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. furious styles

    Romney just can help himself can he? Quick to put his foot in his mouth before he has all the info. THEN when he does have the correct info, he CONTINUES on previous course with even more arrogance. WOW!

    September 12, 2012 07:29 pm at 7:29 pm |
  2. Eric R.

    Yet another hit piece by the Communist News Network.

    Islamic nutjobs kill Americans; a spineless Administration tries to appease said nutjobs, and to the leftist lackeys at CNN, it is Romney's fault for criticizing him.

    Your pathetic excuse for a network would have made the editors of Soviet-era Pravda proud.

    No wonder your ratings are in the tank. Just as your whole staff is – in the tank with their Obamamessiah.

    September 12, 2012 07:31 pm at 7:31 pm |
  3. riabm60

    Somebody is giving Romney some real bad information, and / or messing with his teleprompter.

    September 12, 2012 07:31 pm at 7:31 pm |
  4. Doris

    Until we know more about the attacks and who did what, I would suggest Mr. Romney shut his mouth. Or is he putting forth what his buddy Netanyahu wants him to say? It was 9/11. The nations of the Arab Spring are turning more and more against the US so this kind of attack is likely to happen again. Romney is very quick to criticize but he really knows nothing about the Arab world except what BiBi has told him. His time line is wrong. His statement is wrong.

    September 12, 2012 07:32 pm at 7:32 pm |
  5. sassysticks53

    First, I give my condolences to the families of the Americans who were killed.

    Desperate and pathetic is Mitt Romney. Every time I think this dude can't sink any lower, he does. I feel sick about what happened in Libiya and Cairo yesterday. I feel even sicker at the thought that Romney/Ryan, two men who obviously know nothing about foreign policy and diplomacy, could win this election with all their lies.

    September 12, 2012 07:32 pm at 7:32 pm |
  6. furious styles

    Romney's at it AGAIN. Rushing onto the battlefield 100 yards ahead of his squad mates, swearing he know EXACTLY where the enemy is as he walks into the sights of a sniper!

    September 12, 2012 07:32 pm at 7:32 pm |
  7. mauig

    Romney....what a nut job. I can't believe that there are people who actually listen to him. How out of touch can one fool get?

    September 12, 2012 07:32 pm at 7:32 pm |
  8. sbreezy

    romney has done an absolutely miserable job dealing with international incidents during his campaign – across the board. Imagine the disaster it will be if this fool gets elected. i truly hope that you people in florida and ohio are paying attention here. This guy is a walking, talking trainwreck waiting to happen

    September 12, 2012 07:32 pm at 7:32 pm |
  9. Ron L- Mich

    When I read these comments by the people (Republicans) who are determined to make the President appear weak or apologetic when it comes to foreign affairs I have only two things to say....he has used the drones to kill most of the leaders of Al-Quieda and he gave the order to kill Osoma Bin Ladin even though he was in Pakistan and without Pakistans permission. Both of these events takes courage and shows he is not apologetic. As far as this particular event goes if you know the time line, the first statements by the embassy in Cairo occurred before the incidents in Libya were even known. And even though these statements were poorly worded the intent was correct. Americans need to understand many of the Muslim countries have a large young population which means there are going to be elements in it that are over reactionary. Just because we have the freedom to make a movie that they will feel is offensive, and an insult to their religion does not mean we HAVE to make it. To do this is to put ALL Americans in foreign countries at risk...ITS STUPID and EXTREMELY IMMATURE.

    September 12, 2012 07:32 pm at 7:32 pm |
  10. alpg49

    Timing aside, I can only assume that Romney supports the nut-job preacher who inspired the original protests. The preacher-man is certainly right-wing enough to earn Romney's "support".

    September 12, 2012 07:33 pm at 7:33 pm |
  11. eflows

    Just like with Sarah Palin and Rick Perry – if you let these stupid narcissists talk, eventually they reveal themselves for what they are.

