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. Joshua Ludd

    And we are supposed to trust Romney to be in charge in such situations?

    September 12, 2012 06:27 pm at 6:27 pm |
  2. sayquitter

    This ass is willing to comdem the US government at at time when we should ( and in fact most politicians, included republicans ) refrain from giving the enemy any advantage by presenting a divided front. But canditate Mitt is willing to spew his venomous diatribe for a mere phyrric gain.
    As pres. Obama said it so eloquently, how can you trust candidate Romney when he shoots his mouth time and time againg even before he's had time to think it through, after gathering the facts.

    September 12, 2012 06:27 pm at 6:27 pm |
  3. John

    There was nothing wrong with what Mitt said, he unlike the current administration and its lacky army of liberal media (Thats includes YOU cnn) have the ballsto say what we are all thinking and the fact that all the reporters are trying to damn him for it just shows the damage control they are all trying to do to cover their anointed one in the oval office.

    September 12, 2012 06:27 pm at 6:27 pm |
  4. NoKidding

    Keep it up, Mitt. You sound more and more desperate and you're gonna lose more and more votes.
    We don't need a president who is so arrogant that he thinks stating we don't condone people who use free speech to insult other religions is the equivalent of an "apology". didn't Obama also condemn the attackers and said there is no excuse whatsoever for the attack? Take your arrogance somewhere else, Mitt, we don't need your kind in the USA.

    September 12, 2012 06:27 pm at 6:27 pm |
  5. isolate

    It's really ugly watching a second-rate politician desperate for votes self-destruct like Romney has. Every time he flubs Obama gains another bloc of votes. But his Tea Party backers will lap it up as the gospel truth, as they always do.

    September 12, 2012 06:28 pm at 6:28 pm |
  6. ed

    If this is how Mitt will response to any Middle East protest when he becomes president, it will not take long and America will be at war with the entire Middle East. You do not shoot first and ask later because the people you may hit could be our allies. What you do is pull back, take a deep breath, make an analysis who are responsible and then you retaliate with your full force and take no prisoners.

    September 12, 2012 06:29 pm at 6:29 pm |
  7. Dale

    I am ashamed of Romney – even embarrassed – his remarks yet show another side of the elitist of himself. He is a facade with different inner intentions. he didn't think before he spoke. the loss of life should never be used for attempt to political gain. Mitt you are making things worse and even your own party agree with the shamed speech and announcement and the timing. my vote just switched .

    September 12, 2012 06:29 pm at 6:29 pm |
  8. Kef14

    Romney: "It's never too early to look like a fool and a political opportunist. Please, join me everyone in being stupid."

    September 12, 2012 06:31 pm at 6:31 pm |
  9. Zoey

    How was America apologizing for our values? Which values are those? The value to criticize another's religious beliefs? The value to spread hatred and lies? I suppose these are republican values.
    What is Romney talking about? I think "he" values freedom of speech regardless of truth or sensitivity and he expects all countries to respect our freedom of speech even though we don't respect their freedom of religion or anything else for that matter.

    September 12, 2012 06:31 pm at 6:31 pm |
  10. Idaho gal

    I almost feel sorry for Romney. Not! He has no clue and if he will jump to conclusions without knowing the real facts and should he become the next President, which he won't, and if this is any indication of how he will handle situations, our country will be in big trouble! He is an idiot!

    September 12, 2012 06:32 pm at 6:32 pm |
  11. GI Joe

    Your kids will NOT have to pay off the debt.

    Your kids WILL be killed fighting Romney's endless wars for Nothing-but-a-yahoo and Adelson.

    September 12, 2012 06:32 pm at 6:32 pm |
  12. Dav

    obama the fool fails again.It is to be expected with hillary as his advisor.To bad he is not capable of serious thought.Bye obama 2012

    September 12, 2012 06:32 pm at 6:32 pm |
  13. RGD

    As Abraham Lincoln once said "It is better to remain silent and be thought as fool than to speak and remove all doubt". Mr. Romney should have heeded his advice and it is always useful to get all facts before speaking instead of scoring cheap political points. His statements on Libya tragedy past 24 hours proved to us that he is not ready for 3 am wake up call and should not be anywhere near nuclear suitcase as compared to President Obama.

