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. John

    Comments on this post are about what Romney said....what about what he didn't say?
    Hiliary had already announced that the Ambassador and Sean Smith, the analyst had been killed...When Romney spoke, he acknowledged the ambassador BUT NOT SEAN SMITH. Why? Simple.....he thought it was more important to switch over to the criticism of the embassy statement than to acknowledge the death of Sean Smith and that his wife and 2 small children had just found out and he didn't think it important enough to acknowledge their husband and father......Yes he is inappropriate, yes he is a flip flopper, and yes he isn't appropriate........

    September 12, 2012 04:32 pm at 4:32 pm |
  2. This is sad...

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

    Statements like this make me sad for the state of political discourse in this country.

    September 12, 2012 04:32 pm at 4:32 pm |
  3. kevin lanigan

    God help us if Romney wins.

    September 12, 2012 04:32 pm at 4:32 pm |
  4. Sniffit

    "Obama screwed up here. This attack was planned and Obama admin knew about it. That is why the embassies were evacuated prior to the attack. Now watch for the cover up of yet this incompetent Admin."

    Wow. That was fast. Is that one from World Net Daily's barrel full of tinfoil hatted conspiracy monkeys?

    Please keep repeating it though. The damage that would heap on Mittens and the GOP/Teatrolls after Mittens obvious screwup last night and today will be glorious.

    September 12, 2012 04:33 pm at 4:33 pm |
  5. Joni

    Prediction: The next thing out of Gov Romney's mouth will once again be "I Misspoke". Maybe it should be the official campaign bumper sticker.

    Mack (on page 4). Slight correction: "If he (Mitt) wasn't born rich he'd be selling used cars somewhere."
    I'd insert the word "Trying" – "Trying to sell".
    Also: Apologies to the men and women who sell Pre-owned vehicles for the comparison.

    Reminds me of this one by President Nixon: "I know you believe you understand what you think I said but I'm not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant."

    September 12, 2012 04:33 pm at 4:33 pm |
  6. M-W-T

    Mitt Romney is still,.....THE WORST REPUBLICAN ON THE PLANET FOR POTUS......
    We don't TRUST him.......and WE Will NOT VOTE for Mitt Romney
    the more we "Get To Know" him.......the more we dislike him


    September 12, 2012 04:34 pm at 4:34 pm |
  7. don in albuquerque

    Simple solution. After the presidents comments this morning I heard one "idiot" reporter shout out is this an act of war. Very intelligently the Prez walked away. Here is your answer. Bomb our embassies, and govt offices there, tell all American workers "You want to be here....You on your own" Remove all our govt people and just get the hell out of both countries. Oh....I almost forgot, and take all our money (forever) with us. Let them see how much China, and Russia help them. "Act of War", geez. Was it a Mitt-Witt that shouted out.

    September 12, 2012 04:34 pm at 4:34 pm |

    So Romney's time line is wrong because the twitter "has since been deleted"? LOL.

    September 12, 2012 04:34 pm at 4:34 pm |
  9. Graham Smith

    Hey, you lame-brains. Obama never apologized for America. That is a complete fabrication. Stop repeating the lie. Find some other grievance against Obama if that is your goal. But to continue to repeat a lie simply shows that you have no interest in either your argument or the truth.

    September 12, 2012 04:34 pm at 4:34 pm |
  10. John

    Well, let's see. A US official is killed and what does Obama do? He gives the standard "senseless act" speech but that's it. He doesn't even correct the stupid response by the local office in Libya. Meanwhile, a close ally travels to the US from the Middle East and specifically asks to see Obama and what does he do? He can't make time to meet him. Yet, he has time for Letterman, Jay Z and golf. Tacky POTUS.

    September 12, 2012 04:34 pm at 4:34 pm |
  11. Sasha

    America doesn't have a leader with international presence and is not thought trustworthy anymore.
    The rogues of the world know it and will prey on it.
    You have a full time campaigning President who lacks skills and knowledge when it comes to foreign policies and hasn't done that great at home.
    You , as the voter need to dig deeper and find the facts , your country is in dire straits and you should not allow yourself to be swayed by irresponsible speeches who promise you anything you want to hear.

