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. MittRomney

    Mitt's Approach: READY -> FIRE!!! -> uh....aim? --> Wait, maybe I misspoke --> you are mistaken, I said AIM and THEN I said FIRE ...I never said fire.

    September 12, 2012 05:04 pm at 5:04 pm |
  2. Angge

    For Gov. Romney to say something in order to score political points when we should all be united and condemn this senseless attack is reprehensible. Shame on you, Gov. Romney.

    This goes to show that you are thoroughly not fit to be president.

    September 12, 2012 05:04 pm at 5:04 pm |
  3. Andreas

    Romney is a train wreck... His press conference this morning regarding the attack/killings in Libya was disgraceful and totally inappropriate to politicize an event that was unfolding... especially embarrassing when he/his campaign has got the facts wrong.... he's loosing his grip on the campaign and is lashing out at anything to incite any reaction or coverage... pathetic.

    September 12, 2012 05:04 pm at 5:04 pm |
  4. luvUamerica

    Do they even know that everyone knows that they are lying or do they take American voters for fools?

    September 12, 2012 05:04 pm at 5:04 pm |
  5. Wouldstronglyprefer Justice

    Mister Romney's comments on this matter are irresponsible. They show him to be ill-informed and ill-equipped to lead the nation in foreign
    affairs. By injecting himself and his political agenda into a fluid and tragic
    situation without awareness or appreciation of the facts, he needlessly
    diverts attention and disrespects those who have lost their lives and/or
    loved ones.

    His comments were clearly intended to appeal to the lowest common denominator within his base and are more of the same bellicose rhetoric so poorly suited to the complexities of the Middle East and so common from the right.

    And, as further facts emerge, they are shown to be hopelessly inaccurate to boot.

    As a (still) swing voter, this makes me very doubtful that
    Mr. Romney possesses the experience, restraint or judgement to lead in times of
    international crisis.

    Mr. Romney lost any remaining chance of earning my vote

    September 12, 2012 05:04 pm at 5:04 pm |
  6. David Reston, VA

    The October surprise came early and caught Obama flat footed, again. Romney is right for calling out Obama for not defending American values. I can't believe our government is concerned about hurting a Muslim's feelings while Book Of Mormon is a hit on Broadway. Hypocrisy, cowardly hypocrisy everywhere.

    September 12, 2012 05:05 pm at 5:05 pm |
  7. luvUamerica

    The saddestpart is the media is so afraid of the right, that they don't call on this lies. They are so afraid that they will look biased. Where is Bob Woodruuf?

    September 12, 2012 05:05 pm at 5:05 pm |
  8. MittRomney

    When asked about the sequence of events and his response to them, Mitt Romney asserted, "I don't know what I said, but I stand by it, whatever it was."

    September 12, 2012 05:06 pm at 5:06 pm |
  9. MittRomney

    The best advice for Mitt:

    "Shut up when you're talkikn' to us!!!"

    September 12, 2012 05:08 pm at 5:08 pm |
  10. TomVIO

    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!!!"

    You cannot be prepared for any type of attack, no matter when or where it happens... This was not plotted for a long time for inteligence to find out.

    Although, 9/11 has been warned a few months before it happened... I, as a civilian, even heard about the threats that were publicly known. Still, I don't blame BUSH for not being prepared because it's not something that was expected.

    September 12, 2012 05:08 pm at 5:08 pm |
  11. John Blackadder

    Mitt needs to stay away from foreign issues. He has no clue.
    His 'Olympic Triumph' trip was a sequence of major gaffes and inadvertent insults.

    If this means he can't handle the presidency, then so be it!
    He's a man playing to the story of the day and willing to do anything to get elected.

    Shame on him!

    September 12, 2012 05:09 pm at 5:09 pm |
  12. stevetall

    Not surprizing that Romney hasn't a clue about truth, justice, and the true American way. This slime-bucket needs to go back to quietly looting our economy for his own personal gain and leave the politics to those who can tell the truth, are interested in moving all Americans forward, and are willing to be the kind of open, honest leader that we need. Romney hasn't a clue, and hasn't a chance this November. We may not be the smartest society, but there aren't enough stupid voters willing to sell their future to the super-rich.

