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)

    ... and the right has no idea how to compliment Obama on the previous handling of the uprising in Libya. They thought he should act instantly mlitarily, they felt he should provide no-fly, he felt he shouldn't provide no-fly, then they flip-flopped and just simply said it was handled incorrectly - I think Romney would have sent in troops to support Ghaddafi (like he protested FOR the Vietnam War as a Morman Missionary!)

    Obama, stay cool and measured and you have the support of Americans, Sir.

    September 12, 2012 04:16 pm at 4:16 pm |
  2. Rudy NYC


    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."
    ------------------ an apology? No, it is not. BTW, you need to pull a Romney and revise your timeline because Mitt revised his message to basically say pretty much the same thing. He walked it back, and then walked it back some more.

    September 12, 2012 04:16 pm at 4:16 pm |
  3. John

    We are talking about the inappropriateness of what Romney said.....What about what he didn't say? Hilary had already mentioned that the Ambassador and Sean Smith, an analyst had been killed, and that the two others were awaiting family notification.....Romney went on to show remorse for the Ambassador, but nothing about Sean Smith, whose name had already been announced.....He found it more appropriate to start criticizing the response from the night before than to show respect to Sean Smith's family for his sacrifice for our country? Inappropriate, and inconsiderate.....

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

    You're creating false headlines because you know the Obama adminstration is failing, and you support him no matter what harm he does to our country. And now there is violence and death. Nowhere to turn. The truth will set you free.

    September 12, 2012 04:18 pm at 4:18 pm |
  5. Joe c

    Jimmy Carter is Obamas hero...that is all I need to say

    September 12, 2012 04:18 pm at 4:18 pm |
  6. Mittens Rmoney

    OK, I admit it. I really have no clue about foreign policy other than which countries are the best ones to hide money in so I don't have to pay any taxes. But I am sure that the Soviet Union is our number one foe. And if Obama says yes, I will say no. And if he says no, I will say yes. And if I say no, I really mean yes. Or when I say yes, do I really mean no? But it is all OK since my rich friends will try their best to buy the election for me.

    September 12, 2012 04:18 pm at 4:18 pm |
  7. George

    This was disgusting for me to watch this idiot trying to look presidential but made more of a buffoon of himself trying on the warm bodies of the ambassador and additional dead to score political points. This man has no shame or honor. To score points this idiot is standing there in a dark suit and on each side the American flags but props to Romney and his handlers. It is disgraceful and shameful of Romney. He is NOT FIT TO BE PRESIDENT. I do not see how any Republican can support this near treasonous stunt on the part of Romney but this audacity on the part of Romney is unconscionable and stinks of cheap, third rate politics. To hell with Romney.

    September 12, 2012 04:18 pm at 4:18 pm |
  8. NOvember12

    Dear played hang the war around george bush and now you get to experience a little of that. It was you, obama, who against many advisors took out Bin Lauden (then crowed about it) and then the Libyian the back lash...try and make political hay out of this! The only reason Gadahfi was in trouble was he ran out of money...he ran out of money bcause he had to trade his oil in the defalued dollar, the radicals saw their oportunity and took it. Libya was a socialist utopia where newly married couples got $50k for a new home, they were planning a ten year resort project among other projects to enhance the living conditions in that country...obama thought he could look tough and back up France...hahaha another failure of this pseudo president.

    September 12, 2012 04:19 pm at 4:19 pm |
  9. JonnyCant

    Has Jewish money bought Mitt?

    September 12, 2012 04:19 pm at 4:19 pm |
  10. Turbo

    Does it really matter? The only people taking him seriously are the Teapublican cuckoos.

    September 12, 2012 04:19 pm at 4:19 pm |
  11. billy davis

    Mitt Romney and his team of amateurs are such losers. They are so eager to attack the POTUS that facts escapes them.

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

    Good for Romney! We should stand up to our rights of free speech. Screw those Islamic radicals...which other religion goes out and kills people because of a movie? Obama needs to go far far away

    September 12, 2012 04:21 pm at 4:21 pm |
  13. Lando

    Romeny will create another 911 incident just to get all cost to be POTUS

    September 12, 2012 04:21 pm at 4:21 pm |
  14. Jonsie

    Does the timeline matter, we definitely apologized – I'm sick of catering to a bunch of thugs hiding behind their stupid murdering so called faith!

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

    All I can say is if Democrats don't rise up and use their power to re elect President Obama, America will deserve what you get. I say this as a Canadian who has our own version of the Republican Party in power. We are living with the consequences.

