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. Phineas Okari

    Does Romney expect American workers to portray an arrogance similar to his even away from home where this could mean trouble for then. I think that America needs a humble servant leader like Obama who will not antagonise the world:

    September 12, 2012 03:49 pm at 3:49 pm |
  2. bmesc

    From what I read, I did not interpret an apology, only condemnation. However, seems like the "yelling 'fire' in a crowded theater" rule might be applied to the video.

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

    Dick Romney ees to keep his mouth shut..So sick and tired of him..We have a President already and every chane he gets to show hisself he F ups. Presdent bama has this under control..Go HOMEW MITT and leave the foriegn policy to people already in charge!

    September 12, 2012 03:50 pm at 3:50 pm |
  4. Lynn

    Mr. Romney, leave foreign policy matters to the experts and those in charge, President Obama and Secretary of State, Clinton, and allow them to do their jobs without distractions from you. You are just a citizens like the rest of us and you hold no office; therefore, you're thoughts don't really matter.

    Stay out of it, Mitt! Don’t make a horrible situation into a political photo op for your campaign.

    And, when you get your feet out of your mouth, you owe President Obama an apology!

    September 12, 2012 03:50 pm at 3:50 pm |
  5. Sid

    a fairly intelligent man, Mr Romney..dancing to the tunes of this crazy handlers. They will loose the election for him

    September 12, 2012 03:50 pm at 3:50 pm |

    Hey, ROMNEY. You are not the POTUS. Until you are, shut the he** up and show some respect for the position your rich buddies are trying to buy you into.

    September 12, 2012 03:50 pm at 3:50 pm |
  7. JTS

    Learn the facts before you fly off and take cheap shots at your president knucklehead. It all points to one thing – bad judgement and

    September 12, 2012 03:50 pm at 3:50 pm |
  8. Independent vs GOP

    Romney has clearly shown me what a self-serving, anti-patriotic idiot he is, not just by his not even being able to understand the statement made by the embassy in Egypt, but by his inane attempt to gain political points instead of exhibiting solidarity with our administration during such a crisis. How disgusting. I will cast my vote for Obama and hope all of the other independents will, too, so Obama will have a strong mandate. Hopefully, that will prevent further blatant obstructionism from the GOP.

    September 12, 2012 03:50 pm at 3:50 pm |
  9. rapierpoint

    So many people hear complaining about Romney twisting the facts based on what he said and the timeline. I wish more would step back a moment prior to posting and realize quite a few of the posts are also twisting the facts, too. It's kind of hard to call someone up on the carpet when you are doing the exact same thing.

    September 12, 2012 03:50 pm at 3:50 pm |
  10. Critical Thinker

    Romney's remake of the Blazing Saddles movie..."We don't need no stinkin' facts!"

    September 12, 2012 03:50 pm at 3:50 pm |
  11. Solus5

    Chant from Egypt: "Obama, Obama there are still a billion Osamas,".. Sounds like someone is ticked off at something OBAMA said... video just an excuse.. Obama is the real cause and this whole thing is an orchestrated retaliation on the anniversary of 9/11..

    September 12, 2012 03:51 pm at 3:51 pm |
  12. Amber

    Is this who we want in the White House? An inarticulate individual in charge of our Foreign affairs that speaks without forethought and consideration? I would hope anyone running for President would have the wherewithall to handle any given situation on any given day without adding inflammatory commentary to an already dangerous chain of events taking place in Libya. Why are you running for President? Where is your sense of responsibilty to this Country? Instead you choose to flex your muscles and take a cheap shot at your opponent. Is that what America and the world can expect from you should you manage to get elected? Haven't we learned from the last Republican good old boy in the White House????

    September 12, 2012 03:51 pm at 3:51 pm |
  13. michael

    Mitt is a great person. Most people don't know how many times he helped people out. He bought 70,000 pints of milk for people in need for over 2 years and never said a word about it. He helped many people out when they fell on hard times and never said a word about it. Obama doesn't even help members of his family who are homeless. We need to stop and think, Romney is courageous and very generous and he's not a self absorbed politician like Obama.

