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. wayneross

    its so saaaaad that a man of color still is the most hated&dislikedpeople of the world you go obama you got my vote the black republicans who baaaaad mouth a man who is a icon should be alone in the world

    September 12, 2012 07:55 pm at 7:55 pm |
  2. Steven, Charlotte

    Isn't it nice that some on this board are taking Willard's side and standing by the NUTJOB pastor in Florida who made the video that caused this whole thing......instead of standing by the men & women serving our country abroad in our diplomatic corps? It's vile and traitors.

    September 12, 2012 07:56 pm at 7:56 pm |
  3. allens

    romney is as dangeros to america as the terrorists. he will say or do anything to get elected. well, that is except show americans his tax retrns. we cannot inflict him on orselves. we must not allow him to get the power of the office, he is the antichrist

    September 12, 2012 07:56 pm at 7:56 pm |
  4. NoMoBama

    TRANSLATION: Romney scored a DIRECT HIT on Obama's weakness.

    September 12, 2012 07:56 pm at 7:56 pm |
  5. Joey

    To politicize the death of an American, on September 11 no less...what the hell does Romney take us for?

    September 12, 2012 07:57 pm at 7:57 pm |
  6. CGF

    To all of you, "Mitt Money" wanted to hit a "homerun" on foreign policies", but he has no chance; he's absolutely an ignorant; as the President said “He (Mitt Money) shut before he aim”. "Mitt Money" put his big foot in his mouse today. Sometime I feel sorry for him, after 8 years campaigning for the WH he has not learned anything.

    September 12, 2012 07:57 pm at 7:57 pm |
  7. skytag

    Mitt Romney ignores the truth to attack our president. This is news?

    September 12, 2012 07:59 pm at 7:59 pm |
  8. Recondo 6-75

    Yeah I read the article Tilly and I can say you could find dirt in a sterile environment.

    September 12, 2012 08:00 pm at 8:00 pm |
  9. Gordyb

    Mitt the Twitt strikes out again on foreign policy

    September 12, 2012 08:01 pm at 8:01 pm |
  10. stew

    Adelson is behind this film, the Temple Money Changers, the filthy politics of Willard The Rat Romney.

    September 12, 2012 08:02 pm at 8:02 pm |
  11. tiz

    The fact the media is going after Romney with such determiniation is unbelievable. Obama looked weak abroad with his statements and it flipping TRUE.... stop already with this bogus reporting. You can fool some people some time... but you can't fool all the people all the time.

    September 12, 2012 08:02 pm at 8:02 pm |
  12. teacheng

    So many people on here trying to spin this in Romney's favor...a little sad. They don't even hate Obama, they hate the twisted fantasy they have of Obama. And it is so obvious when they come on a site like CNN and spew their hatred that the conservative wing of our country has gone completely insane.

    September 12, 2012 08:04 pm at 8:04 pm |
  13. rs1201

    Again obama is apologizing to muslims...I hope he and michelle are busy packing because they will be thrown out in Nov.

    September 12, 2012 08:06 pm at 8:06 pm |
  14. politicaljustice

    The President said it best "Shoot first and aim later" that's exactly what Romney and his Bush advisers did, they are depending on tragedy to try to win favor on Foreign Policy. Using it for political gain and Paul Ryan is just a funny looking idiot that talks loud and says nothing. PLEASE EVERYONE VOTE OBAMA or we will be back at war with all the county's in the world again. Romney is seriously using Bush advisers check facts.

    September 12, 2012 08:07 pm at 8:07 pm |
  15. CGF

    To all of you, "Mitt Money" wanted to hit a "homerun" on foreign policies", but he has no chance; he's absolutely an ignorant; as the President said “He (Mitt Money) shut before he aim”. "Mitt Money" put his big foot in his mouth today. Sometime I feel sorry for him, after 8 years campaigning for the WH he has not learned anything.

