Federal funds, which the GOP-led Congress were more than happy to give him: he did not deal with heads of state, only the heads of Olymica committees when the sparsly attended Winter Games were in Salt Lake City. Obama had foreign policy experience gleaned through his work in the Senate, so please don't bother trying to paint Mitt as a foreign policy heavyweight when he has literally done nothing on the international stage except display his talent for implulsive, thoughtless remarks( which explains why the mouth-breathers in the GOP love him). By the way, did you enjoy watching the US lose the 2016 Olympics bid? Do you like betting against America, or do you call it " Amercia"?

    September 12, 2012 03:25 pm at 3:25 pm |
  6. flipper4

    CNN got ahold of Romney "talking points" to the media. In it, Romney's campaign instructs his surrogates to denounce the film.

    "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?

    "– Governor Romney rejects the reported message of the movie. There is no room for religious hatred or intolerance." From Romney campaign -

    Hey, you guys finally figured it out!!! Romney also declared the film was wrong in its religious intolerance. See below and see last 3 paragraphs of above article.

    In other words, Romney is making the same statement the embassy did. He himself, in his own mind, is "sympathizing" with the terrorists and "apologizing" for them.

    September 12, 2012 03:25 pm at 3:25 pm |
  7. joe

    Let's not rush to judgement let's just send Obama over there with a sack of rose petals and have him talk to them just as he promised he would do while he was first campaigning for president. Maybe just maybe he can get them to like us--LOL

    September 12, 2012 03:25 pm at 3:25 pm |
  8. Dnick47

    Romney is the type of idiot terrorist like. He rushes in without a thought what to do or where to do it. Several GI's are killed and several more wounded some with debiltating injuries and the terrorist claim victory dancing in the street while the US mulls its cost (both human and final=ncial) wondering how a Mormon missionary to France got it so wrong....

    September 12, 2012 03:25 pm at 3:25 pm |
  9. Khaleeshi

    What reality does Willard live in. Him and Lyin Ryan tell so many lies they can't tell the truth any more. Willard is a disgrace to himself and the nation. He should be ashamed of himself – and he really needs to stop smirking when talking about tragic events. Makes him seem even more ghoulish then he already is.

    Obama/Biden 2012

    September 12, 2012 03:25 pm at 3:25 pm |
  10. FORWARD...From behind

    Obama has plenty of apology letters ready to go for any occasion.

    September 12, 2012 03:25 pm at 3:25 pm |
  11. Mike

    Romney makes me absolutely sick to my stomach. Americans are killed and he attacks the president. What's more is that his attacks STILL aren't based in reality, like every other attack the GOP has tried to pin on Obama.

    Obama is our president. He responded the only way a president should – condemning the attacks and vowing justice.

    How is that a mixed signal? Oh, that's right, Romney was actually attacking the American citizens in the embassy who feared for their lives. Classy, Romney, and classy GOP.

    And, of course, he's doubling down. I cannot believe he is a candidate for president. I am so ashamed right now.

    September 12, 2012 03:26 pm at 3:26 pm |
  12. Rudy NYC


    The democrats celebrated 21 times the killing of Osama Bin Laden during their convention last week.
    The Republicans cheered and jeered an empty chair during their convention....and no one can remember what Romney said.

    September 12, 2012 03:26 pm at 3:26 pm |
  13. Bwahahahaha

    Check todays polls! Your "Dear Leader" has lost his "convention bounce". Can't wait until the debates. You know, the debates that CNN has already said Obama has a decided advantage? If the debates include Obamas record as President, then it's going to get ugly! Mitt is going to shine the light on Obama. Can't wait to hear Obamas responses. Oh, wait! I already know what they're going to be........."need more time"......."Bush's fault"........."GOP hates women, children and the middle class".......I personally killed Bin Laden....yadada yada yada. Who's the bigger loser? Obama, or the people who are drinking his Kool-Aid and are ok with the "excuse program" and his less than mediocore peformance.

    September 12, 2012 03:26 pm at 3:26 pm |
  14. dialogos68

    Mitt is right. Obama has helped Muslim extremist take control of Egypt, Libya and soon in Syria. These countries will eventurally go after Israel. obama is pushing the World into WW3!!!! Liberals will follow POTUS right off a cliff...

    September 12, 2012 03:26 pm at 3:26 pm |
  15. jumbo1

    Bush/Cheney kept us safe for eight years (if you don't count one day in September of 2001) and.I am sure Romney/Ryan could do the same.

    September 12, 2012 03:27 pm at 3:27 pm |
  16. Trey

    Gov. Romney should issue an apology to the American people, the American Diplomatic Corp, the White House and President Obama. He did not have the facts right and he did not have the chronology right but he issued a public statement anyway; this is unworthy of anyone but in a Presidential candidate it is beyond the pale.

    September 12, 2012 03:27 pm at 3:27 pm |
  17. Malory Archer


    So now the attack on the embasy is Romneys fault.


    How did you come to that conclusion? Nobody's blaming mittens for last night's terrorist attack. Sorry dude, your strawman won't stand.

    September 12, 2012 03:27 pm at 3:27 pm |
  18. Togo

    Twisted? He lied. It's kind of what he does. They'll say anything, knowing that any fact checking, if it takes place, will be after the fact enough that it will get lost in the next news cycle. What they do is not twisting, or slanting, or omission... they intentionally say whatever they think will get them a vote or applause at that given time, regardless of its veracity. The media has the responsibility of calling them on this, and has done a horrible job of it. "That all" don't do it, not to this extent.

    September 12, 2012 03:27 pm at 3:27 pm |
  19. Redleg

    Romeny has more positions than a Jenna Jameson highlight reel. And even more faking.

    September 12, 2012 03:28 pm at 3:28 pm |
  20. D

    You Libs just can't stand when O-and-Joe are called out when they stepped on their feet! It's a typical Dem foreign policy strategy gone awry and this time there are Americans dead. Don't use the excuse of some critical thinking film is being released blah blah's that wonderful Arab Spring movement that your beloved leader endorsed.
    I can't understand how those who voted for him are so naive.

    September 12, 2012 03:28 pm at 3:28 pm |
  21. Dyslexic doG

    not a problem for Mr. Romney. He'll just retroactively take the comment back, same as he retroactively resigned from Bain Capital.

    September 12, 2012 03:28 pm at 3:28 pm |
  22. JohnW

    You sort of have to feel bad for the Obama campaign. There's no way they can be prepared for the kind of idiocy coming from the Romney campaign. Then they have to put out a statement that's a civil response. That would be a tough job. That's a big reason why I couldn't be a politician; I'm too open and honest about what's wrong with people. My initial response would be "What the !@$ is wrong with that guy?"

    September 12, 2012 03:28 pm at 3:28 pm |
  23. N. Shapiro

    Wel, it looks like Romney, already a draft dodger, tax evader, flip flopper,and job destroyer is learnig to be an out and out liar from his psychopathic running mate Lyin' Ryan – the 3 hour marathoner.

    September 12, 2012 03:28 pm at 3:28 pm |
  24. Jazel

    Spin it like you can - but Mr. Stevens and fellow Americans DIED under the leadership of Obama.

    September 12, 2012 03:28 pm at 3:28 pm |
  25. Joan in MS

    Mitt Romney = not presidential, not capable of leading.

    Paul Ryan = "I do have foreign policy experience! I voted to send men and women to war!"

    Good grief! Time for both of them to exit the national stage, and let the rest of us get on with the work at hand.

    September 12, 2012 03:29 pm at 3:29 pm |
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