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. Duane Allen

    This is what desperation looks like folks. If you can't compete on merit or credentials bring on the clowns, there's certainly no shortage of them in the Republican Party. Has he no pride or sense of self-respect... or how about basic human dignity?This guy is an absolute idiot and the "talent" behind him are making a laughing stock of him. Mitt is nothing but blind ambition hell bent on making a fool of himself, disgracing whatever values, abject as they are, he may actually possess. Its another in a perpetual series of exercises of the GOP/Mitt shooting himself in the foot: DEFINITELY NOT PRESIDENTIAL QUALITY!

    September 12, 2012 05:56 pm at 5:56 pm |
  2. Timbits

    Free Willy...LOL...The FoolKnownAsMittRomney...this is the best post ever!

    September 12, 2012 05:56 pm at 5:56 pm |
  3. Sunnyside18

    One of the people on this blog mentioned how Mitt Romney disregarded the safety of our officals and service members working at remote embassies. How about our president having the disregard for our servicemen and women for all the security leaks coming from the Whire House?

    September 12, 2012 05:57 pm at 5:57 pm |
  4. DTB

    I love news comments sites, further proof Americans are all foolish idiots deserving of this punishment!

    September 12, 2012 05:57 pm at 5:57 pm |
  5. Normal in NH

    I would be wonder if just once if you could count on CNN for news, not talking points from President Obama's campaign.

    September 12, 2012 05:57 pm at 5:57 pm |
  6. GFF


    September 12, 2012 05:57 pm at 5:57 pm |
  7. AaronJ

    Well that was clearly written completely unbiased, CNN is Fox News's politically opposite twin. I kept looking for where it says that this is an opinion piece but its not. They even alluded to Romney supporting anti-muslims when he was clearly defensing free speech

    September 12, 2012 05:58 pm at 5:58 pm |
  8. Wilson

    @realitybite, yes there is a difference in the R & D mindset. R's believe in giving a "hand up." D's believe in taking other peoples hard earned money and giving "hand outs."

    September 12, 2012 05:59 pm at 5:59 pm |
  9. Buc

    Mitt the Twit stricks again!

    September 12, 2012 05:59 pm at 5:59 pm |
  10. Anonymous

    Hit em where it hurts Economic sanctions, removal of all US support and put on hostile nation list.........

    September 12, 2012 06:00 pm at 6:00 pm |
  11. Jim in Florida

    It's not about the video (BTW the video was posted by a Coptic Christian). Coptic Christians have been murdered and churches burned in Egypt since the trendy Facebook Revolution took place. There is very little protection for Christians in Egypt, in Libya and soon there will be none in Syria.

    Some of you lefty pooster hd better understabbd this.

    Militant fundamentaliist Islamists DO NOT CARE IF YOU ARE CHRISTIAN – they will kill you if you are an AMERICAN.

    Dead is dead, right?

    These attacks were coordinated to occur on 9-11.

    It wasn't about the movie, that's the excuse.

    As usuual the Obama administration was slow to react, ad slow to counter the horrible statement release by our diplomats in Cairo – a message that basically apoloogized for the movie and for offending Muslims.

    Why would the embassy release such a message – because they get their guidance from the President and Sec of State.

    Romney was right.

    It's the mainstream media that has no clue whatsoever about what we are up against.

    September 12, 2012 06:00 pm at 6:00 pm |
  12. Honest_Voter

    Romney should stop attacking the president and especially commenting on foreign policy while he is the challenger. He is not president. Everything he says makes him sound like a complete hack.

    September 12, 2012 06:00 pm at 6:00 pm |
  13. 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 06:01 pm at 6:01 pm |
  14. Jim

    Stifle yourself Romney

    September 12, 2012 06:01 pm at 6:01 pm |
  15. Sean

    What a load of bull... Romney read the same CNN article I read tuesday afternoon that included a full on apology for hurting Muslims' feelings from the Cairo embassy. Not one word from the Obama administration. I kept waiting for his reaction, to see how he handled such a sensitive issue. All I saw at the time was weakness in the response. And that certainly hasn't changed in the slightest. It doesn't matter what side of the wall they were on.

    In fact this response from CNN is showing how jaded this news agency really is. pathetic...

    September 12, 2012 06:02 pm at 6:02 pm |
  16. Timbits

    Stormy give it a rest...President Obama is not that guy!

    September 12, 2012 06:03 pm at 6:03 pm |
  17. kevin lanigan

    First Romney stepped in it. Then he put his foot in his mouth.

    September 12, 2012 06:03 pm at 6:03 pm |
  18. Kat

    I saw Fox news, a little after noon today, still trying to tell the story like we need to listen to Romney. Before I read this, I wondered why is Romney/Fox news calling a condemnation an apology. Glad to see CNN is on it. I just love how Republicans have changed the meaning of words.
    And, how stupid to issue a statement without researching the facts. How many times will he mess up on foreign relations? He's a joke.

    September 12, 2012 06:04 pm at 6:04 pm |
  19. UDidntBuildThat

    Obama is the one who thinks he is above any form of criticism. CNN u r a disgrace. Romney did not twist anything.
    Romney is 100% correct!!! The only person misfiring is Obama on all cylinders!

    September 12, 2012 06:06 pm at 6:06 pm |
  20. harbharb

    Romney's behavior borders on treasonous. He tried to appear presidential but made himself looks like a political opportunist. Candidates don't have all of the facts and should stay out of developing situations. But the GOP already declared that defeating President Obama was its top priority.

    September 12, 2012 06:07 pm at 6:07 pm |
  21. CryBabies

    To all " Radical" Muslims.... I apologize for being an American and having a spine. I apologize for speaking freely and hope I don't offend your sorry asses while you continue to terrorize the world. Please forgive me ....Please?!?!

    September 12, 2012 06:09 pm at 6:09 pm |
  22. Lauren

    So Romney was right (again) and the liberal mainstream media are trying to make him wrong (again) by twisting his statements and the timeline? What else is new?

    September 12, 2012 06:09 pm at 6:09 pm |
  23. GFF

    the movie has nothing to do with what happened in Egypt or was to ridicule the USA on 9/11

    September 12, 2012 06:09 pm at 6:09 pm |
  24. Doyle Wiley, MI

    Romney, you reaffirmed you’re an idiot.

    September 12, 2012 06:09 pm at 6:09 pm |
  25. Lisa P


    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

    " The United States condemns in the strongest terms this outrageous and shocking attack. We're working with the government of Libya to secure our diplomats. I've also directed my administration to increase our security at diplomatic posts around the world. And make no mistake, we will work with the Libyan government to bring to justice the killers who attacked our people.

    Since our founding, the United States has been a nation that respects all faiths. We reject all efforts to denigrate the religious beliefs of others. But there is absolutely no justification to this type of senseless violence. None. The world must stand together to unequivocally reject these brutal acts...

    ... No acts of terror will ever shake the resolve of this great nation, alter that character, or eclipse the light of the values that we stand for. Today we mourn four more Americans who represent the very best of the United States of America. We will not waver in our commitment to see that justice is done for this terrible act. And make no mistake, justice will be done.

    But we also know that the lives these Americans led stand in stark contrast to those of their attackers. These four Americans stood up for freedom and human dignity. They should give every American great pride in the country that they served, and the hope that our flag represents to people around the globe who also yearn to live in freedom and with dignity.

    We grieve with their families, but let us carry on their memory, and let us continue their work of seeking a stronger America and a better world for all of our children.

    Thank you. May God bless the memory of those we lost and may God bless the United States of America."

    - President Obama's remarks at the White House, September 12, 2012

    September 12, 2012 06:10 pm at 6:10 pm |
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