    September 12, 2012 03:51 pm at 3:51 pm |
  14. Sid

    I dont think Romey came up with that one on his own. He needs to stop being a mouthpiece to his handlers

    September 12, 2012 03:51 pm at 3:51 pm |
  15. tsw101

    He was correct to admonish this administration! After-all it's their fault it happened in the first place. This is what happens in the world when the US is running around apologizing for what we stand for! Impeach OBAMA now!!!!

    September 12, 2012 03:51 pm at 3:51 pm |
  16. ezduzit757

    The Romney campaign has been run like a junior high class election. They have shown themselves to be immature and irresponsible. And now they have once again, as expected, jumped in to a very serious situation too hastily with an ill thought out response. Is this who we want with his finger on the button? Heaven help us all.

    September 12, 2012 03:52 pm at 3:52 pm |
  17. Tony

    Mitt Romney is a moron, M-O-R-O-N, and not fit to be President.

    September 12, 2012 03:52 pm at 3:52 pm |
  18. Waking Universe

    I'm extremely disappointed that the GOP candidate for president has created a political debate over a senseless, criminal act that absolutely should not be politicized less than 24 hours after it occured. The GOP candidate's action goes far beyond the pale of politics, good sense and reason. He jumps to conclusions in a way that is most unpresidential.

    It shows a lack of understanding of foreign policy, as well as a lack of understanding of human compassion and common sense. You don't jump into a political finger pointing session even before the families of good public servants like the ambassador and others have even been notified. I am deeply ashamed at the politics of blame and attack and fingerpointing and this episode totally throws it over the top for me.

    September 12, 2012 03:52 pm at 3:52 pm |
  19. bobby frank

    How pathetic Robme is to try and make this a political opportunity that backfired in his face! It's over are toast!

    September 12, 2012 03:53 pm at 3:53 pm |
  20. Average jo

    Finially someone who will stand with America.
    Sorry you paid or campaing bloggers – Obama is a FAILURE! A discrase to our country, to the Jewish and Christian faith.
    He is a true Muslim

    September 12, 2012 03:53 pm at 3:53 pm |
  21. JohnJohn

    A REAL candidate would ACT like a President and respond exactly like Obama did. Mittens instead decided to lie about what was said and attack, hoping his lemmings would not catch him.
    He did the same thing on the Affordable healthcare act, and even though he has been running on destroying the whole act, NOW he says he would save much of it, now that he found out that a lot of people are realizing it has some really REALLY good stuff in it. FLIP FLOP, oh the people like it? FLIP FLOP... or now they don't? FLIP FLOP. What ever lie gets him elected is what he is for today.

    September 12, 2012 03:53 pm at 3:53 pm |
  22. Dee

    Does Freedom of Speech include the freedom to lie? What this country really needs is a president that thinks before he speaks (not Romney). Romney's impulsive actions are a detriment to this country and I am fearful for the future if he becomes president. Doesn't he realize that he is putting the lives of the men and women defending this country at stake. Just keep shaking my head when I think of the people that actually support this guy.

    September 12, 2012 03:53 pm at 3:53 pm |
  23. Joe c

    Obama has given the USA a weak apologetic appearance....Thisnis another very clear example. He reminds me more and more of jimmy carter everyday. Jimmy Carter is actually his hero. This event reminds me of the Iranian hostage event.

    September 12, 2012 03:53 pm at 3:53 pm |
  24. Jason Glugla

    Romney is so slimey that the slime refuses to stick to him.

    September 12, 2012 03:53 pm at 3:53 pm |
  25. UDidntBuildThat

    CNN can u please report the real story here. The WH knew about the attacks and were caught flat footed. With Sept 11 approaching they evacuated the embassies. Why aren't u looking into the repeated incompetence of this Obama Admin? This Amb should not have died! This is all Obama and his foreign polices fault!

    September 12, 2012 03:53 pm at 3:53 pm |
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