    September 12, 2012 07:33 pm at 7:33 pm |
  12. Jack

    Romney.........has he told the truth yet.........pitiful. At his statement all Romney has was Fair Right talking points that was a lie. This man can't think on his feet without his talking points that he has repeated over and over. The apology is completely bogus. Even Wash Post called it a lie (pants on fire).

    If Romney gets a call at 3 in the morning, you better hope it is from his accountant telling him he needs to sell off some stock because that is the only emergency this bozo could handle.

    September 12, 2012 07:38 pm at 7:38 pm |
  13. SM McMahon

    The suprise would be when Romney – the ultimate flip flopper – does not twist facts.

    Romney clearly posesses no convictions he will not contradict in his quest for the highest office in the land.

    He is not fit to be President of the United States of America.

    I am voting for Obama.

    September 12, 2012 07:38 pm at 7:38 pm |
  14. Ron L- Mich

    I want to see his tax returns.. for the last five years.......Until then I could care less what he thinks or says...he's AMORAL Americans...don't take his word on anything.....look at his histroy....he's made changing his position a way of moral compass.....AMORAL...AMORAL....NOT TO BE BELIEVED.....

    September 12, 2012 07:39 pm at 7:39 pm |
  15. dj

    Interesting that Obama is attacking Romney and not the terrorist that have killed four or more American's. Typical liberal democrats. Change the subject. Man, liberals are running scared and this whole this stinks to high heaven. Clinton is a complete and utter embarrassment to the United States. She sided with the terrorist!

    September 12, 2012 07:41 pm at 7:41 pm |
  16. SM McMahon

    The Egyptian Consulate's statement was made in an attempt to quell violence (hours BEFORE the killings at the Libyan Embassy) – that is what real diplomacy is about...

    Not the saber-rattling of the "faux" chicken-hawks like Romney, GW Bush and their ilk.

    If Romney wins, I wonder how long it will be until we engage in another war – and how long he keeps us in Afghanistan.

    Biden has a son who serves in the military; Romney and his five sons have never served.

    September 12, 2012 07:43 pm at 7:43 pm |
  17. Russ in Md.

    President Bush kept our country united. Obama made our country divided. Does that make us better off?

    September 12, 2012 07:43 pm at 7:43 pm |
  18. nolongerarepublican

    Breaking news – this just in – Romney is an id io t.
    Seriously, the man is brainless.

    September 12, 2012 07:44 pm at 7:44 pm |
  19. Mongoose

    Romney is an idiot. Time for the GOP to look toward 2016.

    September 12, 2012 07:45 pm at 7:45 pm |
  20. dave

    Free speech? You can't yell fire in a crowded movie theater. Does anyone think the release of that movie would not result in the death of Americans? It was a sure thing, both the movie and the violence it created should be condemned.

    September 12, 2012 07:49 pm at 7:49 pm |
  21. Amy, Colorado Springs

    So, to summarize, Willard stands with the LUNATIC Pastor in Florida who made the video that stoked these attacks rather than with our brave men & women serving America in Cairo & Libya. Willard stands with the crazy-man pastor in Florida over our Ambassador who was killed in the line of duty. Terrific Willard. Absolutely terrific. I'm sure our diplomatic corps is heartened to know that you'll take the side of a madman over them if you're somehow elected.

    September 12, 2012 07:51 pm at 7:51 pm |
  22. markiejoe

    Everything that comes out of Romney's mouth is a "political pretzel." The man is an embarrassment to politicians everywhere.

    September 12, 2012 07:51 pm at 7:51 pm |
  23. Micropterus

    Romney is spot on. BTW CNN, love the way the media got caught coordinating their attacks on Romeny by way of the open mike. Always knew CNN were shills for Obama. Now its proven.

    September 12, 2012 07:51 pm at 7:51 pm |
  24. Lord Acton

    To GOP sympathizers and all the other liars who have chosen hatred and ignorance over the saftey and well-being of their fellow Americans:

    Please stop.

    September 12, 2012 07:54 pm at 7:54 pm |
  25. gmenfan54

    Romney twists all the facts.

    September 12, 2012 07:55 pm at 7:55 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