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. Wes Scott

    Romney is a lying idiot. His supporters are even lamer than Romney himself. Apparently, to be a RepubliKKKan one must be devoid of any moral compass, be perfectly willing to lie about anything and to make up stuff when nothing else can be found to support their tinfoil hat theories.

    RepubliKKKans even lie when the facts are on the table exposing them for their lies. Obama will probably win this election by at least 15 million votes and an electoral college landslide.

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

    As a navy veteren with 3 Middle East deployments under my belt, I would never want Romney as my Commander in Chief. Obama 2012!

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

    Btw, good leaders try to be peacemakers not war mongers. "Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall have peace".

    September 12, 2012 04:26 pm at 4:26 pm |
  4. mcfarlas47

    ANYONE who reads the administration's first response cannot deny the wording. It's as plain as day. It condems the stupid video makers AND anyone who makes statements that "offend" Muslims in any way. It is an apology plain and simple. Can't you guys read??? My god. We are so rapidly turning into a nation of sheep. Obama snubs the Israeli PM and apologizes to Muslims. What a wimp.

    September 12, 2012 04:26 pm at 4:26 pm |
  5. Jim Ryan

    Romney shows leadership in his comments. When is the an uneducated portion of the electorate going to finally grasp the concept of failed leadership, domestically and abroad. Obama's lack of qualifying credentials is finally coming home to roost

    September 12, 2012 04:27 pm at 4:27 pm |
  6. DumbasRocks [R]s

    Actually flasher3838, I support Obama's even-handed statement in an attempt to avoid violence. What this American DOES condemn is those other empty-headed Americans who replace American values with uberpartisan rightwing dogma, even in the face of tragedy. I hope everyone now sees you and your morally bankrupt Teaparty for the smelly heap of excrement it is.

    September 12, 2012 04:27 pm at 4:27 pm |
  7. BLKMANinAmerica

    This is the 'leader' repuks give America ................................. SAD and SHAMEFUL. And if you thought GW Bush was a HOT n a MESS just pay attention to this yoyo (robot Romney).

    September 12, 2012 04:27 pm at 4:27 pm |
  8. ian

    It doesn't matter either way. Who said what about anything. Obama has no foreign policy to speak of except to bow down to the Saudi king. We fought so that no American citizen would ever have to bow to ANY king. Traitor.

    September 12, 2012 03:48 pm at 3:48 pm

    call us when you wake.

    September 12, 2012 04:27 pm at 4:27 pm |
  9. ExRepublican

    Romney dont care about the killing of american he just want to attack Obama and for us to blame president.
    Romney is disgrace to america.

    September 12, 2012 04:28 pm at 4:28 pm |
  10. Anonymous

    If you want a war vote for Romney. It's that simple.

    As an added bonus, you will be able to go on national TV and claim you have foreign policy experience because you voted to go to war. If Paul Ryan can make the claim, why can't all of us?

    September 12, 2012 04:28 pm at 4:28 pm |
  11. cali girl

    Robmeys own party is railing against him. He spoke out of turn. He is not the President and had no right to say what he said. We already know Robmey has the ability to offend other countries, just ask Britain and Pakistan.

    September 12, 2012 04:28 pm at 4:28 pm |
  12. Q

    Did you even read the article?

    September 12, 2012 04:29 pm at 4:29 pm |
  13. linda

    In other words Romney is defending this crazy right wing religious idiot that started the whole mess in the first place and would rather defend him and what he did and call our President a liar......well he's got it ass backwards....first of all this idiot preacher should be brought up on murder charges.....his right to free speech is one thing when it causes the death of innocent people that's another......I know the people in Egypt and Lybia have no right and there is no rational reason to do what they did and the President did right in condemning their actions......but Romney trying so hard to be the President that he will not be and could never be tried to use this for his gain ...... so he is as quilty as the wacko Preacher that's pushing this movie......

    September 12, 2012 04:29 pm at 4:29 pm |
  14. olga

    The idiot strikes again. I wish Romney would just keep his pie hole shut. He is beyond an idiot at this point. He will keep us a out as safe as the idiot Bush did on 9/11. He is talking out of his rear end to gain political points. Let me tell everyone out there that we MUST not allow this jidiot into office.

