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. mrsgold

    Mitt is taking "Lying for the Lord" a bit too far!

    September 12, 2012 02:49 pm at 2:49 pm |
  2. Trout

    Hate speech is an American value, Mr. Romney? I don't think so.

    September 12, 2012 02:50 pm at 2:50 pm |
  3. myviewis

    This is not about Muslims, Mormons, Baptist, Catholics, Jews, etc......this is about FREEDOM OF SPEECH.....Many offensive videos exist in this country, we may not like them or agree with them but regardless it is Freedom that we must hold on to.

    Romney is talking about Freedom to film, create such a video......"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?"

    September 12, 2012 02:50 pm at 2:50 pm |
  4. HenryB

    This is what the Mittster is good at. He misleads, lies, twists, turns, and flops like a fish ready to be served up for lunch. In this case Mitt did it again and he got caught. I am not concerned about his lack of honesty because he has none. I am concerned about the fact that even Republicans will support him. A new low for a once proud party.

    September 12, 2012 02:50 pm at 2:50 pm |
  5. bearced

    While Bush and Cheney were in office remarks like the one Mr. Romney made would have been considered unpatriotic, almost treasonous. Why are those type of comments considered OK now?

    September 12, 2012 02:50 pm at 2:50 pm |
  6. Pete

    Romney needs to learn to how to hear, listen, understand and digest what he just listened to and heard and than, and only than after thinking long and hard before he speaks. Alas, he doesn't, proving what many already know that Romney would be a very dangerous man as President of America.

    September 12, 2012 02:50 pm at 2:50 pm |
  7. Chumlee

    Drop out loser Romney – you are a total disgrace to the United States of America.

    September 12, 2012 02:50 pm at 2:50 pm |
  8. Dan J

    The Embassy's original statement made us look like big time weenies in a time of crisis. Potentially, it cost us lives and hurt us even further. It wasn't until after Romney made his criticism that the Obama administration stood tough. If anything, Romney's criticism may have indirectly helped save lives by forcing Obama to more aggressively stifle the conflict.

    September 12, 2012 02:50 pm at 2:50 pm |
  9. bettina

    Mitt Romney would be an embarassment to America if he were to be elected president. He certainly is not a leader and is clueless as to how to react during a crisis!

    September 12, 2012 02:50 pm at 2:50 pm |
  10. dakster.....Boston, ma

    And to think...this guy is running for President. Is there nothing he won't do to try and get elected? Probably not!

    September 12, 2012 02:50 pm at 2:50 pm |
  11. Phaque

    The more Romney talks the less likely anyone will vote for him.

    September 12, 2012 02:50 pm at 2:50 pm |
  12. Bob

    As any card carrying Republican, Romney does not let facts or decency get int the way of playing politics with the tragic loss of Americans dedicated to peace.. He only shows respect and decency for his rich supporters.
    May God give the families of those slain some peace and comfort.

    September 12, 2012 02:51 pm at 2:51 pm |
  13. JB

    I just don't see how this guy is going to win the election. Policies aside, he just seems like someone that will say whatever he thinks is going to gain him a vote. He just comes off as plastic and phoney.

    September 12, 2012 02:51 pm at 2:51 pm |
  14. Teena

    No surprise that romneys talking points are akin to a pretzel- he is for it and then against it and then for it before he is against it- where exactly does he stand on anything except being for TAX BREAKS for the wealthy to encourage trickle down economics= pis$ing on the little guy!

    September 12, 2012 02:51 pm at 2:51 pm |
  15. Patriot Awesome

    Romney is going to be the first person not elected to the presidency to get us into a war.

    September 12, 2012 02:51 pm at 2:51 pm |
  16. Randy W

    Mittens twist the facts??? Nooooo...couldn't happen

    September 12, 2012 02:51 pm at 2:51 pm |
  17. *Shudder*

    This is the best the GOPs have when a crisis hits? Good God

    September 12, 2012 02:51 pm at 2:51 pm |
  18. American

    Mitt the Twit

    September 12, 2012 02:51 pm at 2:51 pm |
  19. Gabbo1234

    The CNN spin machine is in high gear for Obama, yet again !

    September 12, 2012 02:52 pm at 2:52 pm |
  20. ksmsw

    These folks need to stop this "fact check" nonsense and also take another look at the definition of "apology"

    a defense, excuse, or justification in speech or writing, as for a cause or doctrine.

    September 12, 2012 02:52 pm at 2:52 pm |
  21. PTNY

    Romney running for President has given this man, who is grossly uninformed, an international stage to condemn a standing President openly with no understanding of the possible outcome of the decisions the President is making.

    Romney is clearly the imbecile the Republicans were afraid he was!

    September 12, 2012 02:52 pm at 2:52 pm |
  22. oneandun

    Let's see. Romney says the right the thing at the right time and Obama waits until 11 AM the following day to say anything at all...

    September 12, 2012 02:52 pm at 2:52 pm |
  23. Zenger Folkman

    If elected, Romney would take us to war without even deliberately trying.

    September 12, 2012 02:52 pm at 2:52 pm |
  24. edward insight

    Crazy article. Where does this article cite US govt condemnation of attack. As best I can tell from the timeline in this disjointed piece, the first US statement from the embassy criticized US citizens for their speech, not a violent attack on the US consulate. Seems like a hit job on Romney.

    September 12, 2012 02:52 pm at 2:52 pm |
  25. strangerq

    Romney is a national disgrace.

    September 12, 2012 02:52 pm at 2:52 pm |
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