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. bb

    count on cnn and msnbc to make up the fact checks as needed to be pro Oblunder, As far as intelligent people see it
    this is just another fumble by camp Oblameo. But he cant spend too much time on this. between golf and letterman im just so pleased he took ten minutes to talk down to us little people

    September 12, 2012 02:44 pm at 2:44 pm |
  2. ingyandbert

    Romney is so pathetically desperate to get elected, he will say or do anything. He has absolutely no respect for the truth and no shame. He embarrasses himself and disgraces both our country and its political process.

    Ironically, because Willard refuses to be straight with the American people, he is writing his own political epitaph. Come November, voters will not reward his evading, pandering, fear-mongering, race-baiting, outright lying, and voter suppression.

    Hey Mittens, tell Ann not to worry about White House china patterns and oval office drapery measurements; you won't be needing them after all.

    September 12, 2012 02:44 pm at 2:44 pm |
  3. Educated Reader

    I am disappointed that does not make it clear that this piece is a BLOG and not an actual article. As defined by is, "a Web site containing the writer's or group of writers' own experiences, observations, opinions, etc., and often having images and links to other Web sites." Too many people are unable to determine if articles on this site are factual or merely opinions (ie blogs)., please do a better job of clearly stating what is a blog, as do many other online news site.

    September 12, 2012 02:44 pm at 2:44 pm |
  4. Lauren

    I am very proud of how President Obama and Secretary Clinton have handled this tragic event. Romney should be ashamed of himself for jumping the gun and trying to score a cheap political point before he/his campaign had all the facts. And Gov. Romney continues to contort the president's message. God bless President Obama and God bless the United States of America.

    I will gladly be reelecting the president this November.

    September 12, 2012 02:45 pm at 2:45 pm |
  5. Dyslexic doG

    Whatever the facts, you know FOX News is going to broadcast it loud and long in its untrue format, and that millions of FOX News watchers will believe what they are fed.

    September 12, 2012 02:45 pm at 2:45 pm |
  6. myviewis

    Everyone is just trying to safe president Obama by accusing Romney of not doing the right thing, saying the right thing, having the wrong motive,etc.....It still does not change the facts of the actions of the White House and the embassy in Egypt.

    September 12, 2012 02:46 pm at 2:46 pm |
  7. RJ1008

    Mitt is actually inciting violence against US by such statements. He is not a leader but a third rated politician.

    September 12, 2012 02:46 pm at 2:46 pm |
  8. pflatman

    Then Mittens won't object to me calling Mormonism a cultish, misognyistic, racist, pedophilic, bigamous, disgusting excuse of a religion.

    September 12, 2012 02:46 pm at 2:46 pm |
  9. Sarah

    There needs to be an understanding among political candidates that, during a time of crisis (such as the Egypt/Libyan attacks and other similiar crisis situations, the candidates keep their mouths shut until they have all the FACTS before issuing statements. It is deplorable that MItt Romney chose to 'condemn' our President before he had the facts. If he cannot present a calm and collective attitude during a crisis, then he should NOT be the president. I applaud President Obama for his statement condemning the attacks.

    September 12, 2012 02:46 pm at 2:46 pm |
  10. jinx88

    Sounds familiar flip flop Mittens.

    September 12, 2012 02:46 pm at 2:46 pm |
  11. Danielle

    Unfortunately the rest of the world is watching Romney and the American fanatics that are fanning the flames of hatred. They don't even have the decency for the dead ambassador and the other three individuals but have turned this into a political spin toy. Heaven help the educated and thinking Americans against this mind-set that will make the world a more dangerous place to live. I find these fanatic republicans to be as dangerous as other fanatic groups.

    September 12, 2012 02:46 pm at 2:46 pm |
  12. obama victim

    is Barry still apologizing??? oh..right...he is in Vegas......

    September 12, 2012 02:46 pm at 2:46 pm |
  13. Anonymous

    Please help us if this man is elected.

