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. Glenn Rice

    Is Romney making things up? Of course, that the Romney/Ryan campaign strategy. How do you tell if Romney and Ryan are lying? Their lips are......that's an old one.

    September 12, 2012 04:11 pm at 4:11 pm |
  2. ttt

    Mitt will continue to embarrass himself and his campaign. He is not fit to be President!

    September 12, 2012 04:11 pm at 4:11 pm |
  3. sunpacific

    I believe that Mitt Romney's statements reveal a certain measure of desperation in his campaign. While the election is still tight, polls indicate that the president is ahead or even in Michigan, Ohio, Florida, and Wisconsin. Stated simply, without Ohio Romney will find it difficult to get to the white house.

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

    OKay, the majority of criticisms are coming from Republicans. Romney has shot early so to speak, he speaks before he thinks and it appears to be desperation. we don't need a leader who is ready to shoot from the hip. Cool collected heads need to prevail and Romney is not that. FAIL.

    September 12, 2012 04:12 pm at 4:12 pm |
  5. panhandle47

    All Mitt knows how to do is make money (for himself) avoid taxes, and twist facts into lies. He knows absolutely nothing about world affairs or crisis management. I hope those of you out there still on the fence have a better idea today what this guy is all about.

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

    CNN is the only non-partisan news organization. Hail to Roland Martin, Gloria Berger etc..
    Obama 2012.

    September 12, 2012 04:12 pm at 4:12 pm |
  7. Murder City Photography

    Virtually every word out of Romney's mouth is crap. Yet, he cannot afford not to say anything. Maybe he should just put his head down and continue to float in circles around the punch bowl.

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

    Of course he's twisting the facts. Romney has zero credibility when it comes to these kind of issues. He's behind in the polls, he hasn't got a creative bone in his body. Most of the Republicans that I know won't vote for him. He's about as warm as an ice cube. Get over it, the GOP has again chosen a candidate who will not win the election, and when he doesn't win, he'll blame the "liberal" press for his loss. Truth is, until the GOP is able to win over young educated voters, women and other middle of the road voters they will continue to lose ground. I was watching a morning news show from Florida this morning where he was going to speak and the room was filled with overweight, white men with mustaches! Obama/Biden 2012!

    September 12, 2012 04:13 pm at 4:13 pm |
  9. Lamar

    Mitt Romney will do anything to win the presidential election...including selling Ann Romney to the highest bidder!

    September 12, 2012 04:13 pm at 4:13 pm |
  10. communicator1453

    Romney's acting more and more like McCain did.

    September 12, 2012 04:13 pm at 4:13 pm |
  11. Dizero

    But they reaffirmed the apology AFTER the attacks. But facts don't matter to "fact checkers" anymore. As long as THE ONE gets re-elected, the media will be happy. The questions during Romney's presser were absurd! The "reporters" there were even caught on a hot mic colluding to make sure they asked about the narrative they want to convey. Reporters don't seem to report anymore, they just create narratives.....for democrats mostly. Sans Fox News of course, who side with the right.

    September 12, 2012 04:13 pm at 4:13 pm |
  12. don in albuquerque

    Mitt is absolutely devoid of honesty and integrity. Those two words might as well be arabic to him. Give me even one solid reason why anyone would vote for this guy, other then "Obama bad, Mitt good." Those who attempt to blame Obama for this because he is an apoligizer, or he IS a muslim are just as devoid of honesty, integrity, and intelligence. Tell the truth. You just want the black guy out. Mitt-wits.

    September 12, 2012 04:13 pm at 4:13 pm |
  13. mark

    Maybe Mr. Romney should visit Walter Reed hospital and see first hand the men and women. or better yet convince one of his sons or grandsons to join the military. War is never a pretty site.

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

    Well, for those of us who has been watching, this is not the first time Mitty got it wrong.

    September 12, 2012 04:14 pm at 4:14 pm |
  15. Luke Brown

    Mitt once again proves that he is more interested in exploiting a crisis than actually supporting those who are trying to protect our country and save American lives.

    He was clearly criticizing Americans in our embassy in Cairo for trying to distance themselves from the Dutch film that is going around on YouTube, and making all those Egyptian protesters want to attack. Mitt says they instead should have "stood up for our American values" and lectured the mob on the value of free speech.

    Mitt, you made an idiot of yourself today. Just shut your mouth for 24 hours and at least pretend to support the President of the United States. Today we are all Americans .... even you, so act like it.

    September 12, 2012 04:14 pm at 4:14 pm |
  16. The King

    Rookie, grandstanding mistake. He just couldn't wait to weigh in and blame President Obama, even though we STILL don't know what happened, who was responsibile, and who is complicit. Look at his news conference, he got grilled on the timing, and content of his statement, and he just cant help to let a contentios smirk take hold.
    romney is a loser.
    Obama-Biden 2012!!!

    September 12, 2012 04:14 pm at 4:14 pm |
  17. Jim

    Leave it to Romney to try to profit from someone else's death.

    September 12, 2012 04:14 pm at 4:14 pm |
  18. Bazinga

    I've noticed you truly can't confuse the Republicans and Fox news with facts. Timelines don't mean anything, they are relying on the stupidity of most of the American voting public. Worked with Bush 2 twice

    September 12, 2012 04:14 pm at 4:14 pm |
  19. okNwv

    Liberal press is rewriting the truth. Nothing new though. First they report the WH statement, then the WH saying it was not their official response, now it never happened??

    September 12, 2012 04:14 pm at 4:14 pm |
  20. nmmell08

    I have major issues with Romney on this one. He blasted the "apology" that said the US embassy does not support the use of freedoms of speech to attack religion. Does our 1st amendment protect the rights of people's religion and not be persecuted over it. This video was an attack on the Muslim world. Our nation should never support it and yet if you take romney's words to the letter, he is saying that that statement apologized for our values. So is our value to attack other religions? By romney's statement it is

    September 12, 2012 04:15 pm at 4:15 pm |
  21. truth hurts

    wake up people... this was a 9/11 anniversary attack by AQ that the Obama administration was NOT prepared for.
    THAT is why they are spinning this to be about Romney's statement. smoke and mirrors times ten people!!!

    September 12, 2012 04:15 pm at 4:15 pm |
  22. JohnJohn10

    The most frightening aspect of all this is that there are people so closed minded in this country that they will vote for Romney although he obviously isnt qualified just because he is a "Republican". At times it is embarrassing to be an American. Use your heads people not your political loyalties.

    September 12, 2012 04:16 pm at 4:16 pm |
  23. Lenny Pincus

    Romney is controlled by the same neocons that messed up the world under Bush.

    There is not one national Republican who supports Romney's ridiculous assertions. Even Tony Perkins wouldn't back Mitt. You dead-enders here are walking around with your pants down around your feet, supporting a possibly unstable political hack who is trying to buy his way to the White House. Enjoy your isolation.

    September 12, 2012 04:16 pm at 4:16 pm |
  24. Dave in Georgia

    Poor Ann. I think even she may be thinking that it is just not "his turn". He just keeps grasping at straws. What a joke of a candidate.

    September 12, 2012 04:16 pm at 4:16 pm |
  25. Independent

    If Mitt doesn't fit, you must omit

    September 12, 2012 04:16 pm at 4:16 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