    September 12, 2012 08:08 pm at 8:08 pm |
  16. dballer49

    maybe its just me, but the responses in here are so upsurbed its pathetic.please those who are on the right, show me one quote that the statements read "we apologize", please, one place, well you know what you cant because the statement never said that, it said "we condem", if the Klue Klux Klan marched in alabama, spouting vile racial rhetoric against blacks and jews, and gays, and the city council came out condeming them for doing that, are they apoligizing? Also lets just say that the embassy did come out and said "we apologize", how does that ties to obama if it didnt come out of his own mouth, are you responsible if your kid goes up and call names or disrepect, or maybe hurt someone, can it be siad that it is your fault that he did that, right wingers or so idiotic ideological that common sense and rational thought is totally lost with them

    September 12, 2012 08:09 pm at 8:09 pm |
  17. Tao

    Romney is SUCH A LIAR! Why don't more people call him out on this!

    September 12, 2012 08:09 pm at 8:09 pm |
  18. CBR

    To apologize to the Egyptian people was not a sign of weakness. Funny how we can insult those who are non Christian but are condemned if we question anything about Christianity. Perhaps we all need to remember why we need to respect and understand all religions. In fact, how many times have we heard about religion during this campaign. WE have ben told this is a Christian nation. Where do Christians stand on the subject of insulting another religious group.

    The person who made the film showed a lack of understanding as well. Certain facts are known and one of them is that any attempt to use this film to 'educate' the American people is now over. Someone decided to put that film on utube. How thoughtless or else this person realized the problems that would follow. Those who perpetrated this violence could use this clip from the film to get people worked up. In today's world of instant messaging it was easy to reach their minions and get them to rise up against the Embassy and Consulate. The governments of these countries were slow to act as well.

    Mr. Romney overstepped his bounds today. He did not have all the facts and then spoke off the cuff which he does like to do. He is not a foreign policy expert and that was clear during his trip to England, Poland and Israel. He allowed those with money to lead the way. He tried to build on his idea that Mr. Obama has brought us down. I think we all need to realize just what is going on here. Stick to the facts and let us have a true debate with both people standing before the camera.

    Mr. Romney showed again how stubborn he can be and how he does not back down gracefully or otherwise. Not an impressive way to act.

    September 12, 2012 08:09 pm at 8:09 pm |
  19. Tim Moore

    Romney needs to apologize NOW!

    September 12, 2012 08:11 pm at 8:11 pm |
  20. NotFooledByDistractions

    I've read numerous reports on this incident and romneys shark jumping commentary, and I still don't see any apology. what romney did is crass and desperate and an obvious attempt to resurrect his dying campaign. Romney continues to play on the "apology tour" nonsense that has been debunked as complete falsehood – there is no, and never has been an "apology tour" – at least not to those interested in fact and reality. Romney has no shame and no sense of common decency. He most certainly isn't presidential material.

    September 12, 2012 08:15 pm at 8:15 pm |
  21. Frank - Florida

    Obama better respond! Stop bowing down to these countries and terrorists. I am tired of Obama being weak in foreign policy.

    September 12, 2012 08:17 pm at 8:17 pm |
  22. vatoloke

    Trying way too hard to come across presidential. Only comes across as desperate. Not ready for that 3am phone call. Sorry, Mittens.

    September 12, 2012 08:17 pm at 8:17 pm |
  23. Roy

    Actually the embassy reiterated their statement even after the violence....nice try CNN.

    September 12, 2012 08:21 pm at 8:21 pm |
  24. Chagasman

    Obama gave NO apology and there was No sympathy for the rioters. On the contrary, Romney lied again just like he lied about welfare, just like he has lied over and over again about Obama, even when confronted with the truth, Romney persists in repeating his same old lies. And the ditto heads of thr right, the Rush Limburger stinks, just eat it up. To admit the truth would destroy your whole worldview, wouldn't it? Romney supporters ar like lemmings, ready to follow him right over the cliff, while he sits on the terrace and sips his Shirley Temples.

    September 12, 2012 08:21 pm at 8:21 pm |
  25. Roy

    The embassy reiterated their statement after the violence started, CNN.

    September 12, 2012 08:22 pm at 8:22 pm |
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