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

    This "Obama has failed, failed failed. What's the question?" act from Romney is more than tired. In Mitt's mind he can do everything better than Obama. Of course exactly what Mitt would do always seems to be a secret - we have to elect him to find out.. For a guy who has changed his position on virtually every major topic at least once (in some cases multiple times) how can anyone have confidence in Mitt? Bashing the President (regardless of party) during an active international crisis is simply inexcusable.

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

    How can this clown even continue to run for the presidency, he is such an out of touch baffoon and so pathetic. Every 24 hours he opens mouth and inserts foot. Flip floppen Mittens robme please cut your losses and go home, the election for you is over the people of america are laughing at you.

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

    @ 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."


    Guess you bought some of that magic milk, because you are enchanted by *something*. That repeated lie about George Obama is pretty sour by now.

    George Obama is not homeless. He lives, by the standards of his village, quite comfortably considered that he has had issues with drugs and alcohol his entire adult life (starting way before Barack became "big"). Do you think that, just because the president is his half-brother, he should get a pass? In our country, there are family members of huge celebrities that live under bridges and in cars or in shelters because of their addictions and refusal to get help. You can only help so much before you give up. But George never bothered much with his famous brother before he was famous. I think they met exactly once many years ago when Barack was researching his father for his book. D’Souza fed George lines to get the clips he needed and then let the man bum money off him, even though he knew about the addictions.

    I don't know where you got the story about the milk, etc. but most people who ever had contact with Romney with hat in hand found they got the back of his hand instead of help. How many people did Romney and his company put out of work? How many homes were lost? How many people lost their insurance because he cut benefits? I have nothing but distain for a man and his family that can brag about deducting $77K for each of several horses as "therapy" animals when there are people out there living on 1/3 that with NO therapy for their illnesses.

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

    Ann - "blame, blame, blame - attack, attack, attack" Why that sounds like what Obama has been doing his entire term. Blaming Bush, the weather, the European crises, and the Arab Spring, (whoops, he supported this one) for his problems. Obama is a petulant little child who cannot take responsibility for anything. The dog is always eating his home work. Hey Ann - Obama should accept responsibility for his foreign policy gaffs.

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

    He may not agree with the President's policies and he may not like him but one thing is for sure he's not the president yet. To even make an effort to get ahead of his statement is disrespectful, then to criticize him when he had no information of what happened shows us what kind of president he would make. He made his sorry comments when he did not even know that someone died. Pathetic!!!!

    September 12, 2012 04:23 pm at 4:23 pm |
  21. David Borgen

    What do you expect from Mitt the Twit in his second international encounter.

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

    I see nothing wrong with the leader of my country apoligizing for the bad taste and craziness of one of its citizens that put out an offensive racist hate filled movie. He did not denounce his freedom of speach. Dang do you ever wonder why we are hated so? Maybe it is because of the utter arrogance that has been thrown out by our country. However this is not the point. The point is this pathetic vulture in poor taste unprecidented has stood up and said , hey this in an election year, I am going to pounce on anything I can for ME to get where I want to be, with no regard to the solidarity our country should be showing , with no regard that is day is about a terrible loss for our country and for the families of these people, the only case in point he can make is "' HEY I COULD DO IT BETTER!" Really? Seems you have already offended half the world with arrogance on your travels abroad. I am not ready for the Bush days and traveling abroad trying to pass myself as a Canandian to make the trip smoother.

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

    Obama does not apologiize -mittster and lying ryan sympathizers are the APOLOGISTS!!!!!!!!!"The truth hurts, Huh!!!

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

    I bet Lyin' Ryan had a hand in this. He is the Lord of Lies after all. If you want an out-of-control deficit that makes GW Bush's 5 trillion addition seem like peanuts, elect Romney. Another war or 2, and further tax cuts on the rich will cause the deficit to absolutely explode. Of course Romney's lie will simply get spread around like wildfire in Republican circles, as your grandma gets an email stating "Obama stands up for American-killers" and never thinks to actually look up the truth of it. I think being right-wing and gullible goes hand-in-hand.

    September 12, 2012 04:25 pm at 4:25 pm |
  25. Mitt the Twit

    With the exception of the TeaParty crazies, Romney has loss any lingering REAL Republicans, who had been willing to stick things out. He's a man without a country, at this point. What a pathetic candidate. Send in the clowns...

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