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. palusko996769

    I'm sure Romney will be a big boy and apologize for misinterpretation of facts... yeah....

    September 12, 2012 03:29 pm at 3:29 pm |
  2. Olaf Big

    Romney really needs to do something about his Pavlovian reflex to bark at Obama anytime anything goes wrong anywhere in the world. It is not even about the truth of his statements, it's simply about their usefulness for his campaign. First, most people stop paying attention, because his reaction is so predictable. Second, he so often digs himself in a hole and is forced to waste time trying to explain himself out of it. For instance, in this case, he will spend the next few days trying to explain what the right to free speech has to do with one group of nuts provoking another to commit violence against american diplomats.

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

    Typical Republican spin. If you can't take it out of context ("You didn't build that.") then just make stuff up. Science? Who needs it! Facts? Let's just ignore them.

    Boy, I hope this chameleon doesn't get elected.

    September 12, 2012 03:29 pm at 3:29 pm |
  4. Critical Thinker

    Mitt stuck his foot in his mouth regarding foreign diplomancy...AGAIN!

    September 12, 2012 03:29 pm at 3:29 pm |
  5. PHinMiami

    Mitt is 'pretending' to be president. Notice the flag in his back-drop, he's missing the Presidential seal on the podium, though I'm surprised he hasn't made a counterfeit. The world is 'on to' this fake called Romney.

    September 12, 2012 03:29 pm at 3:29 pm |
  6. Romney can lie, distort and attack Obama's patrioltism all he wants. Because . . .

    he's running for President, for Pete's sake . . .

    September 12, 2012 03:29 pm at 3:29 pm |
  7. 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 03:30 pm at 3:30 pm |
  8. Ztom

    My prediction is that when the truth comes out and we realize that both the administration and the embassy staff made the best decision possible, Romney will say "See, that is what I was saying all along. I'll take credit for that.".

    Sad part is a number of people will believe him.

    September 12, 2012 03:30 pm at 3:30 pm |
  9. Debbie

    Facts or accuracy have never been important to Romney. He isn't ready for prime time.
    He should remember to get things right before attacking, attacking, attacking.

    September 12, 2012 03:30 pm at 3:30 pm |
  10. Mk54

    Romney might succeed in inflaming the conservative base, but his ill-conceived, ill-timed attacks will hurt him with the rest of the electorate. When America is attacked, we must all put our differences aside to defend America. If Romney had foreign policy experience, he would know that.

    September 12, 2012 03:31 pm at 3:31 pm |
  11. Sly

    Romney demonstrated a lack of ability to deal with foreign policy.

    What little uncertainty I had about my vote was resolved – the guy doesn't appear honest, he appears to care more about himself than America, and I think that is why he pays only 13% taxes when all the rest of us pay 33%.

    President Obama has shown he cares about American foreign policy – killing Bin Laden and Saddam and Khadafy, along with most of the top level of Al Queda.

    Republicans are cringing and criticizing Romney today, and they now realize what a huge mistake they made nominating this man.

    The election is over now. Obama will win by over 10%.

    September 12, 2012 03:31 pm at 3:31 pm |
  12. 4pease

    Romney is disgusting. He failed to extend condolences to the families of the victims and started straight into an erroneous political attack. Has he no decency?

    September 12, 2012 03:31 pm at 3:31 pm |
  13. gbuddha2012

    at first i thought mitt had gone off on some anti-american kick... but no, he just is that STUPID

    September 12, 2012 03:31 pm at 3:31 pm |
  14. Dyslexic doG

    Mr. Romney's foreign policy resume is looking pretty embarassing.
    England. Major Fail. Poland (huh?). Israel. Minor Fail. Libyan Embassy crisis. Fail.