    September 12, 2012 04:35 pm at 4:35 pm |
  12. Jared

    Seriously guys, this is getting to be a pathetic angle you try to set, that Romney and Ryan are playing political "pretzel" here??? When is this presidency going to "Man UP" and say to his brothers in the Middle East, "Im going to kick you bast.... out!" I can't help but think of Principal Joe Carter (played by Morgan Freeman) here. At least he had the moxi to make it happen.
    It's no wonder people turn away from this forum for news..... The news is spinned to a level of dung. We don't care who was the first to take the aim at the Islamic nations over there....just TAKE IT dam......t!!!!!! Quit kissing up to your brothers over their and defend our country. You certainly can take a stand against a lowly Florida man how has no money, but no spine to stand up against a FASCIST group of Muslims who kill at the thought of a Christian, Jew, American, Women, or any one they seem a threaten them. Don't give me this angle that this was happen stance event. 2 different locations, In Muslim countries, That were overthrown by The Muslim Brotherhood, on 9/11???????? This ain't my 1st rodeo!!!!!!!! I know a MOLE when I see one! That's why we need real CHANGE!!!!!!!!!!!! Let's Roll!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    September 12, 2012 04:35 pm at 4:35 pm |

    You gotta love the IQ level of those that say the words, "bow down to the Saudi King." Do you realize that this is a gesture of greeting that is respectful? (To put it simply, isolationist degenerates, it's like shaking someone's hand)

    Do a search for "Bush holding hands" if you want to see a funny picture!

    September 12, 2012 04:35 pm at 4:35 pm |
  14. Potrzebie

    Why is there a question mark at the end of the headline? Romney is a reckless, clueless LIAR. If he becomes president, we will have more war(s), and a full blown, world-wide depression.

    September 12, 2012 04:36 pm at 4:36 pm |
  15. ChristopherM

    RMoney is not fit to be the Commander in Chief. PERIOD.

    September 12, 2012 04:36 pm at 4:36 pm |
  16. sggib

    The Israeli who made this film should be deported. He is now in hiding here in America? Find him and deport him. Let him do his foolishness on Israel soil, they them reap the consequences. His loyalty is to Israel not America.

    September 12, 2012 04:36 pm at 4:36 pm |
  17. FedUp2Much

    It is amazing that CNN can try to clean all of this up for Obama and turn it around on Romney when Obama has done NOTHING to help the stature of the USA in the Middle East. When Iran tests a nuclear bomb what will you say then, CNN? And all of the kool-aid drinking commentaries, will you still print them on your web site? Like this one that you will not?

    September 12, 2012 04:36 pm at 4:36 pm |
  18. Lizzie

    Hugh Jass, so what is the President , he is more concerned about a fundraiser he has to go to, then anything else, to him apparently it's a distraction.

    September 12, 2012 04:36 pm at 4:36 pm |
  19. 4pease

    The families of the victims of this tragedy must be outraged at Romney. Making this political before their bodies are even out of Liya. Shame on Romney.

    September 12, 2012 04:37 pm at 4:37 pm |
  20. MrRickinNH

    I guess he shot himself in the foot.... lets hope it's fatal!!

    September 12, 2012 04:37 pm at 4:37 pm |
  21. nintex

    According to Mormon beliefs, when asked a question they can't or don't want to answer, a Mormon just answers what "the questioner was supposed to ask." In other words, the person just asked the wrong question! So the Mormon answers any way they want to, avoiding the original question. Sort of like "lying for the Lord" – that one still sticks in my craw. There's a video on YouTube showing a BYU professor lecturing a class on how to do this – just answer the question they were "supposed to ask." This is really disgusting, but Romney seems to have it down pat.

    September 12, 2012 04:37 pm at 4:37 pm |
  22. Jason

    Romney's looking more and more like a tool every day....and his melon is soooo large!

    September 12, 2012 04:38 pm at 4:38 pm |
  23. RE McCray

    Romney has great difficulty with the truth and facts. He is no different than most Republicans ... the truth is subjective to the lie that leads to embarrassment. Romney is an embarrassment to this country.

    September 12, 2012 04:38 pm at 4:38 pm |
  24. Big Jim

    O Mighty Magic Underwear, I call on your power to rise me above my gaffes and political uh ohs.........

    September 12, 2012 04:38 pm at 4:38 pm |
  25. a dude

    so mitt romney incorrectly blasted obama for something a worker in the US Embassy said

    September 12, 2012 04:38 pm at 4:38 pm |
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