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. Dave R.

    As the majority of the posts here are saying, the Republicans definately have egg on their face with this one.

    The more things like this Romney says/does, the more people will be, for sure, voting for Obama.

    September 12, 2012 03:39 pm at 3:39 pm |
  2. Solus5

    To think this has ANYTHING to do with a video is outrageous... Hillary making jokes and Obama and Biden cutting up about Bin Laden, and what do you know... Our embassies get attacked on 9/11.. Go figure.. If a video is what they got all bent out of shape over, they had plenty of opportunity to get all pretzelized before now.. This was just an attempt by the Muslims to cloke their terror attack in a shroud of twisted justification..

    September 12, 2012 03:40 pm at 3:40 pm |
  3. vic , nashville ,tn

    When there is protest in front embassy, Embassy staff issued a statement or speaks to the protesters to calm down the situation
    Mostly the statements are based on situation on the ground. Nearly 50 staffs work in the embassy that mean we are in the situation to protect fifty lives first

    Romney doesn’t have any clue how we operate our embassies

    September 12, 2012 03:40 pm at 3:40 pm |
  4. Chris

    Here is the scary part... People will vote for this idot... It just continues to amaze me at how stupid this guy is and he wants to be a President.

    September 12, 2012 03:40 pm at 3:40 pm |
  5. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    Is anyone else wondering about who funded this idiot to make this offensive and incendiary movie?

    September 12, 2012 03:40 pm at 3:40 pm |
  6. Izzy

    One more thing - Mitt should only releases his tax returns when Obama releases his university records. I think we all should know why Obama spends so much money and time protecting them. What is in there? Merely bad grades? Perhaps he attended as a foreign student? What could be the problem? Both Shrub and Kerry were C and D students.

    September 12, 2012 03:40 pm at 3:40 pm |
  7. JohnW

    Another story says that three people have died and 14 hospitalized from bad imported cheese. I'm waiting for Romney to point to this as yet another massive failure in Obama's foreign policy.

    September 12, 2012 03:41 pm at 3:41 pm |
  8. kinglywarrior

    It's not "twisting", it's called LYING. It's what Mitt and Paul do and this time Mitt stepped into the wrong circles.

    September 12, 2012 03:41 pm at 3:41 pm |
  9. Mk54

    Romney may have to suspend his campaign if he can't attack Obama. That's all he's got.

    September 12, 2012 03:41 pm at 3:41 pm |
  10. Albert Friday

    The Whitehouse is already spinning the truth. Obama wants to blame 9/11 or Romney or anything else, but never his failed foreign policy.

    September 12, 2012 03:41 pm at 3:41 pm |
  11. Nelson Colorado Springs Co

    Mitt Romney this man don't have a clue, he's don't understand go obama

    September 12, 2012 03:41 pm at 3:41 pm |
  12. hillary

    palin disguised in a business suit, keep opening your stupid mouth romney and this election you will lose..

    September 12, 2012 03:42 pm at 3:42 pm |
  13. Russ

    There he goes again, as Reagan used to say. Romney can't help but trip all over himself. He should have laid low for a couple of days to see how this thing played out, but NO, Romney had to jump right in. Now, he's going to look like a bigger fool than he did when he went on his European tour.

    September 12, 2012 03:42 pm at 3:42 pm |
  14. T in NC

    OMG Willard. To you and Mrs. Never Worked a Day in My Life Willard. You said I takes and adult to handle the ecomony and foreign does and we have one in the White House and his name is President Barack Obama. "President" a name you will never have in front of your name.

    By the way I knew there was something strange about the people that spoke for you at the RNC and how you helped their dying son and help greiving familys. Williard.... THey were paid off right? I knew it because you are insensive and heartless. To embarrass our country with your Sara Palin brain mentality and flip floping Obamacare. Willard go home and Mr President we got your back.

    September 12, 2012 03:42 pm at 3:42 pm |
  15. carly

    Romney is a pandering liar and proves every day that he is not qualified to be President.

    September 12, 2012 03:42 pm at 3:42 pm |
  16. 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 03:42 pm at 3:42 pm |
  17. JohnRJohnson

    Some day, the media will start treating Mitt Romney like the liar that he is.

    September 12, 2012 03:43 pm at 3:43 pm |
  18. Lahdee Dah

    New Romney campaign slogan: "Disregarding facts...yesterday, today, tomorrow."

    September 12, 2012 03:43 pm at 3:43 pm |
  19. JD

    Truth always prevails! Romney should refer to James 3:1-2 in the bible where it talks about controlling your tongue.

    September 12, 2012 03:43 pm at 3:43 pm |
  20. Jstic

    This is barely news to anyone who knows the Republican party. Lies and disinformation are at the heart of every campaign they run. Without any ideas of their own, what else are they gonna do?

    September 12, 2012 03:43 pm at 3:43 pm |
  21. lynnie

    I agree that Romney is not ready for prime time nor will he ever be.

    September 12, 2012 03:43 pm at 3:43 pm |
  22. Harry 101

    Mormons not supporting the military well that's a surprize to me as I'm a vet.. and a mormon. Do you even know what your commenting on no no you really don't

    September 12, 2012 03:43 pm at 3:43 pm |
  23. hurryup 2012

    Hey CNN, what about the reports the Obama has attended a daily intelligence briefing in over a week?

    September 12, 2012 03:43 pm at 3:43 pm |
  24. Me

    The White house is going to be served with eviction papers soon, Were Moving in... Right on!!

    September 12, 2012 03:43 pm at 3:43 pm |
  25. Joi Gibson

    Could the man be any more ill-advised and ill-informed. He shot his mouth off, as usual, and now has to try to make the facts conform to his reality; which is exactly why they had to put out their talking points. That right there just proves he was WRONG again. This man should not even be allowed to visit the Oval House, let alone occupy it as commander-in-chief.


    September 12, 2012 03:44 pm at 3:44 pm |
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