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. TY

    WAR Romney is on your mind.......WAR WAR WAR are not fit.

    September 12, 2012 05:17 pm at 5:17 pm |
  2. Emma in Baltimore

    Obama needs to slap Romney really, really hard. Obama needs to chastise Romney for promoting internal division over an external attack. Romney's political strikes make us look weak - like we can't make a united stance in the face of foreign opposition. Romney is way too shortsighted to be president.

    September 12, 2012 05:17 pm at 5:17 pm |
  3. GeneK

    Maybe somebody in the Romney campaign should show that "talking points" memo to Romney.

    September 12, 2012 05:19 pm at 5:19 pm |
  4. Ancient Texan

    Debee Sting.. And you think Obama had diplomatic experience before elected...or even now? Romney has the right to free speech and can give his opinion...same as you do..., or I do.

    September 12, 2012 05:19 pm at 5:19 pm |
  5. GI Joe

    My state starts early voting Oct 8. I'll be pulling that lever STRAIGHT DEM in 26 days.

    September 12, 2012 05:20 pm at 5:20 pm |
  6. Timbits

    At the Republican National Convention, Mitt's wife, Ann, painted a picture of their early years together as if the two of them were barely getting by. And then an old Boston Globe interview surfaced in which she said "we were happy, studying hard. Neither one of us had a job, because Mitt had enough of an investment from stock that we could sell off a little at a time."
    Realizing that struggling college students work and don't usually live off investments, she backed away from her earlier characterization, telling "Meet the Press" later that, "Mitt and I do recognize that we have not had a financial struggle in our lives."

    They try to make it look like they are like most Americans or at least were during college...what do you all think?

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

    to everyone that says they apologized..i dont see the words "were or im sorry" anywhere. the way i see it, they were saying they dont agree with what the movie said and it wasnt their views.

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

    Why let facts get in the way of a(nother) good lie?

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

    So lets see how many ways we can descibe Romney flip flopper ,lubricated weather vain, pretzel, tax dodger, the list just goes on and on.

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

    What does everyone think of Mit Romney's huge missteps today both politicizing someone's death and getting it wrong at the same time? Wow!

    September 12, 2012 05:23 pm at 5:23 pm |
  11. Alina1

    Romney had an opportunity to show to the Nation something that he tried so hard to show us over these months, that he is good, simpler person like us... Well he lost his chance AGAIN, by showing something that we already knew. His ugly face of nothing but coldblooded politician cant be more disgusting... Is that how you want to win, so win and choke on it Romney. All you needed to do is to show some compassion and human face...

    September 12, 2012 05:24 pm at 5:24 pm |
  12. GI Joe

    Tomorrow is Thursday. He'll be heading out for his 3-day week-end AGAIN. He tires easily, can't remember what he's trying to say, can't remember what he said yesterday, is confused, laughs or chuckles at things that are not funny ---– early on-set DEMENTIA.

    September 12, 2012 05:24 pm at 5:24 pm |
  13. imadavisnotesart

    Reading comments is always entertaining to me, but am getting weary of all the obvious democrat operative planted comments in a lame attempt to sway votes. I'm guessing there is a 5-1 ratio of these such plants versus sincere comments from citizens not engaged or employed for political gain. As to this article... interesting that exact times are given for every tweet and comment other than the first tweet and the breach of the Cairo Embassy. Not saying that the article may be correct in stating the sequence, its just interesting to me that with six people credited for contributing to this article, no one bothered to provide those two facts which are essential to their spin, er, uh, report...

    September 12, 2012 05:25 pm at 5:25 pm |
  14. LiberalandProud

    Romney can't hold a candle to the President. Idiot is not a big enough word to describe this walking ......Clusterfu..k

    September 12, 2012 05:26 pm at 5:26 pm |
  15. Indie in VA

    A public servant of the United States of America was killed in the line of duty and you Republicans have the gall to make this into a political statement? Complete, even, with the BS story about the kid of the liberal parents and the other silliness? Can't you even mourn a guy's death? You disgust me.

    September 12, 2012 05:26 pm at 5:26 pm |
  16. dontbow

    obama the fearfull leader does it again. apologize to muslims after they kill people. pathetic.

    September 12, 2012 05:27 pm at 5:27 pm |
  17. All hail Flippocrite and Lyan Ryan, they got the plan

    Flippocrite prefers what?

    Maybe he and Lyan Ryan should go over there and fix things.
    Convince them the Book of Mormon obsoletes the Koran.
    That the living prophet is in Salt Lake City, forget Muhammad he does not get a footnote.
    Offer them a trade in discount to get a more recent divine proclamation of God.
    Put his business shazaam on them.

    September 12, 2012 05:27 pm at 5:27 pm |
  18. Kris

    Romney is a desperate, desperate man right now.

    September 12, 2012 05:27 pm at 5:27 pm |
  19. dontbow

    obama is full of fear, obviously

    September 12, 2012 05:27 pm at 5:27 pm |
  20. Valerie Hughes Ormond

    From where I sit, Romney does nothing for me....................but his latest misstep just reinforces my view that we are witnessing the personification of the 'Peter Principle'. Pretty scary............

    September 12, 2012 05:30 pm at 5:30 pm |
  21. GFF

    Romney is the Republican candidate for President........HE HAS EVERY RIGHT AND PRIVILEGE to speak out.............
    It is an embarrassment that Obama couldn't tell the facts like Romney did !!

    September 12, 2012 05:31 pm at 5:31 pm |
  22. Timbits

    Hey Wilson...I guess the only ones unemployed in America are Democrats? What are you talking about $50 to pay for food and a mortgage...LOL!

    September 12, 2012 05:31 pm at 5:31 pm |
  23. Ron

    In his talk before the convention, Pres. Clinton pointed out the abysmal understanding of foreign policy by Gov. Romney. His latest rant only reinforces the perception of "Palinesque" ignorance. This is a man willing to say anything to be elected. Listen to the interview on 'Meet the Press.' Clearly the Tea Party has him by the – can't say it, but it rhymes with nomads. Why would anyone vote for this man?

    September 12, 2012 05:31 pm at 5:31 pm |
  24. Rocky252

    Way to go Mitt. You keep speaking without thought or truth. You disregard the safety of our officials and service members working at remote embassies in areas of potential unrest. If your words fan the flames of extremist groups to more violence, I hope that you can sleep at night. I am a proud American, who is amazed that a "wanna-be" politician would be so ignorant to speak on behalf of a government that he holds no office with in ANY capacity. Too bad the GOP can't/won't pull you from the Presidential ticket. You should be ashamed.

    September 12, 2012 05:32 pm at 5:32 pm |
  25. sbreezy

    i find it laughable that you can call yourself a journalist and not completely go after what romney did – suggesting that the sitting president of the united states is sympathetic to a group that just killed an ambassador ? shameful, disgusting, and another major lie. romney is a pathological liar

    September 12, 2012 05:32 pm at 5:32 pm |
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