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.

- Follow the Ticker on Twitter: @PoliticalTicker

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. Thinking Texan

    I hear the engines revving, the lie machine reworked.

    Willie Horton II? Swift Boats II? three card monte? or a a more outrageous gall, beyond birther?

    September 12, 2012 05:42 pm at 5:42 pm |
  2. IndependentMom

    First of all, Romney has not been privy to all the intel from Libya and the Middle East, until now that he is a candidate for the presidency! So it would be best if Romney said nothing, when he knows next to nothing about the two year long battle by the PEOPLE of Libya!

    I smell a rat.... WHO was behind the hideous film? And don't the IDIOTS KNOW that any insult to Muhammad would lead to violence against Americans?! I SUSPECT a rat, a Conservative rat behind this film. How evil that the filmmaker would insult a whole culture! NOT ALL Muslims are terrorists.

    The filmmaker and the people who funded his vile film have AMERICAN BLOOD ON THEIR HANDS!

    September 12, 2012 05:42 pm at 5:42 pm |
  3. realitybite

    Wilson said:
    ......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."
    Wilson, your statement is so simplistic, it borders on absurd. Did you consider for a second why that homeless person is homeless?
    This is the absurdity of the republican party. They somehow thinks that a poor person is poor because he/she is lazy. That's not the case in real life. 99% of the people are poor because they don't have the wherewithal to move up the scale. The government needs to play a role to evening out the playing field, so those people also have a similar chance at moving up the ladder.

    You clearly highlighted the difference in the mindset between R and D. Republicans can't think 3 dimensional. They infer things to be true based on superficial data points.
    The parents of that girl may not be talking to you, not because you did something super smart. But because what you did was so stupid, and it will take them years to undo the damage you've do to that little girl.

    September 12, 2012 05:42 pm at 5:42 pm |
  4. Jeckers

    I must be missing something. This article makes no sense. I read this statement and I see our Embassy apologizing for Freedom of Speech – not condeming violence. So – the Embassy issues this statement before the violence started. Then after issuing this statement – our Embassys are attacked. But most of the people were already evacuated from the Embassy because they knew they were going to be attacked? Please explain to me why they felt the need to issue this statement in the first place and in this context? And why they were apologizing?

    Doesn't anyone make the connection that their statement basically gave everyone who felt "insulted" to behave the way that they did?

    Sorry – this is an extreme stretch and, frankly, makes no sense. It almost sounds like their statement caused the violence on the Embassy?

    What am I missing here?

    September 12, 2012 05:43 pm at 5:43 pm |
  5. Nav

    Willard is a disgrace, plain and simple! Not Presidential at all. Seems like he is taking advice from Palin and the likes and dragging his candidacy down the gutter. Like the President said, he seems to shoot first and aim later, which is not a quality we look in the President of the United States and the leader of the free world.

    September 12, 2012 05:43 pm at 5:43 pm |
  6. CryBabies

    Our President .... "The Empty Suit" or perhaps "Chair".

    September 12, 2012 05:43 pm at 5:43 pm |
  7. Lisa P


    obama is full of fear, obviously
    September 12, 2012 05:27 pm at 5:27 pm
    You got that wrong - the fearful one is the one who rushes in without all the facts, screaming his head off and threatening violence at the least provocation. In this case that would be Mitt. Truly shameful, and, as we found out under Bush II, dangerous to our country.

    September 12, 2012 05:44 pm at 5:44 pm |
  8. AbleWitness

    I do not feel that our current "Commander-in-Chief" is competent; or worse, he often behaves as if he is on the side of our enemies.

    September 12, 2012 05:45 pm at 5:45 pm |

    How can anyone in their right mind, pun intended, consider for one minute longer giving any credence to Romney and his continual ranting. He is determined to operate in such a shallow, unbeliveable desire to blame Obama for all issues whether current or long standing. How can the republicans who have experience and knowledge tolerate his continual screw ups and not tell him to just shut up. What a mess for them as they slowly hand Obama his second term. That's the good news!

    September 12, 2012 05:45 pm at 5:45 pm |
  10. Timbits


    This was absolutely hysterical I am still laughing especially the one about the sad this man is!

    September 12, 2012 05:46 pm at 5:46 pm |
  11. stormy

    Romney is right ... Obama basically said hey I agree with the people who killed our people...

    September 12, 2012 05:47 pm at 5:47 pm |
  12. Jeckers

    Oh – now I understand what happened. The Embassy puts out a Statement that wasn't reviewed. The nature of the statement, which does condemn free speech, then causes violent attacks on the Embassy which resulted in 4 people being killed. But the original statement wasn't reviewed by the people in charge, but it still stands, but we are now expanding it to condemn those committed violent acts against our Embassy that were caused by our original statement that basically said it was ok if you were insulted. But – this was no one's fault because the person in charge never reviewed this statement.

