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. shawn26

    Shame on Mitt Romney! There is a crisis and he is blaming Pres Obama. He is a disgrace and does not deserve to run this country. If he was the Pres how would he handle it? He goes to the Oympics and make a fool of himself to the British? He is am embarrasment to the country.
    Dont be desperate Mitt. Earn your own merits and not say anything that comes off your pretty head.

    September 12, 2012 04:50 pm at 4:50 pm |
  2. tor5

    Who would have thought that the Romney campaign would be such an amateur show? They have no clue how to manage their message, let alone respond to world events. Politics 101: This is a national crisis, not an opportunity to repeat some lame slogan against Obama and then be totally wrong in your recounting of the facts. Every day seems to be another demonstration of how unprepared Romney and his team are to play in the big leagues.

    September 12, 2012 04:50 pm at 4:50 pm |
  3. linda

    Romney is as dangerous as the conservative right wing Preacher who made this film.....and just as quilty.....

    September 12, 2012 04:50 pm at 4:50 pm |
  4. SJC

    And you think Romney can run this country? Think again!!!

    September 12, 2012 04:51 pm at 4:51 pm |
  5. campshirley2016

    i'm so amazed and fascinated with you democraps! you people should all be shipped to some island with obama and start
    your own country. and please.........take the six trillion off the taxpayers hands that your buddy BO stuck in our rearends
    with you....pleeeeeez!!!

    September 12, 2012 04:51 pm at 4:51 pm |
  6. xirume

    Romney makes George Bush look like an intellectual guru.

    September 12, 2012 04:52 pm at 4:52 pm |
  7. Craig Adams

    Romney is a disaster. He has again proven to the world that he is way over his head. he simply demonstrates he does not have the capacity to lead our nation.

    September 12, 2012 04:52 pm at 4:52 pm |
  8. Peter

    Mr. More of the Same. He's getting clobbered in the polls for lying and twisting himself into prezels over everything, so what does he do? Keep doing more of the same! Just like he wants to do with our economy. It tanked due to voodoo policies? Let's do more of the same!

    September 12, 2012 04:52 pm at 4:52 pm |
  9. DW

    Romney needs to apologize for being a liar.

    September 12, 2012 04:53 pm at 4:53 pm |
  10. tom

    Mitt is a desperate man. He does have a law degree so I suppose ambulance chasing is not totally unexpected.

    September 12, 2012 04:53 pm at 4:53 pm |
  11. John

    Romney's ignorance is appalling and he is again pandering to the right wing bigots who hate Muslims. He would destroy US relationships with any countries he interacted with because he distorts facts and can't keep his mouth shut until he has all the FACTS. He can't even apologize and act like a true AMERICAN in this situation. He and Palin aligned themselves against the president for another cheap shot at political glory. They should join tgether for another reality show but I bet Romney is going to take over Palin's job at FOXX after the election.

    September 12, 2012 04:53 pm at 4:53 pm |
  12. truth hurts

    John The Electrician
    So what this "film Maker" did is free speech? He knew people could die. How is this any diffent than yelling fire in a movie theater?

    are you serious???? he expressed his opinion. so you are suggesting that people stop expressing their opinion if some nut will get upset about it?

    September 12, 2012 04:54 pm at 4:54 pm |
  13. Dan

    Why on earth did so many vote for Romney in the primaries?

    We are now stuck with the worst candidate in my 50 years. Oh how I wish someone else was our candidate. I have nothing in common with this guy and everyone tells me to plug my nose and vote for someone that is so arrogant that he did not bring his money back to America after Senator McCain soundly defeated him because of it.

    September 12, 2012 04:54 pm at 4:54 pm |
  14. DocHollywood

    This guy just proves over and over that he is not ready or capable to be president. As president you cannot make judgments or statements until you get all the facts straight. He's accusing the Obama administration for something BEFORE it happened. The statement he's referring to last night was released 6 hours BEFORE the Egyptian embassy was attacked. He's such a political opportunist, he'll do or say anything to become president. You do not need to be a master at foreign affairs to be president, but you do have to use good judgement, tact and intelligence. Mitt Romney has shown none of that recently.

    September 12, 2012 04:54 pm at 4:54 pm |
  15. John

    Obama and the Israeli Prime Minister are meeting (unannounced).....they BOTH wanted to keep the time and place secret, to avoid the press so the sensitive subject doesn't get politicized.....Obama, always one step ahead of the press......

    September 12, 2012 04:54 pm at 4:54 pm |
  16. beezers

    I've watched every little bit unfold as it happened. I don't care how this article tries to spin it, Romney is right. Period.

    September 12, 2012 04:54 pm at 4:54 pm |
  17. hannah

    Put Romney in charge and we'll be at war in no time. Oh, that's right the Republicans like to go to war. But they send your sons and daughters and wives and husbands not their own. Romney avoided Vietnam by goig to Paris, yes Paris on mission for his church. He is a chicken hawk.

    September 12, 2012 04:54 pm at 4:54 pm |
  18. mormoncandidate dot com

    Mitt Romney is a Mormon. Enough said.

    September 12, 2012 04:55 pm at 4:55 pm |
  19. Tom W

    This is a highly convoluted and downright disingenuous article. The U.S. embassy in Cairo issues a statement apologizing for offending Islamic sensitivities (because someone, somewhere, MADE A VIDEO), after which the embassy is attacked by a mob. CNN journalists then do a triple pretzel to convince readers that the Obama administration - the executive branch of our government (and the ones who dictate what the State Department and all our embassies shall and shall not say) - is not responsible for the statements made by the embassy in Cairo. Talk about bending over backwards and sideways to cover up Obama's rather obvious - and unAmerican - sympathies.

    September 12, 2012 04:55 pm at 4:55 pm |
  20. Nodack

    Desperate men do desperate things. Romney is desperate. Open mouth, insert foot.

    September 12, 2012 04:55 pm at 4:55 pm |
  21. Rick 7809

    Mitt: "My mind is made up, don't confuse me with the facts!!!"

    September 12, 2012 04:56 pm at 4:56 pm |
  22. DrWho

    campshirley2016, please tell me what it is like to be a Retardican, not that I would want to be one, just wanted to know if there was any intelligent life over there under the rock you crawled out from under.

    September 12, 2012 04:56 pm at 4:56 pm |
  23. Matt

    Romney is desperate plain and simple.

    September 12, 2012 04:56 pm at 4:56 pm |
  24. Anonymous

    Don't let Mitt and his party anyplace near the White House....they are unpatriotic, incapable louts!

    September 12, 2012 04:56 pm at 4:56 pm |
  25. Emile_Mervin

    Apparently Romney not only outsourced jobs; he also outsourced his brain. And not only did he stash his profits in off-shore banks,; he also stashed his decency and respect. McCain chose Palin and Palin did him in. Romney chose Ryan and is doing a heck of a job doing himself in. This must be what it feels like to be a political masturbator: a sense of self-satisfaction, but nothing productive to show for it! Cany you guys picture Romney and Ryan going to the polls on Election Day and voting Obama-Biden by mistake?

    September 12, 2012 04:57 pm at 4:57 pm |
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