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. QuietOne

    If Romney is elected, America will once again be saddled with another war somewhere in the world based upon 'fancied' threats or the'big lie'. Facts should dictate your actions, not biased/uneducated opinions – of which 48% of Americans seem to fall into the later these day.

    September 12, 2012 03:54 pm at 3:54 pm |
  2. ecoloco

    Once again Romney will be a loser;
    he's greed always overcoming honest feelings,
    always used to be his way as a business person,
    But now us as Americans will fired you.

    September 12, 2012 03:54 pm at 3:54 pm |
  3. Dennis Freeman

    The former Governor is mindless and heartless. Four people are dead – four families are suffering. and he is trying to immediately score political points. Clearly not Presidential material!

    September 12, 2012 03:54 pm at 3:54 pm |
  4. Izzy

    Fact Check, you are the dolt of the day. Mitt, with his Olympic and governor's experience, still has more pre-president foreign policy experience than pre-president Obama ever had. Outside of that Berlin speech during which he and Axelrod had to bribe Germans to attend with the promise of beer and rock bands. Tell me this, if you have the courage, Fact Check - what foreign policy experience did Obama have before assuming the role of president? Outside of attending Islam school in Indonesia as a kid, what real foreign policy or international business did Obama have?

    September 12, 2012 03:55 pm at 3:55 pm |
  5. rla

    Obama did this pandering over the last four years and has a responsibility for the death of these AMERICANS... Not sine Iran stormed our embassy in the face of another weak president (carter) has anyone done this... Wait the worst is yet to come... Romney all the way

    September 12, 2012 03:55 pm at 3:55 pm |
  6. Journalism?

    Nice unbiased article CNN, where is the article about Obama's failed Mideast policies?

    September 12, 2012 03:55 pm at 3:55 pm |
  7. josecarlos

    It was an actof war the moment those egyptians crossed that wall and tore down OUR flag. What would you do if your kids were playing in your back yard and someone jumped over your privacy fence, walked into your house and sat on your couch. Dont take what happened there lightly just cause in wasn't within our borders.

    September 12, 2012 03:55 pm at 3:55 pm |
  8. Dan5404

    Romney is a mixed-up, opportunistic vulture. He ran off his mouth again without knowing the facts...if they really mattered. The fact is, his campaign is losing steam rapidly and he knows it. He will fabricate, distort and flip-flop constantly to try to put his brand of extreme politics in the White House. He could be as destructive as some of our enemies. That's why he and many of the Tea Party zealots must go.

    September 12, 2012 03:56 pm at 3:56 pm |
  9. reyesanfrancisco

    The sooner November 7 arrives, the better. We know all we need to know about Mr. Romney . . .

    September 12, 2012 03:56 pm at 3:56 pm |
  10. fekt

    foreign policy desicions based on twitter posts. i think he's running for president of TMZ.

    September 12, 2012 03:56 pm at 3:56 pm |
  11. Q

    He is in a pretzel over everything. Do not see how people can support this dude....

    September 12, 2012 03:57 pm at 3:57 pm |
  12. jnpa

    When will Romney learn to keep his mouth SHUT! I have no respect for that man and never will. No one wants to hear what he has to say. This is a time when American politician should be standing behind the President, not trying to gain political points. Shame on him! He is a fool and not ready to assume the Presidency, unless it happens to be the presidency of some Olympic committee!

    September 12, 2012 03:57 pm at 3:57 pm |
  13. stew

    Romney just keep your stupid foolish garbage speaking mouth closed.
    You are not going to be a President unless you go back into the business world
    you're not quality, not a statesman, not a diplomat,
    not a caring human, your a disgusting fool ,
    now get out of America and go play in your treason making money hole!

    September 12, 2012 03:57 pm at 3:57 pm |
  14. Wes

    Mr. Romney's incessant desire is one of attachment and also abandonment. He so desperately desires one that he would abandon the other. His desire to be president overshadows his previously held values. The delusion of attainment will only offer the promise of more suffering and that will be diffused among those who encircle him. No president has escaped the suffering of that office. The rest of this politic is theatre.

    September 12, 2012 03:57 pm at 3:57 pm |
  15. Gurgyl

    This dude is a joke.

    September 12, 2012 03:58 pm at 3:58 pm |
  16. zisee

    This is an attempt to put Romney in a bad light. Media people were caught with an open mic, saying just how they were going to handle how poorly they could make Romney look when he spoke about Libya. CNN is so bad on reporting the truth. I only post to try and tell the truth.

    September 12, 2012 03:58 pm at 3:58 pm |
  17. Foreverwar

    He is desperate, he knows he is going to lose.

    September 12, 2012 03:58 pm at 3:58 pm |
  18. Greg

    Political gaming in the wake of something so tragic. I'm going to vote for Obama 'again' but I truly wanted to see Huntsman as the Republican nominee. I think he has a lot more character than Romney.

    September 12, 2012 03:59 pm at 3:59 pm |
  19. Dave

    Romney is a liar, period.

    September 12, 2012 03:59 pm at 3:59 pm |
  20. Morgan Hill

    Romney has got to go. Go somewhere far, far away where noone will ever see him again. He is heartless!! No shame, no conscience, no morals, no principals. The guy is a dumb, ignorant man. Please Republican party, just throw him off the train. I urge every sensible American to get this man off the spot light. Every time he opens his mouth he says something so shameful and stupid. What is our country coming to with this type of creature. He is inciting too much fear and hate. ROMNEY MUST GO!!

    September 12, 2012 03:59 pm at 3:59 pm |
  21. Grand Oil Party 2012

    Mitt the Twit strikes again.

    September 12, 2012 03:59 pm at 3:59 pm |
  22. Cam Spurgeon

    Mitt is proving to be a pathetic liar along with his VP candidate. He will say and do anything to get what he wants and he want to be President no matter what his intent.His tax havens, his tax plans and his attacks on the President in time of crisis all show his unfitness to be our leader. Vote, get out the vote and bring this guy down.Whatever happened to the GOP that they gave us a jerk like this.

    September 12, 2012 03:59 pm at 3:59 pm |
  23. Sodapophead

    Romney's a liar. That's all the really needs to be said.

    September 12, 2012 03:59 pm at 3:59 pm |
  24. A time to pray

    We all need to pray that Romney fails to get elected. He has no knowledge of foreign affairs, and he canges position every day on something to try to get votes.

    September 12, 2012 04:00 pm at 4:00 pm |
  25. CanadaONE

    Danagerous Dangerous man

    if Romney becomes president CANADA will distance themselves from the USA

    England and Austrailia will follow suit and likely many others

    September 12, 2012 04:01 pm at 4:01 pm |
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