    September 12, 2012 06:34 pm at 6:34 pm |
  14. BlueDem1

    Mitt Romney can't seem to keep his foot out of his mouth. His poor judgment and tactless comments show he is NOT the man for the job of president.

    September 12, 2012 06:36 pm at 6:36 pm |
  15. T. E. Lawrence O. A.


    ANOTHER "UNFORCED ERROR" BY ROMNEY! (how many does that make?)

    Even a political amateur knows to NOT make statements until all facts are in – instead Romney was as anxious and eager as a teenager to seek for ANY hint of 'apology' so he could POUNCE!, point fingers at his President and say "SEE!?! SEE!?! It's an apology!!!" Wow – didn't even wait for his President's Rose Garden statement.

    ROMNEY: "If Americans are killed abroad, let's attack our own leader! THAT is good foreign policy..."

    September 12, 2012 06:37 pm at 6:37 pm |
  16. Judy Korenkiewicz

    We are talking about the Commander and Chief .... get real!

    September 12, 2012 06:39 pm at 6:39 pm |
  17. T. E. Lawrence O. A.


    OBAMA: "Unacceptable attack; killers will be brought to justice"

    ROMNEY: "Obama should have could have would have – HE IS ALL TO BLAME FOR EVERYTHING! AHHHH!"

    September 12, 2012 06:39 pm at 6:39 pm |
  18. Carol

    Another uninformed comment by Romney (and Sarah Palin) today. Romney should have more sense than to make statements without the facts. That is Sarah Palin's job!

    September 12, 2012 06:40 pm at 6:40 pm |
  19. RudyG

    There goes CNN to Obama's rescue once again!! Wow! If Romney wins I can picture those sleaze bags jumping out the windows!!

    September 12, 2012 06:40 pm at 6:40 pm |
  20. ghost

    hey Tilly

    The statements were never an apology but rather it explains the position of the Administration and the Embassy regarding how they think free speech should be expressed.
    Romney criticizes the United States Government for simply futilely attempting to diffuse a volatile situation. He criticized the Embassy on their comments before the attacks even begin.

    Nice try but you get a c- still passing. Romney gets an F

    September 12, 2012 06:42 pm at 6:42 pm |
  21. GI Joe

    Why didn't Romney condemn the movie???? Just saying...................................

    September 12, 2012 06:43 pm at 6:43 pm |
  22. TheFoolKnownAsBarackObama

    Independent Mom said "First of all, Romney has not been privy to all the intel from Libya and the Middle East,..." Apparently, neither was Obama since he's been absent from most of the intel briefings.

    September 12, 2012 06:43 pm at 6:43 pm |
  23. Larry L

    @Justin Smithson

    Maybe the attacks where part of the security briefings. President Obama has only attended 43% of them? Maybe that's where the empty chair came from.
    Ahhh... A Fox News sound-bite of distorted information. The President receives security briefings and updates daily – and more often when required. Think! He's the President and does not report to the people delivering the briefing. They report to him! He has managed foreign affairs masterfully. The Republican comments, in the midst of a developing crisis, is petty, and yet another reason why we don't need another foolish "Mission Accomplished CINC".

    September 12, 2012 06:43 pm at 6:43 pm |
  24. notagain

    "Ticker: Romney twisting Libya Facts?" "Obama: Romney shoots, first aims later" "LZ: Romney hasn't earned our trust" These are the current CNN homepage headlines in which Romney is mentioned. Come on CNN. I thought you were unbiased. This happens daily. I enjoy your site for news but give me a break. Is there ever an "Opinion" piece on your site that is pro-Romney??

    September 12, 2012 06:44 pm at 6:44 pm |
  25. sambodie

    Romney is pathetic. He Woke up early to make this political. So sad.

    September 12, 2012 06:44 pm at 6:44 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