    Wise up America – do you actually believe this crap? Our Administration messed up – they issued a statement that they probably thought we'd never hear about since it's all the way in Egypt. Our Embassys get attacked – their statements then became public knowledge to us and now they are backpedaling because they know that (a) we'll find out what was said and (b) what they said caused the whole thing to begin with. Now – it's all Romney's fault for jumping the gun.

    I have to hand it to them – pretty imaginative. They actually think Americans will believe this crap?

    September 12, 2012 05:48 pm at 5:48 pm |
  13. arcnorth

    Today is the day that Romney lost his precious election. As a private citizen, hopefully he'll SUPPORT HIS COUNTRY!

    September 12, 2012 05:48 pm at 5:48 pm |
  14. rickd785

    I actually never thought of Romney as an idiot in the George Bush vein, but after today I am really wondering.
    He is so far off the mark with his comments on this one that it will most certainly backfire.
    The majority of American people don't suffer fools well.

    September 12, 2012 05:50 pm at 5:50 pm |
  15. buck cameron

    Romney, once again, shows his total lack of diplomacy, respect for America, and personal character.

    September 12, 2012 05:50 pm at 5:50 pm |
  16. difoderit

    Grahame Rhodes

    Vladamir Putin The Russian President Thanked Mitt Romney for making his job easier because Putin wanted to upgrade Russia's nuclear capability but was getting push-back from his government. When Romney said the "Russia is our greatest foe." it gave Putin the excuse he needed to push through his nuclear upgrade. Thereby making the world an even more dangerous place. Thank you Mitt Romney for once more putting both feet in your mouth. This latest moronic statement from Romney is just another in a long line of misstatements by this stupid stupid man.

    Thank You for posting this story from AP – CNN must have been to scared to report it as well – Since they are on a "Lovefest" with Mittens 8 stories on the Political Ticker 6 with his pcitre one with Lyan Ryan

    September 12, 2012 05:50 pm at 5:50 pm |
  17. Tilly

    Would like to hear feedback from all the libs here. How many of you disagree with Romney's statement below, and if so, why?

    "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."

    September 12, 2012 05:53 pm at 5:53 pm |
  18. Confused

    What's outrageous is Romney's complete disregard for the facts and willingness to make things up (read Lie) to fit his narrative.

    September 12, 2012 05:53 pm at 5:53 pm |
  19. Karm99

    It is time for politicking and pandering to stop.

    Mitt Romney needs to shut his mouth and let the State Department work to get this situation back under control before more people get killed.

    After that, he can continue on with his pathetic campaign.

    September 12, 2012 05:53 pm at 5:53 pm |
  20. B.

    This man is no statesman and is getting even more radical as it gets closer to November.

    Romney was a bad choice and the GOP is falling all over itself now to try and keep it on the tracks..

    September 12, 2012 05:53 pm at 5:53 pm |
  21. MiddleClassMan

    Didn't Romney learn foriegn diplomacy skills while he was overseas with Bain farming out American jobs and hiding his billionaire clients' money from US taxation? How can he be so off-base now?

    September 12, 2012 05:54 pm at 5:54 pm |
  22. Pete/Ark

    We should all heed the sage advice of the military hero who drove the VietCong out of the bistros of Paris...Romney knows how to deal with terrorists...he'll cut thier hair....

    September 12, 2012 05:54 pm at 5:54 pm |
  23. Michael

    Just part of a Romney pattern of shooting off his mouth when he is uniformed. Think about it his trip – offensive and inaccurate statements in England and Middle East.

    Another pattern (not just Romney but right wing above) of distorting Obama's words and actions. EVERY objective commentator including those on the right say Romney got this wrong - wrong about the facts, wrong about the foreign policy. Romney is running the most dishonest campaign in my lifetime.

    September 12, 2012 05:55 pm at 5:55 pm |
  24. GFF

    You liberals like making up stuff...........did Romney endorse that movie?....NO
    Did we provoke this horrific attack and murders?... NO
    Do Islamic Jihadists hate the West.......YES..
    Can we go to any YOU TUBE, AL JAZEERA etc.. broadcast and prove just how much we are hated? YES
    Put the blame where is BELONGS............Islamic Extremism !!!!

    September 12, 2012 05:56 pm at 5:56 pm |
  25. lindylou123

    What an idiot! Romney is not the president nor will he ever be – he needs to just shut up as do the rest of you – of course Obama never agreed with the people who killed out people! How stupid are you! He agreed that a hate movie against Muslims is not what represents America! You Republicans do nothing but lie and cause problems for America and Mitt Romney needs to just SHUT UP and let the real commander in chief handle this horrible thing! By the way, did you all who love Romney see that his tax ideas will return 2200 percent to his Las Vegas contributor's 100 million dollar investment – he will get 2.6 billion back on his savings if he were able to buy the election for the loser Mitt Romney – is that what Americans need? Give me a break.

    September 12, 2012 05:56 pm at 5:56 pm |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50 51 52 53