    September 12, 2012 03:31 pm at 3:31 pm |
  15. Benjamin

    What else is new with Flip Flop King Romney? He and his partner, "Lyin Ryan" took the opportunity to even criticize Obama even during the 9/11 solemn observtion. These GOP's have no heart for they will do anything to twist all the facts in order to score points. Flip-flops and too much lies doom this GOP ticket. And besides, who want to be under the "Voucher Care" plan of the R/R tandem?

    September 12, 2012 03:31 pm at 3:31 pm |
  16. Liberatus

    Why bother reporting when Romney twists the facts. The real news would be he actually reported the facts correctly. This guy has no qualms about lying, flip-flopping on major issues, or just not answering questions at all.
    He is a WEASEL!

    September 12, 2012 03:31 pm at 3:31 pm |
  17. ThinkAgain: Mittens 'n' Munster are Liars

    Mittens was under pressure to try to make President Obama look bad when it comes to foreign policy ... so, being the good little, unthinking, numskull that he is, Mittens shot off his mouth before he had the facts, saying things that are not only true, but in no way help the situation.

    Kinda par for the course, but still, getting pretty old ...

    Obama/Biden 2012 = The only sane choice

    September 12, 2012 03:32 pm at 3:32 pm |
  18. taxapologist

    We don't need someone like him to be sitting next to the red phone and bark off a hastily made judment to bomb a country and then finding out later that there was an error in the information he received. That is why most reasonable and intelligent people wait to find out the whole story before passing judgement. There are times of course, where a quick and swit response is needed, but not in this instance.

    September 12, 2012 03:32 pm at 3:32 pm |
  19. keeth

    Romney lied about how the CO theater shooter obtained his weapons, contradicting law enforcement officials.

    September 12, 2012 03:32 pm at 3:32 pm |
  20. Michael

    I'm starting to question whether Romney is saying these things to incite conflict or truly has no idea what is actually going on since he gets so many of his facts wrong!!!

    September 12, 2012 03:32 pm at 3:32 pm |
  21. Jim (retired AF colonel)

    I wouldn't vote for this lying idiot for dogcatcher!

    September 12, 2012 03:32 pm at 3:32 pm |
  22. Dyslexic doG

    Can't wait to see how FOX News will twist this.

    September 12, 2012 03:32 pm at 3:32 pm |
  23. Lynda Jones-Owings

    This man is to eager to jump the gun. He does NO research, he just gets it out there, he is so desperate at this point that he will do anything to try to get a grip on the President. I am so proud of the President for letting him make a complete fool of himself and his GOP. It is almost impossible that anyone would want a person who creates lies to make himself look good for president of the the country club and I am sure not the United States.

    Everytime he opens his mouth garbage is exposed it its greatest form. The GOP needs to put a sock in his mouth before he says another word. Shut up Rom-ney......................

    September 12, 2012 03:33 pm at 3:33 pm |
  24. Anonymous

    Romney continues to make clear what a thoughtless, repugnant boob he is. This is what we are asked to vote for? He and Ryan will be retiring from Presidential politics in a few weeks, courtesy of the American people. I can hardly wait to see Mitt politically and intellectually incinerated by President Obama in the debates.

    September 12, 2012 03:33 pm at 3:33 pm |
  25. josh

    No matter what the truth the right wing and Fox will repeat endlessly how Obama apologized and leads from behind instead of a very measured response to what is going on..they faulted hin during the SArab spring but the question they never answer is waht REAL thing they would do...from what I have heard they would want us to invade Syria, Lybia, Egypt, Iran and take over their governments control the populations, have elections and then if they do not vote for the leaders we want then invade them again....the truth is that the whole world and especially the muslims themselves need to to take a stand that outlaws terrorism and figure out an enforcement ....Bush had that chance but screwed it up with the lie of a war with Iraq ....we could have a chance if we all came together ...America could be a leader but we cannot win this alone and Obama seems to know this and realize that the chicken hawks in our country with their irresponsible saber rattling but no true plan except endless war

    September 12, 2012 03:33 pm at 3:33 pm |
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