    September 12, 2012 04:29 pm at 4:29 pm |
  15. ray

    this shameless man , this pathological liar, hypocrite and this dunce romney will sell his mother to get elect. a question was asked on cnn yesterday , WHO ARE THE TERRORISTS. answer romney and ryan and the rest on he right. romney and ryan will love to have another terrorist attack on soil today so they can have something to blame on this president because everything they through at him is not sticking. romney has no dignity, integrity or no morals. romney and ryan are two pathological liars,

    September 12, 2012 04:30 pm at 4:30 pm |
  16. Peter Ellis

    The facts don't "escape" Romney and Ryan. They just don't care about facts (Ryan's sub-three-hour marathon?), or choose to ignore them.

    September 12, 2012 04:30 pm at 4:30 pm |
  17. CanadaONE


    Get him OFF of NORTH AMERICA – NOW!

    send him to the Cayman Islands where his money is

    September 12, 2012 04:30 pm at 4:30 pm |
  18. Log Cabin

    It's odd that ANYBODY still believes anything Romney says. That's some strong Kool Aid!

    September 12, 2012 04:30 pm at 4:30 pm |
  19. Ruthie

    People, please, this man can not be president. I shudder to think what he might do to us.

    September 12, 2012 04:30 pm at 4:30 pm |
  20. Mittens Rmoney

    I may not know much about foreign policy but I sure do know how to outsource American jobs! And I know which foreign banks are the best! Please vote for me. I'll tell you whatever you want to hear.

    September 12, 2012 04:30 pm at 4:30 pm |
  21. JasonP

    If Mitt doesn't shut his mouth soon he's going to ignite a global conflict

    September 12, 2012 04:30 pm at 4:30 pm |
  22. Ruthie

    Father forgive him for he knows not what he does.

    September 12, 2012 04:31 pm at 4:31 pm |
  23. Pete

    Romney last night commented on this ugly scene in Cairo with an ambassador and three others losing their lives making it a political strike at Pres.Obama,how thoughtless,how inconsiderate of the lives lost to come out with such ignorence.Then as usual after most of the major syndicated news programs came out commenting negatively against his remarks being political Romney again came out this morning to backstep on another political boo boo,saying again a political strike against Pres.Obama even in the light of such innocent ,meaningless deaths to such a great ambassador and his staffers at the hands of unknown extremists.This just goes to show that Romney,Ryan aren't presidencial material,never have been,never will be they're just too arrogent ,impersonal to represent our great country.Just let them go back where they belong ,creating havoc in whatever these do,in business and the political world,republicans you got them,do something with them,they stink!!!

    September 12, 2012 04:31 pm at 4:31 pm |
  24. Tilly

    It's always interesting to see the liberal perspective on things. I've read several comments from the lib commenters on this site, and it's fine if you don't like Romney and don't intend to vote for him. But before you comment about this phony crap, it might be a good idea to read the article first – in order to at least appear to sound intelligent. Apparently it took 6 CNN reporters to craft this non-story – Labott, Hamby, Streitfeld, Dougherty, Killough, and Liptak (your journalism professors would be mighty proud of this "work"). However, as a few others have pointed out, embassies and consulates are extensions of the US executive branch, and several news reports have indicated that our officials in Libya and Egypt were given advance warnings of protests. So while the original statement from the Cairo embassy came before the attacks, it was indeed meant as an apology likely in an effort to quell any possible violence from the irrational radical muslims. Even in the presser this morning Romney addressed this question from one of the reporters when he clearly stated that the embassies and ambassadors speak on behalf of the president and his administration.

    And trying to deflect the truth by saying that the U.S. Ambassador to Egypt didn't sign off on the original statement because she was in DC at the time. Are you people really that gullible?? Do the journalists and commenters here really believe that some 23 yr old embassy staffer put out the statement on their own – without the knowledge of the Ambassador, State Dept., or the White House?

    Look, everybody knows that CNN is in the tank for Obama, and if you want to present this story as an Op-Ed piece that's fine. But please don't try to sell it as factual news because it's clear most of your readers cannot tell the difference.

    September 12, 2012 04:31 pm at 4:31 pm |
  25. Sane Republican

    Is it too late to have another convention so we can nominate someone else?

    September 12, 2012 04:31 pm at 4:31 pm |
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