    September 12, 2012 05:09 pm at 5:09 pm |
  13. Gloria in NW

    I think that President Obama would win this election easily were it not for the GOP drive to suppress the vote. I am lucky enough to live in a state where this is not happening, yet anyway, but if you live in at state that is under attack, thinking about putting your energy into helping vulnerable people get the requred ID. Attempting to refute people in the GOP who are not going to believe any fact you put forth if it doesn't support their "hate Obama" mindset is pretty useless, although I certainly understand the desire to call out the followers of Limbaugh and company. Our freedom to vote is under attack. The GOP is trying to steal the election. That is the real battleground.

    September 12, 2012 05:10 pm at 5:10 pm |
  14. Shaolin Sword

    Take your Ivy league MBA, and your Gantt charts, and your 1000 per hour consultants and go reorganize Texas Instruments or something. Hasn't the average person suffered enough from this generation of financiers? For all the advantages he had, has this man made the world a better place though his work? No. This man thinks only of his own advancement. Transparently so. It shows in his comments.

    September 12, 2012 05:10 pm at 5:10 pm |
  15. alicia

    Willard 2.0 -How to enter another senseless war. volume 1.

    September 12, 2012 05:10 pm at 5:10 pm |
  16. Adam


    September 12, 2012 05:10 pm at 5:10 pm |
  17. open

    wow it does not take long for that machine to twist facts, does it?

    September 12, 2012 05:11 pm at 5:11 pm |
  18. once upon a horse

    I am starting to wonder which is more pathetic the actions of Mitt Romney or some of the right wingers' posts here to defend him? Well I will say this so far the posts defending him, usually the same old GOP apologist that always post here are lagging far behind those that condemn his false statements.

    September 12, 2012 05:11 pm at 5:11 pm |
  19. ryche

    and yes it is the lib media that is turned itself into a pretzel, because all they can talk about is Romney, because if they talked about our current president, it would become appairent that he can't dodge this one, or blame it on Bush.. He owns this one... 4 deaths are on his hands... and the lib media cant' spin it.. so they ignore it and talk about Romney... pathethic..

    September 12, 2012 05:12 pm at 5:12 pm |
  20. DeBee Sting

    Let's be honest for a moment: it is NONE of Romney's business to make policy or diplomatic statements before the US president does. No business, no right to do so, at all!!
    Second, we know already that Romney has no international policy experience and that when he opens his mouth, he is a bumbler....

    September 12, 2012 05:12 pm at 5:12 pm |
  21. MittRomney

    "Uh, I'm actually going to to, I'm not familiar precisely with exactly what I said, but I stand by what I said, whatever it was. And with regards to, uh, I'll go back and take at what was said there."

    September 12, 2012 05:12 pm at 5:12 pm |
  22. Wilson

    I recently asked my friends' little girl what she wanted to be when she grows up. She said she wanted to be president of the united states. Both of her parents, liberal democrats, were standing there. So I asked her, "If you were president, what would be the first thing you would do?" She replied, "I'd give food and houses to all the homeless people." Her parents beamed proudly.

    "Wow, what a worthy goal," I told her. "But you don't have to wait until you are president to do that. You can come over to my house and mow the lawn, pull weeds and sweep my driveway, adn I'll pay you $50. Then I'll take you over to the gorcery store where the homeless guy hangs out, and you can give him the $50 to use toward food and a new house."

    She thought that over for a few seconds, then she looke me right in the eye and asked, "Why doesn't the homeless guy come over and do the work, and you can just pay him the $50?" I said "Welcome to the Republican Party."

    Her parents still aren't speaking to me.

    September 12, 2012 05:13 pm at 5:13 pm |
  23. lou

    No deplomacy skills. Used to being the boss so it's his way or the high way. A president has to listen, THINK, and then react or we could be toast.

    September 12, 2012 05:14 pm at 5:14 pm |
  24. Anonymous

    These comments are juvenile- Inform and educate yourselfs and stop adding fuel to the already tainted and fouled political system. Become a part of the resolution not the problem...

    September 12, 2012 05:15 pm at 5:15 pm |
  25. Benedict Arnold

    Thanks Romney for attacking our commander-in-chief while we're under fire, and mourning our fallen countrymen. I don't know if we should send you with our people going toward enemy fire, or just issue each a scorpion to pocket. You know, sometimes its better to just shut up until you know what you're talking about.

    September 12, 2012 05:17 pm at 5:17 pm |
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