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.

- Follow the Ticker on Twitter: @PoliticalTicker

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. Pat

    Romney is pathetic!

    September 12, 2012 03:44 pm at 3:44 pm |
  2. harrisonhits2

    Of course Romney's twisting the facts. There's hardly a thing that comes out of his mouth that's not a lie other than "I want to be president" and "I will deregulate Wall Street"

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

    dangerous man! doesn't understand the complexities

    September 12, 2012 03:44 pm at 3:44 pm |
  4. Izzy

    Pretending to be president????? What was Obama doing in Berlin in 2008 before a group of drunken German students who were there only for the beer and bands? Obama was trying to act presidental before the fact. What was Obama doing in front of those Greek columns when he proclaimed that he could part the seas, heal the sick, make the waters rise, and heal the Earth? He was pretending to be a president. Funny thing, he is still pretending.

    September 12, 2012 03:44 pm at 3:44 pm |
  5. DFW Dann

    Romney did himself no favors by issuing the statement. He needs to focus solely on the economy. If foreign policy enters the presidential race as a key factor he has to explain how he would do better than ending the war in Iraq, winding down the war in Afghanistan, toppling the Libyan regime without the loss of a single American soldier, the Arab Spring which ousted Mubarek and the world standing behind us as we pressure North Korea and Iran. Americans largely view Obama as succesful on foreign policy.


    September 12, 2012 03:44 pm at 3:44 pm |
  6. Paul

    Wow. I didn't think this loser could get any lower. Disgusting. Absolutely disgusting.

    September 12, 2012 03:44 pm at 3:44 pm |
  7. JC

    CNN want to coverup for Mr. O and did not mention at what time what time the news came out the ambassador was killed. They had the time line for everything EXCEPT for this. WHY? You know the answer.. Did any of you hear this news at 10:00pm yesterday about the killing..?

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

    Mitt the twit is not qualified to be President. He constantly proves it by opening his mouth.

    September 12, 2012 03:44 pm at 3:44 pm |
  9. Indiana Voter

    CNN is out campaigning for Obama again, I see, by skewing the timeline to fit their agenda in re-electing Obama.

    September 12, 2012 03:44 pm at 3:44 pm |
  10. David

    Mr. Romney is in desperate need of rectocranial extraction.

    September 12, 2012 03:44 pm at 3:44 pm |
  11. UDidntBuildThat

    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."
    When Obama in 2008 disparaged Christians as clinging to their guns and bible in the name of religion, was that not using "universal right of free speech to hurt the religious beliefs of others"?
    that was flat out an apology and the US Embassy was taking the sdie of the very people that killed our Ambassorr!!!
    Romney stand up to CNN!!

    September 12, 2012 03:45 pm at 3:45 pm |
  12. Ready

    CNN you're the reason Fox news exists, there was a such a need for a non liberal biased news organization that Fox news filled that niche. You're coverage of Romney is a prime example of your bias. I know you won't post this but I feel someone there should know. To call yourself a news organization is an insult to real news and real journalists.

    September 12, 2012 03:45 pm at 3:45 pm |
  13. Eric

    And on that note.... Mitt just lost the election.

    September 12, 2012 03:46 pm at 3:46 pm |
  14. Anonymous

    Wow, at one point I actually thought I will vote for Romney because he had good business skills – i did not even care (and still do not) for his cutbacks in Bain capital etc. But this accusation is way out of line (along with that creepy speech by half senile Clint Eastwood). I am going with Obama – although I am not impressed by him.

    September 12, 2012 03:46 pm at 3:46 pm |
  15. Maria Rivera-Carvalho

    With President Bush we saw the reuslts of putting an ignorant in the White House. Romney is worse that Bush ever was. He is clueless and he doesn't know it.. He will be a disater in domestic and foreign policy, an embarassment of global scope and consequences.

    September 12, 2012 03:46 pm at 3:46 pm |
  16. Commentor100

    Four American diplomats murdered, and all Romney can think about is his own political opportunity. Not very presidential at all.

    September 12, 2012 03:47 pm at 3:47 pm |

    Why would Romney defend America, when he sold it long ago, for
    financial gain?

    September 12, 2012 03:47 pm at 3:47 pm |
  18. Scrappy8350

    It doesn't matter either way. Who said what about anything. Obama has no foreign policy to speak of except to bow down to the Saudi king. We fought so that no American citizen would ever have to bow to ANY king. Traitor.

    September 12, 2012 03:48 pm at 3:48 pm |
  19. Jesse

    People like Dan J are literally attacking the people who are being attacked overseas right now because you don't like the way they tried to diffuse the violence. You people are pure cowards. You know NOTHING or what it is to serve overswas. This Romney statement is pure filth!

    September 12, 2012 03:48 pm at 3:48 pm |
  20. josecarlos

    The journalist on CNN are turning me off from following CNN. Obviously the are all democrats. What happened to fair reporting. As of late they seem to twist the words around of Mitt Romney to make him seem like a bad guy. If you go off the timeline, the administration made statements first. Period. I like to get my information from different sources from both sides in order to make an informed decision, however, in my opinion the CNN reporters seem to tell more lies or twist statements than any other politician.

    September 12, 2012 03:48 pm at 3:48 pm |
  21. Critical Thinker

    Mitt's foreign policy approach...Fire! Aim! Ready!

    September 12, 2012 03:49 pm at 3:49 pm |
  22. MBT

    Wow, I actually thought of voting from Romney -d id not care for all the attack on him for Bain capital... Really think he is much better businessman.. But this attack on Obama is just too low.... No way can I vote for this Mitt anymore (well, having a half-senile Clint Eastwood speak at the convention was not very reassuring either).

    September 12, 2012 03:49 pm at 3:49 pm |
  23. Johnm

    Over half of the Republicans in Ohio either believe that Romney was responsible for the death of Osama bin Laden or they aren't sure whether to give credit to President Obama or to Romney. The ignorance of these people is mind-boggling. Romney keeps taking advantage of their ignorance by making up lies and then repeating them over and over again until these idiots believe them. Who needs the truth when half of your political base will believe absolutely ANYTHING you say?

    September 12, 2012 03:49 pm at 3:49 pm |
  24. Boisepoet

    CNN, thanks for exposing Romney as the unsuitable candidate he truly is.

    September 12, 2012 03:49 pm at 3:49 pm |
  25. exodus84

    Romney is smart enough to know that those who will vote for him are too stupid to care.

    September 12, 2012 03:49 pm at 3:49 pm |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50 51 52 53