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)

    This is beyond the pale. Romney is not only completel LYING about the order of events, he is not only DISTORTING what really happened, he is USING THE TRAGIC AND INTERNATIONAL CRISIS TO TRY TO SCORE CHEAP POLITICAL POINTS.

    Republicans should let it be known that they don't support this kind of shameful behavior. I rarely get worked up about politics but this has just set me on fire. Mitt Romney is a disgrace to our country.

    September 12, 2012 04:01 pm at 4:01 pm |
  2. Winker

    I have to comment on the criticism of Romney's coming out and criticizing the apologetic nature of the message from the embassy. If Romney had said absolutely nothing the individuals criticizing him today would be going ballistic about his non response today. The reason Romney came out in a leadership fashion was because millions of Americans don't feel we have a strong leader as President today. Please remember that during the campaign in 2008, Obama traveled all over the world making "Presidential Speeches". He was criticized heavily for that then. Romney is doing the same thing Obama would do if the tables were turned.

    September 12, 2012 04:01 pm at 4:01 pm |
  3. truth hurts

    yes, the world truly loves us and respects us now that Obama is president, just like he promised. and yet they attack and kill us after we help liberate their country from a dictator.

    yes, the world is a safer place now that obama has issued the appropriate apologies to all the people he thinks the usa has offended in the past. and yet there are more arab/muslim nations in upheavel thanks to obama.

    yes, the world is a safer place as all the countries around israel turn radical and iran continues its march to a nuclear weapon. all under obama's self proclaimed successful foreign policy.

    what a joke. america, you are being conned. wake up.

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

    Let's compare. GOP starts wars, Dems finish them. Bush Sr. failed to provide simple air support after the Gulf War to allow the Iraqis to overthrow Hussein so Jr. had to invent a reason to go to war. Bush Jr. ignored multiple briefings about imminent terrorist attacks and even criticized Clinton for "wasting" a missile trying to kill "a guy who lives in a tent" during the 2000 campaign. Bush Jr. failed to capture Bin Laden (outsourced the final capture to the Afghanistan troops who let Bin Laden go, driving right past the U.S. troops who were under orders to stand down. Obama killed Bin Laden and kept U.S. out of war and managed to topple three Middle East dictators without any troops on the ground. Heck, even the great Ronald Reagan sold weapons to Iran (you know, the terrorists) to fund another terrorist group in South America (but since Reagan did it, they're "Freedom Fighters"). And lets not for Donald "Rummy" Rumsfeld shaking hands and being buddy, buddy with Saddam himself while working for Reagan. So the GOP have NO position to talk about "keeping the world safe". How many thousands of U.S. troops (and hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians) died on the GOP promise of "Weapons of Mass Destruction"? The only thing we were searching for in Iraq was no-bid Haliburton contracts.

    September 12, 2012 04:01 pm at 4:01 pm |
  5. Bailee

    Politics had no place in this terrible tragedy!! I cannot believe that Mitt Romney thinks he could be the President of the United States. After the terrible "gaffs" he made last night and this morning, I think the handwriting is on the wall . . . . President Obama will be reelected for four more years!! Even a person who isn't highly educated can realize that when it comes to "foreign affairs and policy", it is ALWAYS classified and off-limits to everyone except the President's Administration. Governor Romney's comments had NO PLACE in the news last night, nor today!! Romney just drove his own election bus right over the cliff!

    September 12, 2012 04:02 pm at 4:02 pm |
  6. Wilson


    Spin it like you can – but Mr. Stevens and fellow Americans DIED under the leadership of Obama.
    Yep, sorta like the left blaming bush for the 9/11 attacks, which they are constantly doing even today.

    September 12, 2012 04:02 pm at 4:02 pm |
  7. John Mann

    Bwahahahaha said: "Check todays polls! Your "Dear Leader" has lost his "convention bounce".

    OK...if you say so...Oh...look what I found in today's polls.

    Wednesday, September 12
    Race/Topic (Click to Sort) Poll Results Spread
    General Election: Romney vs. Obama Gallup Obama 50, Romney 43 Obama +7

    Thanks for the good news!

    September 12, 2012 04:02 pm at 4:02 pm |
  8. Busted

    I love how all these moronic republicans are ciritcizing the embassy employees for trying to calm something before being hurt themselves, it's easy to stand strong thousands of miles away from harm. Why are republicans like @tsw101 such poooooooosies?

    September 12, 2012 04:02 pm at 4:02 pm |
  9. martin

    The movie probably was funded by Rove.

    September 12, 2012 04:02 pm at 4:02 pm |
  10. ABL

    Assemble the circular firing squad, AKA Romney advisers.

    September 12, 2012 04:02 pm at 4:02 pm |
  11. Rudy NYC

    Romney's bridge is falling down, falling down. FALLING DOWN.
    Romney's bridge is falling down, MY FAIR LADY!