    September 12, 2012 02:46 pm at 2:46 pm |
  14. Newtonslaw

    Romney, once again, jumps into the fray where he has no experience. No doubt his handlers told him to be quick , get the edge on Obama, come across as presidential? But did he actually do that? No. He made America look divided when on issues like this we are anything but. And he sounded petty, looked posturing and wrongly stating Obamas' position and response. If anything he looked like a guy who was saying "look at ME!" instead of look what has happened to the USA.

    September 12, 2012 02:47 pm at 2:47 pm |
  15. basky72

    Does this guy have regards for American lives other than his political career?

    September 12, 2012 02:47 pm at 2:47 pm |
  16. Senior Citizen

    God Help Us If This Idiot Is Elected!!!! He and his staff don't have a clue and we'll be in war in 6 months if he is elected. You had better read and THINK before you pull the lever to cast your vote in November. How dare he make statements about something he knows nothing about, I suppose tomorrow he'll change his mind and flip-flop.

    September 12, 2012 02:47 pm at 2:47 pm |
  17. donotbeleive the media

    does obama wipe his but before you kiss it or do you wipe it

    September 12, 2012 02:47 pm at 2:47 pm |
  18. Michael

    We are yet engaged in Iraq & Afganistan with an out flow of 2-3 BILLION per week !! Does anyone out there get this ?? This government cannnot afford to continue any armed confrontation in the middle east. We owe the largest COMMUNIST nation on earth TRILLIONS of dollars from the past 9 years of "mission accomplished" . When will we learn we cannot police the world. Either drop a "nuke" or get out and secure our borders. No country and no one can deal with the Arab Moslem lunatics. Just like the crazed right-wing fanatics in this country. They want my way or the highway...... give them the HIGHWAY to hell !!

    September 12, 2012 02:47 pm at 2:47 pm |
  19. CountryClubRepublican

    The timeline in this article suggests the author is wrong in his accusation against Romney. The protests happened, Obama issued his "condemnation" or whatever you want to call it, AS A FIRST RESPONSE. Whether you call it a condemnation or apology is semantics. The fact is Obama took the sides of the radicals, not Americans. When is the liberal media going to stop doing all they can to support Obama?

    September 12, 2012 02:47 pm at 2:47 pm |
  20. SC

    Romney should have kept HIS MOUTH CLOSED.

    September 12, 2012 02:48 pm at 2:48 pm |
  21. John

    Ugh Mr. Romney should shtu the F up. he is NOT the president yet, leave these things up to the elected officials who take their advice from professional diplomants and the military who are not beholden to a political partyI liarws ro hia remarks earlier this morning and wonderd if the man just reads speeches "live" that are prepared for him or actually does some due diligence before making and ass of himself.

    September 12, 2012 02:48 pm at 2:48 pm |
  22. Mark

    Mittens stepped in it....

    September 12, 2012 02:48 pm at 2:48 pm |
  23. Mack

    He is a moron. If hie wasn't born rich, he'd be selling used cars somewhere.

    September 12, 2012 02:49 pm at 2:49 pm |
  24. Geoff

    Mitt Romney has proven through his actions to be less than capable of a measured Diplomatic response to a crisis. His inappropriate comments, rushed to the media without knowing all the facts bearing on the situation bring attention to Romney's lack of experience dealing with foreign affairs. His lack of respect for notification of next of kin, are evidence of his disregard for those on the front lines.

    He has violated the tried and true practice of Presidential Candidates not interjecting themselves into a global crisis while it unfolds, but waiting until afterwards to comment. Romney's actions were self serving and those of a rank amateur who should sit-down and shut-up, while the President and Secretary of State coordinate our national response!

    September 12, 2012 02:49 pm at 2:49 pm |
  25. Lynda/Minnesota

    Mitt Romney quote:

    "I'm not exactly certain just what it is I said, but I stand by what I said, whatever it is I said."

    Pretty much sums up his entire campaign.

    September 12, 2012 02:49 pm at 2:49 pm |
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