    September 12, 2012 04:02 pm at 4:02 pm |
  12. Skeptimist

    If reports thus far are accurate, statements issued by the Diplomatic Corps and the President were were entirely appropriate for the timing and gravity of the evolving situation. Meanwhile, Governor Romney and his staff are making fools of themselves as they attempt to score a cheap political point and add nothing but confusion to a matter that requires the focused attention of competent professionals.

    September 12, 2012 04:03 pm at 4:03 pm |
  13. Blind liberals

    Can't see clearly what is happening in the Middle East is a result of a WEAK US President and his failed policies and responses to middle east uprisings such as the "Arab Spring". How's spring looking now? The dictators of the world have been licking their lips seeing how WEAK this president is. He is provoking many rogue nations with his weakness. Where's the accountability???? Oh I have an idea, let's blame Mitt Romney for Obama's incompetence!!! This president is ENDANGERING our national security as well as the world's with his pathetic middle of the road stances on every single crisis happening abroad. How the US reacts to situations like this HAVE CONSEQUENCES, as we clearly now know. We need a president who will proudly and non-apologetically represent the greatness of this country, despite the destructive liberal movement within it. That man is Mitt Romney.

    Romney / Ryan 2012

    September 12, 2012 04:03 pm at 4:03 pm |
  14. Nathan

    Republicans were attacking Obama allday on 9/11 after saying that there would be a campaign truce. Cheney, Guliani, Cantor and others all went to the Mic on this solemn day and used the occassion to critisize the President on foreign policy and this was before the news of the attacks in Libya and Egypt. Anybody not seeing the GOp for what it has become has ulterior reasons for not supporting Obama.

    September 12, 2012 04:03 pm at 4:03 pm |
  15. UDidntBuildThat

    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."
    THAT IS AN APOLOGY!!!! Obama knows this and tried to walk it back. It is simple comprehension people. There is no story here. The embassy said this, we Americans were stunned, Romney echoed the reaction we all were facing inview of what was happening. Obama Admin tries to walk it back. Too late so they tried to make it political. there is no story. Romney was reacting to the tweet (which is magically deleted) and the Embassies statement. The Embassies represents this Obama Admin.
    Besides what is the big deal anyways, Obama, the Democrats, and the Hollywood elites "abuse the universal right of free speech to hurt the religious beliefs of" CHRISTIANS ALL THE TIME!.

    September 12, 2012 04:03 pm at 4:03 pm |
  16. BLKMANinAmerica

    CLERLY Romney does not give a darn about America, clearly. He will say and do anything to become President of the United States. This is what the repuks offer America, someone who clearly dosen't care about this country only the $$ he milk out it.

    September 12, 2012 04:03 pm at 4:03 pm |
  17. Sodapophead

    Hey Michael, was the milk for all the people he helped put out of work.

    September 12, 2012 04:03 pm at 4:03 pm |
  18. Margaret

    Since when it is our values to denigrate another groups religious icon? It is fine for Romney to make comments, but Obama is dealing with a life threatening situation and inflaming them more could possibly get more Americans killed. His first responsibility is to make sure everything is being done to remove Americans from harm. He must deal with the other countries governments, which Egypt and Libya are new and not fully established. So stop with the nonsense, support the families of those who were injured or killed and Don't inflame a tense situation even more.

    September 12, 2012 04:03 pm at 4:03 pm |
  19. dontbow

    obama is weak. he can't even condemn this sort of violence without first appologizing to muslims. not a leader by any means.

    September 12, 2012 04:03 pm at 4:03 pm |

    Once again, a microphone sinks Mitt the twit.

    September 12, 2012 04:04 pm at 4:04 pm |
  21. Pat in IL

    Romney proves everyday what an idiot he is, and how I'll prepared he is as a leader.

    September 12, 2012 04:04 pm at 4:04 pm |
  22. dontbow

    obamya would rather apologize to muslims than condemn the killing. pathetic.

    September 12, 2012 04:04 pm at 4:04 pm |
  23. okNwv

    Gee, I wonder who's Republican and who's Democrat here. Unfortunately there is virtually no truth in the media and certainly not in campaigns. But it's more than evident Obama caters to the Muslim world and has from day 1 apologized for America. I'm not a Romney fan, but far less an Obama fan. We need a pro-America president.

    September 12, 2012 04:04 pm at 4:04 pm |
  24. Ann

    Blame, blame, blame.....attack, attack, attack....I am sick of it! Is this what we can expect from a Romney administration? Can't you get the facts straight? As a presidential candidate, don't you get news briefings? This is another example of "facts be damned" in order to attack Obama. When the country is mourning the death of one of its ambassadors, can't you leave your politics at the door for a minute and stand with the president on this issue that affects our country as a whole? Apparently not....

    September 12, 2012 04:04 pm at 4:04 pm |
  25. LindaJay23

    Ticker: "Romney twisting Libya facts?" ----Why are Mitt's lies always stated in the media (whom we trust to give us the unbiased truth) with a questionmark? YES! He is LYING about the facts! As per usual. This is a true fact! So, why ALWAYS the question mark???

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